The other day one of my professors described me as ‘outgoing’.
I consider myself very introverted. On the surface the two terms might seem contradictory, but I think together they describe me accurately; despite Definr listing ‘outgoing’ as a synonym of ‘extroverted’.
I view being introverted as having a lower need/threshold for social interaction than extroverts. It is a separate trait from social skills, being socially anxious or talkative.
I can understand why my professor would think of me as outgoing. I talk a lot in class. Probably to the point where it’s annoying to classmates. In the moment I don’t appear anxious. I beat myself up after about everything I said awkwardly when I get home, but in class all is good. I am smiley, bubbly and engaging.
What she doesn’t know is that the talking I do in class is the majority of the social interaction I have in an average day. Most people consider class to be disruptive to their social life, for me it is my highlight.
I like to think that I give the impression of having a lot of close friends, that all the acquaintances I interact with think I have many close friends; I just happen to not be as close with them in particular. I think I succeed fairly well at this. I am on good superficial terms with a lot of people, it gives the impression of greater friendships than I really have.
I do enjoy social interaction, it just wears me out a lot. I can’t keep it up for as long. I need to be by myself to recharge and organize thoughts. I love how college is broken up into pieces. I don’t usually have things planed straight through 9-5. Usually I am able to head home in between classes. I believe this recharge time is one of many factors explaining my improved academic performance in college compared with high school.
Sitting in a room quietly with a person next to me consumes more energy than sitting in the same room alone. I don’t know if this is how everyone feels, but I know having a lower amount of social energy to use makes this type of energy expenditure more signifigant.
After a long chunk of social interaction I badly need to be by myself. Living with my parents, many fights between my Mom and I occurred from her inability to respect this need of mine. Usually this resulted in me screaming to be left alone, while she persisted with asking questions about how the day had been. She knows, I hope at least, that given an hour or so alone I’d be up for talking, I just needed my recovery time.
I don’t mean to give the impression I don’t get lonely. That’s not true. I do. Sometimes. Usually I’m not. Quitting therapy initially created loneliness. Losing 2 hours a week of talking was a very significant dent. I was able to make some adjustments in my schedule to fix the problem.
I also don’t mean to give the impression that social anxiety isn’t a factor at all for me. It plays a role, a more minor one, but a role nonetheless. I just believe that it is a separate trait from introversion. My problem is more anxiety in general and some happens to fall into the realm of social anxiety.
The most important thing for avoiding social anxiety for me is structure. I need a clearly defined role. In class I don’t feel anxious speaking. I’m expected to be there and to speak, my participation grade depends on it. In a job requiring interacting with people it’s the same way. I know what I should be doing and have no problem doing it.
On the other hand, If I spot an acquaintance in the cafeteria I’ll likely smile and say ‘hi’, but I won’t join him/her unless directly invited. I’d worry I was invading their space. The role is less clearly defined.
I like the internet, because it allows for controlled social interaction. If I need a break all I need is to go to a new webpage.
Being a secret introvert can be useful in comparison to being a non-secret introvert. I feel my mental health problems are less likely to be suspected. The loner image is generally not positively viewed and makes one open to suspicion.
I’ve always been introverted, but there are life events that have added to my isolation. Having friends over to my house was a stressful experience. It wasn’t so bad in elementary school, but in middle school problems began with the way my Mom would behave when I had visitors. The details are for another post, but long story short, in early high school I decided it wasn’t worth it to have friends over. I had a lot of people I socialized with I school, but the majority of the friendships (there were some exceptions) were superficial. I feel like this caused me to miss out on some of the typical experience of gaining closer friends.
My experience of getting kicked out of school for mental health reasons also contributed. In the over two years since that happened I’ve become significantly more withdrawn. I feel terrified of the situation repeating itself and hide much more than I hid prior to it. Directly following that situation I had my trust in a couple of friends shattered. My ability to trust has been badly damaged. I hate it. I want the limits I have with social interaction to be only from my introversion, not because of my paranoia.
I made a friend recentlly. It’s exciting. I like her a lot and we share many interests. But there’s a limit for how close I have ever let her get. We may get to the point where it seems to her like it is not a superficial friendship, but for me there will always be a limit of what I can share.
My outside doesn’t match my inside.
Whoops, I got a little off the introversion track at the end there and more into trust issues, oh well. I’m sure you can deal with that.General life update stuff: -I finally called my old therapist who is awesome and made an appointment. He was totally fine with me meeting with him, even for only the summer. It’s a relief. – I got into an honors psychology society thingy. Yay.