Confessions of a Romantic Introvert
Before we begin...
Yeah, all you guys who came here expecting the guilty confessions of a sexually-repressed, geeky-but-really-hot librarian chick can leave now - I'm a guy.
In a nutshell
It's not easy being an Introvert, especially not in this wired world of ours today.
I have just finished reading a teenage introvert's Hub on how it was affecting her life, and felt compelled to write something for her. This is dedicated to her and others who share our 'condition'.
Reading that Hub was a bit painful.
It brought on a flood of memories, snippets of certain chapters of my life, chapters which didn't feel so bad when they were being written because I didn't know how things could be any different.
I look back at them now and kind of feel bad for the clueless little boy I was.
My muse, the teenage Hub writer, said she was sitting there looking at her computer because she wanted reassurance. 'Would things change?' she wondered.
From personal experience, the short answer is 'Not quite'.
God, I hope that is not cruel, and if you are the Hubber who inspired me (or any other introvert), please read the rest of this Hub - it gets better. This Hub is about my personal experiences, with a few tips gained from hindsight thrown in.
I was an immensely introverted kid, but not the puny kind with thick glasses.
I was very good at sport (but non-team sports like track and field), did martial arts, swam and passed exams without studying too much.
Girls literally made me sweat, though.
I still cringe when I recall some incidents from my school days. Others leave me furious at myself for being rude to some very kind, very sweet girls who tried to be nice to me only to have me mock or ignore them because I didn't know what the hell to do.
(To any girl reading this who was treated rudely by stupid boys as a kid:
It was just insecure boys being idiots, boys who probably had crushes on you and think about you even today.
I apologize on their behalf because they would, too, if they met you again.
Also, if you are a girl and realize by the end of this Hub that we went to school together as kids, I will let you punch me in the stomach as hard as you can if we ever meet).
It was in my mid-teens that I started to realize I was different from most people around me, that I didn't actually have any real friends. There were points when I was in grade school when that thought sort of teased the edges of my consciousness, but I think some sort of mental defense mechanism kicked in and allowed me to carry on in blissful ignorance.
I played games with the other boys and was on okay terms with several of them. I never understood why other kids got scolded by teachers for talking in class, though - I couldn't see why anyone would be so eager to just talk. It just seemed ridiculous.
When I was ten, a teacher gave my class the assignment of a ten-line essay titled 'My Best Friend'.
I looked around and realized I didn't have one. I asked the kid who sat next to me on whom he would be writing, and it turned out he didn't have a best friend either (what a loser).
"I'm gonna write about you," I declared, and we set to writing about each other as 'best friends'.
It was so bizarre - I had no idea who that kid really was, so I made stuff up. I still remember writing that his favorite food was chicken and that he liked to drink Coke. I don't know what he wrote about me, though.
It strikes me as I write this that I was so introverted I couldn't even be bothered to look over at his book to find out like he was doing.
It's amazing what I remember about that day - where I sat in class, the kid's name (we almost fought during a soccer game later that year). I'm going to Google him after I finish this paragraph.
Partial luck with Google - name and place match, no picture. Anyway, that wasn't the only notable incident with Best-Friend-Essays from grade school. Two years before, another unimaginative teacher had asked for the exact same thing.
Now, I remember that day because it was bizarre for another reason: no less than 8 people wrote about this one kid (whom I quite liked, too - I'll Google him).
But, seriously, 8 people in a class of 30+ kids wrote about THE SAME GUY?!! 8 DUMB KIDS each thought he was their best friend? WTF man?
And remember, this was grade school so guys would only write about guys and girls would only write about girls. In this environment, half the boys each thought that that one kid was their best friend?!
I could vomit.
How I hope those 8 guys read this Hub and realize how stupid they were when they were 8 years old.
Oh yeah, and in case it isn’t clear by now, no one wrote about me.
On the second last day of senior high, a guy I used to hang with, who in turn was always hanging with heaps of girls, told me that my name was near the top of some list the girls were compiling of 'cute guys'. I begged him to tell me which girls were compiling the list.
The weasel didn't squeal.
But what would I have done had he told me?
Absolutely nothing. There was no way I would have approached any of the girls myself. If any one of them would have come and spoken to me and declared her undying love for me right there and then, I would have probably just stared, turned around and walked away. Probably sweating rivers, too.
That's not an exaggeration, by the way.
Earlier that year, I was sitting outside the cafeteria with a few guys when a very mischievous girl who always wore black and white Converse All-Stars to school (and on whom I had a minor crush) came over and sat with us. I had never spoken to her before, but it was okay since the others kept the conversation going. When the bell rang a bit later, my friends headed off to their classes. I stayed because I had a free period and opened a book.
