For some reason, the way one conducts oneself at parties matters a lot in today’s society. It’s like we have to fit into a certain mold or we will be branded as “weird” or “different.” What ‘society’ has yet to grasp is that what makes us different is what makes us unique, but that is a post for another day.
What I’m getting at is, there are not merely two kinds of people at a party. The world population is not divided in two based off of whether you’re dancing topless on a table or standing stick-still with fright behind the drapes. Simply, we are not just comprised of the stereotypes belonging to both extroverts and introverts, but of a large, huge, gargantuan variety of party-goers. There are the huddlers, or the group of friends who stick together the whole night without allowing a single soul to breach their Abercrombie-clad walls. There are the observers, who stand on the outside of the party with an inquisitive expression on their face, as if they’re doing research on animals in heat. Of course, one can’t forget the host, who bounces from group to group replenishing drinks and peppering every conversation with “That’s too funny, Joe!” and “You oughta hear his story about the water skiis!”
And let’s not forget the antsy party-goer, who flutters from the kitchen to the bathroom to the group, interjects with a witty line about her boss’s lunch order, then flits back to the bathroom, and then onto the couch, trying to look unconcerned and comfortable in someone else’s house surrounded by people she doesn’t really know or care that much about. I know that was a monster of a sentence, but bear with me.
The thing is, when people hear the word “introvert”, many associate it with that person hiding behind the drapes at a party or, more likely, with the person who doesn’t attend any parties at all. I’m here to set the record straight on what exactly goes on in the head of an introvert…straight from the source.
We’re Not All Wallflowers.
Contrary to popular belief, not all introverts avoid social gatherings. Assuming that Emily won’t go to your study group because she’s shy or because she declined your previous invitation is like assuming that she doesn’t like chocolate ice cream because last time she ordered vanilla. So Emily isn’t very talkative–so what? Who ever said that a quiet person doesn’t want to study, or to hang out with a group of people? Sometimes for introverts, it just takes us a while to become comfortable enough with a group of people/a person before we become our talkative selves. Sometimes, we just don’t feel like hanging out. Whether it’s because of anxiety (which, by the way, anyone can suffer from, both extroverts, introverts, and everyone in between) or a legitimate excuse such as an illness or a prior commitment, try not to immediately discount the person because, once upon a time, they turned you down. Maybe Emily was just having a bad day and, instead of blowing off some steam by hanging out with some friends, she instead found comfort and relaxation by getting in bed and watching her favorite movie. Don’t write somebody off because you assume they WANT to be written off. Especially because…
…Introverts Can Be Social Chameleons.
Some introverts look like textbook extroverts: They love hosting parties, they’re always the brashest, or the funniest, or the loudest person singing “Happy Birthday”. Introverts aren’t always characterized by shyness. For example, my 11th grade history teacher was one of the most beloved teachers at my school. He was a jokester, the idol of every boy in my grade, and was often asked the most for college recommendations or to sign yearbooks. However, he surprised my class one day when he announced that he was an introvert. “I would much, much rather sit at home reading a book or playing with my kid than go out to dinner party,” he said, and it shocked me because he so did not fit into the stereotypical introvert mold. “I get tired at parties fairly quickly,” he continued. “I get bored by small talk. I always end up wandering around the house aimlessly, trying to find out little secrets about the host by their bathroom or the art on their wall.”
What he meant was, just because someone is loud, and boisterous, and fun-loving does not mean they are not an introvert–and just because someone is shy and reserved doesn’t mean they are not loud, boisterous, and fun-loving once you get to know them. Introverts are often people-pleasing people: We want to make people happy, and we’re not always afraid of them or of human interaction.
We Like Ourselves Just Fine, Thank You Very Much.
Not all introverts have low self-esteems. It bothers me so much when someone just assumes that I feel bad about myself, or my body, or my choices because I am quiet, or because I do not offer up personal information about myself quickly and with ease. It’s true that I often feel uncomfortable in social situations, but it’s not because I am self-conscious about my personality or my looks. I have an awesome personality! I am a bundle of fun! I tie-dye shirts for kicks! I am a damn good time!
The trouble arises when my awkwardness overshadows my awesome personality. This is the way it tends to go with lots of things—for example, when you’re trying to apply the perfect stroke of eyeliner on each eye and one eye is perfect but the other is a mess, all you think anyone is going to notice is the mess. So you spend an inordinate amount of time trying to fix the messed-up eye, and before you know it your hands are smeared with eyeliner and you missed your bus and your day is significantly worse than it was when you first woke up. It’s sort of the same with introverts. Not only do we worry that our awkwardness in social situations will overpower our other amazing personality traits, but we worry that we’ll be judged solely on the awkwardness and not by our true selves, which we pretty much love most of the time.
Don’t discount the caterpillar because she hasn’t yet transformed into a butterfly, K? Cool.
We Just Like Our Space.
You know that part in Diary of a Wimpy Kid when that kid gets the “cheese touch”? As soon as the whole school catches wind of it, they avoid the kid like he had just touched an old, moldy piece of cheese. Which he technically had, but still. No one wants to be treated like they have the “cheese touch”, especially if they never touched a moldy piece of cheese in the first place.
Just because someone prefers either a) being alone, b) staying in and/or c) doesn’t say much or interact much at social gatherings doesn’t mean they deserve to be treated as if they’re diseased. I can say from personal experience that going to both big parties and small parties can make me feel claustrophobic. I feel like everyone is staring me down, judging me for things I know logically are ridiculous but that I can’t help feeling self-conscious about. I’ll admit that the sentence You don’t belong here has snaked into my brain a few times when I was at parties or, I hesitate to admit, even at family gatherings. But let me make something clear: Just because I leave a party early, or hang out with the cat most of the night, or follow my friend around like a loyal puppy DOES NOT mean I don’t like you or that I don’t want to hang out with you. I don’t have the cheese touch, but I do like my space.
So, please, be patient with the introvert in your life, just as the introvert will try to be patient with and understand the extroverts. Please know that we love you, just not social situations. And sometimes we DO love social situations, we just tire of them easily. I think that, deep inside, we’re all a little introverted, a little extroverted, and a little unsure of where we fit in. We all struggle with self-esteem sometimes, and we all have moments where we just want to be alone.
All you extroverts, introverts, and everyone in between, thanks for reading and keep on being you!