I Am an Introvert, but I Am Not Your Doormat

IntrovertDear.com introvert not doormat

I had a professor in college who once stopped me after class to ask why I didn’t raise my hand more often. “When I call on you, you aren’t shy, and you know the answers,” he said.

I actually thought I talked a lot in his class, much more than I did in my other classes. However, I realize now that blurting out a one word answer during the occasional prolonged silence probably wasn’t getting me the class participation points that I thought it was.

I was so often caught up in my own mind that I didn’t realize I wasn’t verbalizing anything I was thinking. In my head, I was fully engaged, even if those around me saw only a blank stare. I explained this to the professor and asked if he thought this made sense. I’ll never forget the solemn nod he gave me. “Yes,” he said, “I understand now.”

Back then, I didn’t have any understanding of what an introvert was, and I certainly didn’t know that I was one. However, I was becoming aware that the person I knew myself to be was vastly different than the way others perceived me.

Introverts Go Quiet Because They Have So Many Thoughts Rushing Through Their Heads

If you are an introvert and you don’t talk a lot, people will automatically assume that you are a very meek and mild-mannered person. What they don’t realize is that we introverts often go quiet because we have so many passionate thoughts rushing through our heads that it’s impossible to verbalize them all. I often settle for just a friendly smile or quiet chuckle in response to whatever someone is monologuing to me about, because trying to get a word in edgewise just doesn’t feel worth the effort.

However, all that smiling and nodding doesn’t do much to counteract that meek and mild image, which is why people who don’t know me well are always surprised when I unleash a sarcastic or sardonic comment, even if that comment is only a quarter of the sass that I’ve been storing up for the entirety of the “conversation.”

I often feel like I am two different people. First, there’s the shy and fragile girl who others perceive me to be just because I’m not constantly talking. Then, there’s the bitingly sarcastic real me that emerges only around a select few friends and family members. For this reason, I often bristle when people describe me as being “nice” or “sweet.” It’s not that I want people to think of me as mean, but I would prefer not to feel forced to live up to someone’s idea of me as the kind, quiet girl who needs someone to jump to her defense every time she is so much as lightheartedly teased.

Trust me, if I am actually offended by something you say, you will have no doubt as to why. Like most introverts, I have an inner warrior that emerges the moment you assault one of my core beliefs or values. I don’t like conflict or arguing with people, but I will definitely do it if there is a cause that needs a champion.

I also have no patience to sit idly by if someone is being manipulative or attempting to take advantage of my seemingly kind demeanor. As an introvert, I value my “me” time far too highly to sacrifice it for fake friends. However, I’m not completely callous. I’ve spent a fair number of sleepless nights worried about hurting the feelings of people I care about, but the worry will quickly evaporate if I feel that person is making no effort to understand my emotions in return. I am an introvert, but I am not a doormat.

Being Contemplative Is Strong

Whatever happened to the cliché of the “strong and silent” type? Maybe that line only applies to actors with chiseled jawlines starring in movies about the Wild West, not to those of us who are 5’ 1” and wear Harry Potter t-shirts. However, I’m a firm believer that no matter who you are, being contemplative is strong, because those who know their own minds and have cultivated a sense of self are never as meek and mild as they initially seem.

And even if I’m having a day where it’s difficult to conjure my inner sass warrior, please don’t proceed to underestimate me just because I’m not dominating the conversation. Introverts are just as capable of being smart and funny as extroverts are.

The reason I still remember that kindhearted professor, who did not think I was shy and took the time to talk to me after class, was because this interaction was the exception to the norm.

I had another professor in college who was a kindhearted person but was not as understanding about personality types. After the submission of my first major term paper, she made a big deal in front of the entire class about how good my writing was. I should’ve been flattered, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that she was only praising my writing because she was shocked to find me capable of deep thought, since I was usually quiet during class discussions.

I’ll be the first to admit that I could’ve done more in this class, and in many other scenarios throughout my life, to vocalize my thoughts and showcase the real me. But I shouldn’t always feel like I need to prove a point because someone else has jumped to a conclusion about my introverted nature. Being quiet may leave others to misinterpret my silence sometimes, but that’s okay. I know who I am as a person.

It takes time to get to know even the most talkative extrovert. Getting to know an introvert may take even longer, but I promise that the time spent is just as rewarding. In the meantime, if you want to perceive me as being an overly kind and sensitive person, there are worse things to be accused of. However, if you assume that I am meek and mild-mannered, there will be a lot of surprises ahead of you.

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    • Kate

      I relate to this so much! Often, once I start to get to know people better, or I do something outside of my usual quiet persona, people feel so shocked as if I’ve been hiding my true personality from them, when really it just takes a long time for it to come out. A lot of people feel that they don’t know the “real me.”