To my horror, I looked up to find she had stayed, too.
Just she and I sitting across the table which suddenly seemed too small, too narrow.
I was trapped.
I couldn’t even stand up and go because I had just told everyone I was staying. How I cursed at the others for abandoning me.
“Why couldn’t she have left?” I yelled in my head. I put my head down and pretended to read my book.
“Soooo....are you ready for the test?”
I was mortified. She had spoken. A question, at that. A question which required an answer.
Summoning all my floundering faculties, I prepared my answer.
Very curtly. And then, without a word or a glance at her, I stood abruptly and walked away.
That scene has played out in my head a thousand times. Every time, it makes me sick how stupidly thoughtless my debilitating shyness had made me. She and I had been in the same school for two years, and the single word I said to her was a rude 'No!' as I walked away without ever looking at her.
That poor, brave girl. She had mustered the courage to talk to someone of the opposite sex in high school, had overcome all the nervousness any girl would have felt in that situation, laid herself bare…
Unfortunately, she had had the misfortune of facing an incorrigible fool like me. And I had responded in the very worst possible way. It pains me that I could have done something so potentially damaging, and without ever intending to.
How I wish I could go back and jus give a normal response, even leave, but with an apology or an ‘excuse me’ or ‘cya later - I gotta do something’.
I wish I could Google her, but I don’t remember her name. If anyone deserves to punch me, she does.
That brings me back to the ‘Cute Guy’ list of months later. What in the world were those girls thinking? I can only imagine that I must have come off as some sort of brooding, too-cool-to-talk sort of guy.
In reality, nothing could have been further from the truth.
The evolved introvert today
Later in life, I did realize very clearly that I didn't have real friends. Fortunately, this was never a stumbling block for me - I could always curl up with a book, draw, work out, run, all things I enjoyed more than the agony of trying to make conversation.
I am truly amazed by those people I meet who pull the most interesting topics to speak about out of thin air, topics that get everyone clamoring to get their own two cents’ worth heard. These magicians do this over and over, picking startlingly ordinary topics….which would never have occurred to me before I heard them.
At some point in my early twenties, I realized I was changing.
The 'shyness' started to dissipate, and I could talk to people I had just met. I didn’t become fast friends with new acquaintances as some people do, but I could inspire in the people I meet some level of interest in me (and feign some in them like the closet introvert I was).
I don't think this evolution was due to a mentality of 'I don't want to be an introvert anymore', but more that having a life of rich, varied experiences molds a more confident character.
Today, the thirst for external validation and acceptance has been put on the backburner by my brain, which realizes the limits of my social abilities.
I still don't know what the hell to say to girls, though. I am reasonably fit and good-looking (Mum says, ask her) and I am now more aware of the looks girls give me, and don't start to sweat when I notice anymore.
I want to thank the girl who inspired this Hub. While hunting for images, I came across several articles about and by introverts. Somehow, I never thought of looking for assistance before.
My two cents
There is a plethora of articles all over the internet about how to be an introvert and survive society; there is no point in my repeating what they say. I will, however, give you two tips that I have discovered personally.
1. Make ONE extroverted friend.
I have noticed one thing - wherever I am in the world, I become fast friends with one very social person.
This trend has been consistent, unaffected by race, age or location (across continents). It was never a conscious tactic, and I only recognized the pattern a couple of years ago. I don't know if this will work for every introvert, but I think it's worth a shot.
I can't give you instructions on how to find extroverted friends but my analysis of my own life leads me to believe extroverts are themselves subconsciously searching for a balancing force of sorts - someone will appear, you just have to bite the bullet and accept their overtures to become friends.
2. Trios are your allies.
My mind blanks out in the middle of one-on-one conversations. I am left staring at my shoes and wondering if should talk about the weather.
Avoid this. Always hang in groups of three (more may make you uncomfortable, at least at first) . In this way, you can listen and nod while the others chatter away. There’s no pressure like in a two-person situation, and when the pressure isn't there, you will find your brain getting used to the idea of contributing meaningfully as and when the need arises.
Of course, just make sure none of the others in the group are introverts – the only thing worse than an awkward silence between two people is an awkward silence between even more people.
I don't really know anything about you, little girl sitting hopefully at your computer so far away.
I hope and pray that the people around you start to understand you better than the people around me when I was your age.
They say the first step to solving a problem is recognizing that there is a problem. That's where you have a head-start over teenage Terrex. I am no psychologist or researcher, I don't know if any of what I said here will be helpful or make any difference - I just have written what I think would have benefited me to hear when I was a kid.
There are many people around you - teachers, parents, school administrators - who are waiting for a chance to help make things easier and will do so privately. Work up the courage (introvert-style) and speak to them.