It’s Seriously Time You Stop Feeling Guilty About Being an Introvert introvert stop feeling guilty

After 23 years, I am finally beginning to walk comfortably in my introverted skin — and it feels amazing. Am I strutting? Jogging? Sprinting? No, I’m definitely not there yet. I am on a nice stroll though, through a quiet park by myself, where I will not unexpectedly bump into someone I am slightly acquainted with and be forced to make small talk. This happy stroll is a long way from where I was a few years ago.

Throughout high school and college, I was self-conscious about my introversion. I held a grudge against it, constantly pushing it aside, pretending like it didn’t exist. I wanted to be like everyone else around me. They were bubbly, social, and always ready for the next gathering of other bubbly, social people. These people (a.k.a extroverts) had so much FUN! I was supposed to want that too, right?

It was October of my sophomore year of college. Some friends asked me to go to a campus-wide bonfire, complete with a live band, carnival games, and the ole’ photo booth. I cheerfully answered, “Sure, sounds fun!” Of course, I secretly dreaded the event all week. That evening, I reluctantly trudged away from my quiet, roommate-free dorm room and towards the glow of the bonfire. I was already piecing together excuses for why I had to leave early. Once I was there, I did have fun for a while but quickly became overwhelmed by the presence of hundreds of others students, the constant booming bass of the band, and the empty small talk.

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I left the bonfire after about an hour. As I crawled into my warm bed with a book spread across my lap, I could still hear the slight thumping of the bass across campus. A friend called me from the event. “Where are you?” she asked desperately. “I went back to my room,” I replied. “Well, your name was drawn for the raffle prize. You won an iPad, but you have to be present to be eligible for it. Sorry.”

The grudge I held against my introversion rooted itself a little deeper that night.

Seeing My Introversion as an Advantage

As I graduated college and entered the professional world about two years ago, it didn’t take long before the pendulum swung the other way. For the first time, I began to see my introversion as an advantage. I noticed in meetings that people who talked the most were sometimes the least listened to. When I chimed in with my ideas, people turned and listened. My speaking was an anomaly that didn’t go unnoticed.

In my current job, I conduct many one-on-one interviews and write feature stories. My strength (and personal preference) to have deeper conversations rather than shallow small talk has greatly benefited me in these interviews. It allows me to draw out raw emotions and specific details from my interviewees, rather than just surface-level facts. As a result, I like to think the feature stories I write have more depth because I am introverted.

In my marriage, my introversion has brought balance to our home. My husband, being an extrovert (an ESFJ personality type), frequently says he appreciates my insight, self-awareness, and quiet confidence. I appreciate his friendliness, compassion, and eagerness to help anyone.

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Spending Time With Other Introverts Made Me Feel Less Alone

I used to think I was completely alone in my introverted tendencies. As I have gotten older, I realize the only reason I felt that way is because all I was doing was spending time with extroverts.

I have this one introverted friend I truly treasure. She is a keen listener, has a calm demeanor, and our conversations always flow to great depths. We don’t even get together that often because we’re both homebodies, but when we do, we always pick up right where we left off. Ironically, she is someone I went to high school with, but we weren’t friends then. She was very quiet and reserved, while I was busy trying to be an extrovert. It wasn’t until college that we became close and connected on a deep level. She “gets” me. I would never have gained this wonderful friendship had I not taken the time to get to know another introvert.

I will admit that it can be tough to find other introverts to become friends with because naturally we don’t gravitate to social events or initiate conversation. But I think if we get out of our heads a little and pay attention to people at work, school, and other daily settings, we can pinpoint those who act and think similarly to ourselves. I have found that you don’t really have to become close friends with these people, but just hearing some of their opinions, likes/dislikes, and tendencies can spark mutual feelings of camaraderie. For example, I recently had an introvert admit to me that they love spending their lunch breaks alone because it is their time to recharge in the middle of the day. I automatically said, “Me too!” Something so small made me feel a little less alone.

Stop Feeling Guilty About Being an Introvert

This is one thing that I still struggle with daily, but it has been the most freeing for me when I do live it out. I used to feel guilty for not being able to spend eight hours straight with my family without a break for alone time. I used to feel guilty when I told my boss I couldn’t go to a networking event after work that I did not have the energy for. I used to feel guilty when my husband wanted to go out with friends on a Friday night and all I wanted was to stay home.

Though I still struggle with it sometimes, I can usually say “no” to these things without a twinge of guilt. There are also compromises, which I take advantage of often. I will drive separately to the networking event and leave early, or if I go the whole time, I make sure my schedule is clear the next day for recuperation.

Never feel guilty for protecting your mental health. Embrace your introversion. Love it, and flaunt it (quietly).

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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an Introvert