      In college, I always struggled with participation points, but I loved to write and my teachers were surprised that most of my papers went way over the word limits. I wish teachers would recognize that different people have different strengths and different ways of learning. Class discussions would sometimes get so pointless that people would just say anything to get credit, even if it was obvious or didn’t contribute anything. I always found it hard to talk for the sake of talking, or, to really prepare my thoughts well enough to add something more substantive. I don’t know if this is something I can ever get much better at…

      • Raymond Smith

        Quality over quantity,…

        • Wendy

          Hi Rachel, you are so spot on. As an HSP/Introvert I am still surprised when my warrior self surfaces, but like you this happens only when necessary. Thanks.

      • I think all teachers need to rethink participation points. Extroverted learners have an unfair advantage, while introverted learners’ learning styles are overlooked. Students CAN partipate in class without always voicing their opinion out loud in front of everyone (e.g., being ready for class, jotting notes, paying attention, nodding, making eye contact, completing assignments…)

    • Bluebelle7

      When I was in college and would actually say something in class participation, it caused such pressure because the room would go silent! Everyone was hanging on my words and I thought, ‘ how on earth am I going to come up with some earth shaking observation to match the attention that I’m getting?’ One professor, who thought my writing was wonderful, would read my essays to the class when I was absent, and then I would have to contend with the jealousy and snippy remarks…sigh.

      • Tsholo

        Me too. And then next time everybody expects you to say something smart everytime. Suddenly they look at you differently.

    • Co-Reigner

      This article is describes me perfectly! I’ve got many thoughts running through my brain at once (all of them substantial and highly logical, too). Why waste them on shallow thinkers? At times, people have been caught off-guard when they heard my opinion which they thought was too harsh or even brutal. But I mean no harm to anyone. If they misunderstood my honesty, I guess it’s just too bad because part of being an introvert also means I am very confident in my thoughts and opinions.

      • Tsholo

        On point.

    • This is ME. It’s so hard for me to shake off that image people have of me as the “quiet, meek, fragile, sweet..ect” girl because it’s so hard for me to put myself out there. I’m too much of a people-pleaser and have almost zero confidence. Also, I fear rejection so much from others that I unwillingly put on this “sweet, fragile” persona in public settings. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one. <3

    • James

      ANOTHER TWIST IN THE ROAD.

      I’ve just learned that I’m INFP. This is excellent news! I’m male, 46 and all the confusion and confrontation I’ve endured over time, being considered weird and offending humanity by not speaking for five seconds are yet to take another demented turn. I can’t wait.

      EARLY LEARNING.

      I knew something was altered forever when at primary school during ‘play time’ I wouldn’t take my turn on the indoor slide. Thirty children running around, shouting, screaming and playing around just looked odd to me. I couldn’t do it, didn’t want to and didn’t know why. This was my apprenticeship in estrangement. Of course, the things I did indulge in; baking bread, drawing, painting, spelling tests felt just as alien because although I enjoyed them I was still out of place. Oh, and I wasn’t the best looking child in the village! Oops. My fault again. All part of the cosmic joke, don’t take it to heart. My mum (whom I adored) either used to say to me ‘you’re not a happy boy are you?’, or, ‘you live in a dream’. I could never tell her why I may have been out of sorts nor tell her about my dreams (which were and are still fabulous, thank you). It wasn’t until everyone kept bringing up that something apparently was ‘wrong’ with me I was aware of being on some radar -the psychological bandwidth of ignorance, prejudice and nastiness- something far stranger than I will ever be.

      FAMILY.

      I was (some of them are no longer alive) the youngest of six people in my immediate family. Mum, Dad, two sisters and a brother and quite frankly at times they should have known better. Growing up I felt a lot of heat at home and outside that exacerbated all of the symptoms I couldn’t process. I just felt weird and knew I wasn’t going anywhere fast in life, and nobody was slow in reminding me. It still happens today. The amount of jobs and situations I’ve walked away from and the personal and financial ramifications because of it are huge.

      The irony is, for now, I haven’t done too bad. I’ve known people younger than me who struggle for all kinds of reasons and make my reflections seem insignificant. I’ve done the drinking and soul searching. I still do. My Dad used to say to people ‘you’ll never find the solution to a problem at the bottom of a glass’. All good advice, but what do I know?

      Actually I have. Like I care what he though and his tunnel vision. I can do what I want. I’m Mad, and, whisper it -weird.

      THE END GAME.

      This is the portal. Things I’ve done nobody would have guessed. I once had a job dealing with 500 people, yes, 500 people a day. I was concierge for a security company on a construction project here in the UK. I’ve never felt so invigorated. The quick banter and fast paced nature of the job meant I never had to know many people beyond banter and jokes. It often was little more than a look or a single word. And yes, I got to spend most of my working time alone.

      I played in a working rock band for seven years, hardly a calling card you may think. Quite the opposite. I was the drummer, at the back driving the whole thing and despite being onstage with four bandmates in front of small crowds in a very intense place, Mr Introvert was happily at home.

      They were my school slide moments. Finally. But still all anyone is bothered about is that I might spend a day not talking to anyone.

      Well, your loss.

    • Catherine

      This is so me. I am quiet and thoughtful but have a tongue like a whip when I’ve got something to say or someone thinks they can walk all over me.

      Thanks for making me feel less alone!