By Gregory Tan
In a world where extroverts fill the spotlight, introverts often tend to be misunderstood – that quiet recluse who sits by themself all the time. Either they’re terribly shy, or an arrogant snob, or a serial killer. This is precisely why we introverts get a bad rep: because we don’t talk much or express ourselves verbally, people often misunderstand us as they don’t know what we’re thinking (but often times extroverts don’t exactly say what they’re thinking…). It has become an ideal social standard for one to be outgoing and talkative, and if one doesn’t fit the bill, they’re expected to have serious issues to work on.
Of course, none of that is true – introverts just have a different personality which has led to our different lifestyles. Now, I can’t speak for all introverts because everyone’s unique, but I’ll be sharing some of my personal quirks and experiences of being an introvert that’s hopefully in line with what many introverts commonly go through.
I actually like being alone
Yes, I’m fine being alone. Really. And when I say I’m fine, I really mean I’m fine and not some corny subliminal message from Tumblr indicating that I’m depressed. And it’s not because I hate people. I can live for weeks without seeing another human being, just hiding away in the darkness of my human cave like a hermit (or just an introvert).
I’m aware that humans are social creatures, and that social interaction is a vital and healthy part of human nature. It’s not that I hate socialising – I just really need that alone time to recharge. It’s as if I have a limited battery power supply that drains throughout the day from classes, school work, and interacting with fellow homo sapiens (which by far consumes the most energy). By the end of the day I’m an exhausted meatbag. The only way for me to be rejuvenated once again is to have downtime in solitude, in large doses, without any interruption (unless you’re my mother).
Besides, I know how to keep myself occupied. I can do nothing for hours while my mind wanders all the way to Timbuktu. While personally I don’t read or write much in my time alone like many other introverts, I do binge watch television shows and drown myself in music.
I do have friends
I have a small social circle. I’ll admit that it’s partly because I’m not comfortable sparking conversations with strangers or meeting new people, but more importantly it’s mainly because I value meaningful friendships.
I don’t mean that having many friends is a bad thing, but personally, keeping a few friends has made it easier for me to maintain close relationships. Anyway, having a few trusted friends is enough for me. I’m not asocial – just selectively social.
It’s not like I’d be able to keep up with hundreds or thousands of people and count them as friends anyway. Acquaintances, maybe, but certainly not friends. From my point of view, friends are like soldiers with whom you fight side by side with and share war stories with. Of course, that does seem a little too extreme of an analogy, and not exactly comparable to reality.
Many would form new connections on an even daily basis, but these relationships are often superficial, like having a list of contacts on social media but not knowing most of them on a personal level (rest assured, knowing what they ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day doesn’t count). Again, that may not necessarily be a terrible thing! – but it’s definitely not my cup of tea.
I hate small talk
This one’s a big one for me. Sure, I may sound extremely asocial, given that small talk is essentially the foundation of socialising and that people do it on a regular basis. However, I just don’t see the purpose of small talk. I know that it’s a conversation starter but most of the time it’s hollow and the conversation hits a dead end really fast.
“How’s it going?” “Finished that last worksheet yet?” “What song are you listening to?” Life sucks, I wiped my butt with it, turtle mating sounds. Seriously, do people actually care about this stuff? Of course they don’t. I know I don’t.
Not to mention it’s awkward as hell.
I’d rather hear about your dreams (even if you dream of toilet papering your ex’s house) (I would honestly join you on that), discuss our place in the universe, or even have a philosophical debate about whether lobsters are mermaids to scorpions; things that are actually stimulating, as the conversation can go in all directions. While it may potentially be weird or uninteresting to others, at least I get to breathe a little.
Unfortunately, it’s unusual to go this in-depth when I’m talking to strangers or acquaintances so I end up having to resort to small talk because it’s ‘safe’, inoffensive, or I won’t come off as a creep. While others may call small talk a social lubricant, I see it as an excruciating activity I’d rather rip my vocal cords off than partake in.
My mind runs wild
Remember how I mentioned earlier that my mind could wander all the way to Timbuktu? That’s an understatement. I’m not lying when I say my imagination and thoughts go crazy – sometimes (a lot of times, actually) I don’t even understand what or why I’m thinking what I’m thinking.
Let me give you a rundown of what actually happens in my mind:
One moment I could be wondering if Mars and Venus are the twisted representations of how Earth could end up if we don’t take care of our planet, then my mind turns to some heart-wrenching thing a person said to me five years ago that I can still remember (it was really personal!), to every mistake I’ve made or wrong thing I’ve said to a person and the resultant guilt, to wondering how powerful Darth Vader could’ve been if he hadn’t made that stupid jump and got all of his limbs sliced off, to wondering if aliens haven’t visited us because they live 65 million light years away and they’d be seeing dinosaurs on Earth since it would take 65 million years for light from Earth to reach them.
The next thing I realise it’s 3 a.m. and I was awake all this while, on a weekday. While I appreciate the ability of my imagination to take me into the depths of the unknown, it sucks when I’m overthinking. And I do have a bad habit of overthinking. It’s from the overthinking that I end up over-analysing everyday occurences to the point where it would seem too absurd to be real – and yet the thought still lingers.
So as it turns out, I’m not the lonely people-hating recluse that’s dead on the inside. Nor am I the psychopath with a secret sinister scheme to murder people. I, and practically every other introvert out there, just have a different way of living life. I’ve been wired to be my introverted self from the very beginning, just as how extroverts have been wired to be outgoing and sociable. It’s who I am and it’s about time I broke my silence.
So the next time you see a person sitting by themself with earphones on, with their heads buried in a book or just minding their own business staring into thin air, I can assure you they’re not sad or lost. Quite the contrary actually: they’re having the time of their lives.