There are perks to being a wallflower.
Laughing and chatting amidst a throng of media faces, I worked the room with a glass of champagne in my hand as my armor. My endeavors probably looked effortless; I’d perfected my act to create that illusion.
I was at the showcase of a new band, the music was turned up and the mood was even higher. I made small talk all evening with what felt like 5000 people and arrived home utterly spent. Switching my sparkle on for work events was as crucial for my dream job on a magazine as being able brainstorm great story ideas – but it came at a cost.
I’ve always been an introvert. At school I was very quiet and withdrawn, preferring to spend time alone rather than in big groups. It was presumed I was a painfully shy wallflower, but I’ve always felt distant from other people, with a bubble around me. And if required, I can turn my fizz on when I need to.
While everyone else lived in buzzing shared houses at college, packed with people, conversation and constant socializing, I preferred to live alone a few doors away. I liked having my own space to retreat to, knowing that I needed hefty doses of quiet time to read, and silence to recharge. I’m a bit like a human cell phone; without time to power back up, I’m drained and lifeless. Big groups of people exhaust me and my balance comes from being solitary.
I feel creative when I’m alone. I often sit and let my mind wander with a notebook in hand. That’s happiness to me, and I’d rather enjoy that than be in a hustling crowd. I’m happy in my own head, staring out a train window watching the world go by, or walking to think through my thoughts. I draw my inner strength watching a sunrise and polish up my thick skin when I’m alone, ready to face the world again.
Some friends haven’t understood the real me and have drifted away; extroverts don’t always understand introverts. They’re drawn to my effervescence, but struggle to understand it’s merely a part time role for me. They’ve mistaken me withdrawing as rudeness and often can’t accept that I don’t want to run my life like they do, be up and out all the time or thrive in social situations.
I’ve learnt that I can’t be who people want me to be. I’ve stopped feeling guilty and self-critical that I can’t be sparkly me all the time. People exhaust me and I’ve never understood why some of them love the sound of their own voices so much.
I used to drink to find my confidence. Giving up booze was my way of plucking the last string from my bow of trying to fit in and chucking it in the trash. Now, what you see is what you get – and often that’s a quiet night in.
As the years have ticked by, I’ve learnt the importance of balance and I’ve stopped wasting my breath trying to explain myself to people who don’t ‘get’ me. I’ve realized it’s possible to be a successful introvert in a world of talkers. As Ghandi said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world,” and it’s important to respect that a life of quiet fortitude is courageous in its own way.
Comment: Do you relate to being an introvert?