I’m Not Rude. I’m Just an Introvert.
Many confuse my manner with shyness or rudeness, but they are not the same
Whenever I ask my father what I was like as a child—whether I was difficult or hot-tempered, meek or affectionate, endearing or rambunctious—he usually tells me about my first day of daycare. My parents enrolled me into a formal daycare center when I was two. The school was within walking distance of our apartment complex in a neighborhood so heavily gentrified today that it is literally unrecognizable to me now.
My mother dropped me off, kissed me goodbye, and embraced me with promises that she would return for me in the afternoon. Then she set me to play with dolls and puppets on a cornered-off section of the classroom. When she returned for me in the afternoon, she found me in nearly the same position, playing with the same doll.
My teachers reported to my mother, who later told my father, that I overall had a good day, but they noticed I was incredibly timid and quiet, that I wanted to play only with the same set of dolls and barely socialized with or spoke to the other children. One child came to play with me, and I shared the set of dolls with that child, but when other children wanted to join us, I walked away from the group and elected to sit in a different section of the play area to be alone.
I have been on dates, at parties, or out to dinner with friends and felt at times like I needed to just walk away.
A degree of this habit remains with me to this day. I have been on dates, at parties, or out to dinner with friends and felt at times like I needed to sequester myself. It feels like a heavy animal is crawling up my back, along my arms to the center of my chest, and sits there, permeating heat. The heat becomes tension. I find myself annoyed with the sounds the fork makes when scratching the plate. The temperature in the room starts feeling unfavorable. I become dissatisfied with my food or how the outfit I’m wearing now feels like an irritant on my body and along my skin. I compare all these inconvenient sensations to the comfort I would be experiencing if I had remained home. I muscle through an awkward and complicated explanation that’s west of the truth in order to free myself of the stifling social environment and return to my home, my sanctuary, and begin to shed the weight of the heavy, heated animal that invaded my space.
Many confuse introversion with diffidence or even outright rudeness and reason that these character traits are one and the same—that someone who is an introvert should more than likely be shy, anxious, standoffish, disinterested. It is probably most challenging in intimate relationships, particularly the vested kind where “I love yous” and passionate public displays of affection are expected.
In truth, introversion has nothing to do with social anxiety or moodiness, because introverts, myself included, can adequately manage and navigate our way through an array of social engagements and “peopleing.” We exist on this planet alongside other humans every day. We have friends, families, and partners. We are in professions that require a great deal of public performance, like teaching, singing, human services, politics, customer service, and other industries. We are experts in adapting to the world we have been given.
If only the world would adapt to us. While it’s easy to write introverts off as antisocial loners, there’s a hidden strength to this personality trait. Introversion is about more than just the desire to be alone. It’s about how we gain and exchange energy. In a time where so many negative things, people, and politics are grappling for our attention, an introvert is able to manage their energy and emotions and direct their time toward things that bring joy to them and others around them.
I believe there is a way we can be alone together.
What sets us apart in relationships, friendships, and familial situations is that we desire intimacy, in its truest form, that reaches beyond superficial or platonic connections. To know an introvert is to experience true intimacy. Even though we require a significant amount of alone time to stare out the window in silence for 20 minutes before starting the day, that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the presence of others. And if you’re blessed enough to be invited to witness our moments of solitude, know that it’s because we feel safe enough around you to be ourselves and not have to explain why.
I believe there is a way we can be alone together. This means that although I enjoy your existence in my life and our experiences, I need time to focus and energize not the me I am for you, but the me I am for myself. I suppose it goes with the famous saying—I love you, but I love me more. You too can love the introvert in your life by accepting them for being who they are.