Joel and I are finally saying goodbye to one-bedroom apartment life and are making our way on up into the world of houses and having room to breathe. In anticipation of our upcoming move, I have been going through all of my stuff and throwing out as much of it as possible in an attempt to curb the hoarder habits that I seem partial to. I have managed to keep the most random things over the years (post-it-notes, beer mats, weird little knick-knacks that I completely forgot about as soon as I shoved them into a drawer somewhere), and amongst this junk that I was certain was important when I stowed it away because ‘it holds memories’, I found my old diaries. While I never managed more than ten entries, I did start a new one every year from the age of eleven onwards, so it was interesting to see how I grew and changed up until my last diary at age fifteen.
Of course by interesting I mean horrifying. I was not a very nice person at all, spending most of my time complaining about my parents and my friends in a way that I would never dream of doing now were I to discuss my arch nemesis (side note: I don’t actually have an arch nemesis but I am quite partial to the idea, so if you know anyone interested in the position get them to contact me). While the notes scribbled in class between myself and my friends that I also kept reassured me that being a complete tool was not exclusive to me and is probably a part of this whole growing up thing – and we all grew up to be not so bad so I don’t think the early teenage years adequately demonstrate the kind of person we are (at least I truly hope not) – the diaries also affected me in a different way. Because underneath all of self-absorbed prose about clothes, boys and what ‘so and so said to so and so’; and borderline crazy rambling of a girl about to embark on a full-blown eating disorder – the theme of being deeply unhappy ran rampant throughout.
While I ended up throwing all of that stuff out because I don’t particularly want to remember myself, my friends and those years that way, so I can’t write it out word for word, by my last diary I went from the every second sentence being ‘I wish I was’ followed by pretty, confident, funny etc. that dominated the other ones, to an actual list of demands as to how I had to change to morph into some kind of caricature of the perfect person.
Unfortunately ‘nice’ never actually featured in my diary, which is a shame because that was advice that I actually could have used. However, what did feature every single time (aside from ‘thin’ – which wasn’t a surprise since I had equated being slim with happy from a very young age) was ‘confident’.
Now I have never been a confident person. Talkative? You betcha. I have gotten plenty of reprimands at school and work for that particular trait. But an extrovert I am not. This has always bothered me, because, aside from attractive, it is the one thing that media tells us we should aspire to be. No one lists ‘shy’ as something that they wish they were. No one ever wants to own up to their introverted ways (and yes, I recognise that shy and an introvert can be very different things).
However, as I get older I’m starting to get a bit tired of attempting to be somebody that I’m not. I am awkward. Always have been, always will be. I will manage to accidentally insult you/your mother/your best friend/your dog at least once during a conversation, no matter what that conversation happens to be about. As such, I may be a bit nervous in engaging you in conversation at all (though once I warm up to you and start chatter-boxing away then you can bet those accidental insults are coming your way).
It took me a long time to accept the fact that I am not confident at all, and in many social situations am downright shy. In fact, I did not really start to accept it until this year. My best friend just happens to be one of the most straight-talking people in the world, and all through high-school felt the need to consistently remind me that I was not the extrovert I so wished I was. She hadn’t brought it up in a while, and then a few months ago as we were sitting in front of my television she turned to me and said ‘I read a great article about introverts’. After explaining it to me and being met with an uninterested shrug she decided a more straightforward approach would be better ‘I thought you would be interested because you’re an introvert’. This quickly turned into a ‘no I’m not’, ‘yes you are’, ‘no I’m not’, ‘yes you are’, style argument that one seems to only have with people that they’ve known since they were little.
She has since linked me to the introvert article and after reading it, and relating to it, I finally admitted the unthinkable to myself: I’m an introvert.
I like having time to myself to write/play piano/practice yoga; I prefer to sit in my pyjamas with my friends than go out for a night on the town; I would much rather a group dinner than a party; I love long walks with just me, my puppy and nature; and I HATE talking on the phone to people I don’t know.
Since admitting it to myself I have had so much freedom and started doing a lot more of the things that I really enjoy doing, rather than simply doing things because they matched the personality of the person that I wished I was. It also turns out that self-acceptance is pretty hard to do if for the longest time you desperately pretended to be someone that you weren’t.
While confident and self-assured are great things to be, being both introverted and shy has turned out not to be so bad either. I no longer beat myself up for not wanting to go to those awkward work lunches, or to parties with people I don’t know, and instead have a lot more time for the people I love and the things I love. I no longer wish that I were something that I’m not, and am learning instead to appreciate, and even embrace, all of the things that I am.
So here’s to being an introvert and all of the blissful solitude that it brings ;)
What about you? Are you an introvert or extrovert?
(Image credit: 1.)