Finding a Place for Myself as an Introvert

Some people might be surprised to hear me call myself an introvert. Face-to-face you might be surprised at how loud and in the middle of things I can sometimes get. It has a serious emotional cost for me, and after big social situations I will have to retreat, sometimes for days, sometimes with emotional suffering to show for it.

Online is different. I might seem more outgoing, but fortunately there isn’t a big cost. I value my online relating so much for this reason. I can be “out there” the way that I want to be and not suffer too much for it.

I found a great comic illustrating the different energetic needs of introverts,  from*SVeidt on DeviantArt, Dr. Carmella’s Guide to Understanding the Introverted! Go look! I’ve surely been an introvert my whole life (except for the ecstacy-fueled anomaly of 2005) , but nevertheless, this comic helped me realize that while other people get charged up by social encounters, I get drained by them and need to recharge on my own.

After moving to Knoxville, Joshua and I would frequently make trips to socialize with our friends in Atlanta. I was progressively irritated by these trips. The social interactions were just too overwhelming. Some of my friends made valiant efforts to make me more comfortable, including providing me with a car to escape a party if I needed to.

What I came to see is that even with those efforts, it doesn’t work for me. If I think of the two possible spaces as Social and Alone, it doesn’t work for me to be living in Social and take a break at Alone. I need to live at Alone, and make brief visits to Social. Being alone is where I get my energy and my safety, and I need to feel like that is always, limitlessly available.

It’s only been fairly recently that I’ve identified that touch doesn’t comfort me. I never, ever want hugs or other touches to help me feel better when I am having a strong negative emotion. In fact, people who try to give me touches during those times actually make things worse for me. I either have to spend energy deflecting the touch or I have to shift over into giving mode – giving you the touch you apparently want from me – which keeps me from taking care of myself.

It often seems like being extroverted is more socially valued than being introverted. The online world really evens that out, I think. Online, no one is trying to touch me, no one is talking loud or fast in a way that’s hard to follow, and whenever something is asked of me I can respond in my own sweet time.

Acknowledging that I am an introvert and care-taking that aspect of myself is an important part of my self-acceptance.