Alana George, Campus Carrier copy editor
Have you ever felt like your brain is overreacting to the smallest things? Like whatever you say and do is being scrutinized by those around you and you can’t shut it off? Like you can’t make any decision with any amount of certainty because your brain is constantly telling you all the ways it could go horribly wrong? Like if you even open your mouth your reputation and all of your friendships will crumble?
This is how I feel on a day when my social anxiety is rearing its ugly head. I have gone undiagnosed since I was a child, but the symptoms have been there since around the fourth grade: stuttering, constant headaches and the intense feeling that every eye in every room is on me, and not in a good way. In fifth grade I switched schools and I thought the symptoms would get better, and they did for a while, until I realized that my new peer group was worse than the group I left, and they came back with a vengeance. After eight years of worsening symptoms with no way out, I finally graduated and came to Berry. It is here that I have found my best friends who make me feel better on my bad days and ways to combat my anxiety on those bad days when I feel like it’s trapping me in a hole. I tell my friends about these things, so they know how to love my introverted self in the way I need to be loved.
First, I have found that I really dislike small talk. I prefer to get deep in my conversations, discussing philosophy, poetry or the beauty of nature. When I have to sit with someone and make small talk for any substantial period of time, I feel very drained and wish the person would walk away. My best friends know that I love discussing hard topics with them. They feel safe doing that around me, because I never go into those conversations from a place of judgment. I love hearing how other people view the world, as it enriches my own knowledge and range of perspectives. Obviously, I do not agree with everyone, but I am very good at seeing two sides of an argument. This is a good thing to recognize when in conversation with an introvert; know that we love you and want to hear your perspective, so speak freely, because you might just teach us something new.
Second, I am often quiet in group settings. I am acutely aware of how loud my voice is in any given room and I will not speak louder just to get my point across. Indeed, it is often physically uncomfortable for me to speak louder than I have to. If I am in a group with multiple extroverts, my voice often gets drowned out, and even if I have something important to say no one will hear it. It really does hurt when my presence is not acknowledged in this way, and unfortunately this has occurred often enough in the past that I have found it easier to keep my mouth shut than risk feeling ignored and unappreciated. If you do find yourself in a conversation with an introvert, speak up on their behalf and make sure their voice is heard; we are deep thinkers and often have important things to say if given the platform to do so.
Third, I really like my alone time. The best part of a busy day for me is coming home, getting into comfy clothes and making a cup of tea. I recharge my batteries in solitude; it allows me the space to think and process everything that happened during my day. That being said, while I appreciate being alone, I don’t like being lonely. To me, solitude and isolation are two different things, but most people do not realize that. Solitude is a necessity for me but that does not mean that I never want to do anything with my friends on a Friday night. The best friends are the ones who invite me out knowing that I might not be up to it, but still think of me and invite me anyway. That is something important to remember when dealing with an introvert friend: we love solitude but despise isolation.
To my fellow introverts: I see you and I love you. Your quiet strength is so admirable and deserves all the recognition in the world. To the extroverts of the world: I admire your boldness and willingness to speak up when the moment calls for it; I have wished for those qualities in myself for a long time. I hope these insights help you to better understand and love your introverted friends and stick up for them when they do not feel capable of sticking up for themselves. We are a special breed; love us, never underestimate us, and we will love you right back in our own way.