I’m an introvert. That means I prefer staying in rather than going out. It means I draw less energy from social settings and large groups of people and more from “me time” or hanging out with just one or two close friends. There are plenty of people who are introverts, who are just like me. Right?
Then why does it never really feel that way? In many social situations I find myself to be the odd one out. The one everyone gets concerned about, confused by/offended by, dismissive of. Why is she so quiet. Does she not like people? What’s wrong? What a bitch.
It’s nothing personal, I want to shout. I’m just tired. Of people. I know that sounds bad, but introversion tiredness, it’s a thing, I swear! I cannot deal with social interaction for prolonged periods of time, no matter how good the company is. Yet I can’t tell whether people ever get it. It just feels like they hate me because it seems like I hate them, then I just end up hating myself all the more for it. Then I start wondering if calling myself an introvert is just a way of justifying the fact that I’m actually just an awkward, misanthropic asshole.
There’s really just no good way of going about it. No matter how I try to articulate it, I sound like a horrible person. You’re my friend. You want to hang out. We plan to do X activity. We do X activity. But suddenly person Y comes into the picture. I didn’t anticipate this. Person Y wants to do Z activity. You agree. I agree, because you agree and person Y agrees and I don’t want to be an awkward asshole when in all honesty, I’ve filled my socializing quota for the day. As person Y/Z activity goes on and on and on with no end in sight, I become more and more withdrawn. Inside I’m crying for solitude, but I know I can’t say “I need to be alone!” because I’ll sound like an awkward asshole. But my silence starts attracting unwanted attention. You become worried. Person Y gets kind of worried. I have to force a smile, but no one’s buying it. The worry turns into annoyance that I’m being antisocial and rude. Too late, I am the awkward asshole.
What’s so exhausting about talking to people, you might wonder. SO MANY THINGS, when you’re an awkward asshole. There’s this social script you have to stick to. Maybe it’s all in my head, maybe I’m just too paranoid and anxious and mistrustful. But when I talk or listen, I’m gauging your reaction. Are you listening? Do you care? Did I say the right thing? What do you want from me? Are you judging me for this? What is your expectation of my responses? Am I putting on the right face? Why are you looking at me like that? What else am I supposed to say? Where is this conversation going? What question should I ask next, what remark should I say to steer this conversation away from trailing off into awkward and miserable silence? What’s the point of this conversation? Why are we talking?
It’s all very overwhelming, repetitive, tedious. The small talk is contrived–I have to say the things people might want to hear. If I say the things I want to say, I lose the game. I always lose eventually, if not quickly, but the goal is to postpone losing. But the game of socializing itself–is not a game I’m interested in playing, again and again and again.
Yet I have to, to appear less of an asshole. (And you know, to network and shit.) The forced nature of conversing at a party or get-together makes me want to vomit, crawl under a rock and die (probably in that order). Too many things happening. Social interaction overload. System is crashing. Must reboot in solitude. With strangers, I am like this from the get-go. With people I actually know and like, I gradually transform from annoyingly talkative to annoyingly reclusive. It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone involved when I’m involved.
I don’t really like talking about this “problem” with other people, because it will alienate (and, as a matter of fact, HAS alienated) people. It’s confusing for people because I can be very hyperactive and loud and obnoxious. That is at the beginning of socializing, when my energy is at its peak. Then it’s all downhill from there. If I keep going, it’s because I’m focusing on doing something that doesn’t actually involve interacting with people, like singing or dancing. Or probably I’m forcing it. I should probably stop feigning happiness so much. I do everything in extremes, so people think I’m always happy and smiley. Not to say I’m always pretending, because I am happy some of the time, just not as much as people might think. I just put on the smile because that’s what people want. Sometimes my mouth actually hurts from forcing a smile so often in front of people. I was conditioned to do it, and it fucks me in the ass because when the tiredness kicks in and I do a worse and worse job of pretending until I can’t even bother pretending anymore, everyone notices immediately and goes omg what’s wrong Learkana are you ok?
Sometimes I am physically tired, but most of the time it’s a mental exhaustion. I start zoning out, drawing a blank, very much aware that I’m behaving like an antisocial dickwad but feeling too apathetic and miserable to care very much. There’s just something about human interaction that wears me out, I guess. Is that so hard to understand and be empathetic to?
Again, I don’t know if I can dismiss my unsocial behavior simply as introversion, when there are so many other factors to consider: I’m afraid of appearing superficial. I’m afraid of sounding stupid, among strangers and friends alike. I can’t comprehend the idea of talking to a stranger just to talk to them. And I can’t fathom why anyone on earth would want to talk to me just to talk to me–obviously I was their last resort, their backup plan, in which case, screw them!
Then there’s the assumption that because I prefer to be alone some of the time, that I want to be alone all of the time, which is not true. Well if it’s not true, then why do you act like you want to be alone, you might ask. I’m not acting, I want to scream. This is who I am. I’m not a fucking social butterfly, I’m a weirdo loner caterpillar but weirdo loner caterpillars fucking need love, too, okay?! And the love we crave shouldn’t require us to break from our cocoons and fuck this metaphor doesn’t work because all caterpillars become butterflies so now you’re going to think that all introverts are stubborn little fucks who can actually become extroverts if they really wanted to okay goddamnit let me think of another one okay I’m not a butterfly, I’m a solitary bee and bees most definitely cannot become butterflies therefore this metaphor actually works but my thinking-out-loud tactic has probably totally convinced you that I am just a self-reinforced awkward asshole but whatever RESPECT MY BEE-NESS.
Anyway, the point is, my way of being has often made me feel guilty and ashamed, and whether or not it’s all just in my head and completely my fault, I’m tired of feeling this way. I am me, I’m not going to change all that much from the way I am, so I shouldn’t have to apologize for it because that’s just shitty, having to apologize for being you. And I know there are certain things you should apologize for, especially if you’re being a dickface, but is not wanting to hang out with people for hours on end the most terrible thing ever?
“You miss you,” my friend Nicole would say whenever I would try and describe my self-diagnosed introversion.
And maybe it’s just that simple. (In which case I become the queen of narcissism…but, like I said. It’s a lose-lose situation, and I guess I need to resign myself to that.) Or I guess start talking to people, who knows I may even come to enjoy it. LOL WUT AS IF
tl;dr I’m an introvert aka an awkward asshole aka a
weirdo loner catepillar solitary bee wait what