“It’s literally impossible to get you to crawl out of your lair.”
This was once said to me by a coworker who couldn’t understand why I would prefer staying home when I had no special “reason” for doing so. In fact, such comments are a typical trend in my life: while I’m perfectly willing to accept the desire others may have to undergo a constant stream of socialization, the same people never seem to extend the same courtesy to me. Instead, they often heap on a plethora of free advice about how I can “fix” the supposed ailment that is my introversion.
Below are some of the most common ways — whether blatantly stated or heavily implied — that these self-proclaimed “helpers” have gone about advising me on how to repair my puzzling tendencies. Though I’m sure these comments are well-intentioned, they don’t succeed in being anything but hurtful. At the end of the day, they only make me want to apologize for something I can’t help — my introverted desire for peace and quiet.
1. “You’re doing [insert any activity here] alone? How depressing.”
One day, my colleague and I were looking up dinner recipes online. I had recently moved out on my own and wanted to collect some cooking ideas from her. “Just go here and search,” she told me, leaning over her computer to point at the screen so I could see where to look. “And type in ‘meals for one.’” Here she paused, smiled a little, and said: “Now that’s a depressing sentence.”
My brain immediately fell down a well of anxious thoughts: Wait, why? Am I pathetic because I have to cook alone? Because I live alone? Because I like it? Does that make me weird?
To suddenly feel judged for my current (and frankly, unavoidable) living conditions, and then consequently guilty for liking such conditions, made me feel like a bug pinned beneath the cold glare of a microscope’s glass.
I remember feeling the sting of this comment, and it stays with me to this day. I already feel like my personality isn’t super “fashionable” in today’s fast-paced, loud, and socially innovative world, especially within the millennial age group (where I’m supposed to party hard with no regrets. Never mind bills, job obligations, and my quarter-life existential crisis).
Do I also have to feel like a freak for eating alone?
2. “Don’t you want to have fun?”
When I was once asked by a friend why I didn’t date casually, I merely shrugged and made some joke about “not liking other people breathing my air.” My friend wasn’t amused. Instead, she threw up her hands and exclaimed: “But don’t you want to go out and have fun?”
The answer to this is so unbelievably simple: my idea of a good time is different than yours. Why does that make me “weird?” Frankly, it’s insulting to be told I’m a buzz kill simply because I’m more selective about when I socialize.
When I say I can’t hang because I have plans already, please, extroverted world, don’t get offended if you find out those plans involve nothing but watching a movie by myself while mowing through three bags of microwave popcorn. This choice isn’t meant to be a slight on you. I’m merely broadening the definition of “plan” to include activities that extend beyond socialization. They involve tasks I find to be meaningful and fulfilling in my own way. To me, that’s “fun.”
3. “How do you expect to meet anyone if you won’t go out?”
The heart of inconsiderate statements like this is expressed in many others as well, such as, “So, what, you don’t make friends and have no life, so you just sit at home?” Or, “What do you even do in your free time?”
These types of comments are the absolute worst. They turn me inside out and poke at a spot already rubbed raw and sensitive: the fear that my personality is “freakish” and that no one will ever want to be with me because of it. Dying alone is a fear for many people, but it’s especially chilling for introverts, who have a hard time connecting with others in the first place. Thus, drawing attention to this creates nothing but anxiety.
4. “You’re really antisocial.”
While it’s always tempting to respond to this assumption about me with a biting quip (“Well, if the alternative is hanging out with people like you, can you blame me?”), I know this isn’t the most mature way to handle the situation.
Being called “antisocial” because I don’t do what other people seem to do effortlessly is something I’ve grown used to and even joked about with my friends; however, there is something very different about hearing someone say it to me in an exasperated, “I-give-up-on-you” tone. It’s like they’re reacting to finding a cancerous tumor on my face.
I may not be as social as some, but I’m certainly not “anti.” I just prefer to go out within the perimeters of my own comfort zone. I can’t be forced to pretend that I feel and think the same way as everyone else — and I’ve only recently started to come to terms with this.
I’m a Work in Progress
Though I haven’t reached the point where I can let judgmental comments go, I have finally managed to stop apologizing for being an introvert. I’ve also accepted that the world as it currently stands (loud, busy, and outgoing) will never quite understand how I can sometimes prefer my own couch to a crowd.
I know I’m not like a lot of other people my age. But I’m working on being okay with that.
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Learn more: The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World, by Jenn Granneman
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