I am a quiet person. I like to keep to myself and stay away from the unknown. I hate loud noise and revel in silence or softness. While I generally like the outdoors, I prefer to stay indoors, within the confines of my bedroom and pretend this is my world where only I exist and my mind is a portal to the outside world.
In short? I’m an introvert. One on the far right of the scale at that. The problem is this seems to bother some people. Actually, it bothers a lot of people.
As far as back as I can remember, I’ve basically been told something is wrong with me. As if it’s not right to want quiet, to want to be alone or to dislike constant interaction. I have been called unfriendly, anti-social, rude, mean, abnormal and other unkind words. If there is one comment I remember vividly that infuriates me more than all the rest, it’s this one:
“Stop acting shy.”
I hate that line with a burning passion. While I know introversion and shyness are two different traits, I happen to have both. I am awkward and painfully shy. It’s not an act! An act is fake. My shyness is real.
Why would I repeatedly act in a way that people criticize me for? Why would I act in a way that even I don’t like? Why would I act in a way that renders making friends or talking to strangers difficult?
What also annoys me is that the people who would attempt to “pull me out of my shell” would be the same ones asking me to be quiet when I finally did. If you’re just going to tell me to shut up, why did you want me to speak in the first place?
I’m not an open book when it comes to people I don’t know well or trust. To be honest, I don’t understand those who are. But I suppose they feel the same about me. They can’t understand why I’d rather sit against the wall with a book than be in a chatty group. The difference is their need for interaction and to know everything doesn’t bother me. I don’t ask them to be quiet. I get up and leave without a word so as not to interrupt them. So why is it okay for them to interrupt me and try to get me to open up against my will? I don’t mind being asked once, but I do mind being asked repeatedly. Is a person who wants to be alone that much of a rarity?
I live in a family of extroverts. I can’t count how many times I’ve been told I should be out at the mall with my friends every weekend. Ignoring that all my friends happen to dislike malls (yay!), what are we supposed to do anyway? Stand around and talk? We can do that at one of our houses. I was once told I should dress like a fictional character I liked. Her outfit was a midriff-bearing tank top and mini-skirt. While I’m not opposed to either, and I have worn the latter to school a few times, dressing in a different fashion to that fictional girl did not make me an abnormal teen. The person who made that comment also told me I should be in cheerleading, a sport I dislike more than the rest.
These ideas came from the way media depicts teen girls and my family thought I was abnormal for being different. I was shy, introverted, covered most of my skin and preferred art and technology over sports and constant going out. I am still that way and probably will be for the rest of my life. And after years of being hurt by these comments, I’ve finally realized that’s okay.
It’s okay that I’m shy. It’s okay that I’m quiet. It’s okay that I dislike loud noise. It’s okay that I have “quiet” hobbies. It’s okay that I like being inside. It’s okay that I can’t deal with constant interaction. It’s okay! I’m normal. I’m me!
Oh, that felt good!
(Note: I realize not all extroverts behave this way toward introverts. All but two of my friends are extroverted and we have never had an issue.)