“Solitude matters, and for some people, it’s the air they breathe.” ~Susan Cain
Do you get ticked off too?
I mean, when people say you’re awkward, naive, and anti-social.
Your feelings get bruised, and then you find yourself drowning in a sea of unhappiness.
All you want is to be normal. To be accepted and to fit in. The more social you try to be, the more uhappy you get.
You’ve worn all the right masks to be normal, but it seems all your efforts aren’t good enough.
Well, I know that feeling all too well, unfortunately.
How Trying to Fit in Made Me Unhappy for Years
I was six years old when I joined the school dance team because I wanted to be like my friends. Long hours of practice replaced my alone time. It was rough. But all I wanted was to fit in and belong.
I should have known public dancing wasn’t for me. I panicked during the audition, and all I wanted was to crawl under a chair. I stood frozen in fear the entire time.
And boy, that didn’t go to well. No matter what I said to appease the teacher, she yelled and banned me from the school dance team.
In college, I was embarrassed to tell my friends I would rather stay in than go out in loud and busy places.
So, I followed my friends for adventures. It was okay for a few hours, but then I would take frequent bathroom breaks for quiet moments and to hear my own thoughts.
I pushed too hard to hang out every weekend. By the end of the day, I felt like I had been in a marathon that I didn’t sign up for.
After college, I ached to belong and be accepted. I always said yes, even when I wanted to say no, just to please others.
A friend suggested we (including her nanny and child) rent a bigger house together and split the costs, which meant we would pay less than we were paying to live separately, and we'd enjoy living in a better neighborhood.
Soon after we moved in together, her siblings moved in and took over the house. I was miserable. The house was crowded and noisy. There was no space for solitude.
This invasion of space built lots of tension, so I moved out, and doing so ruined our relationship.
I tried to explain, but I was misunderstood. I was left confused that my friend didn’t understand my need for quiet space. All I wanted was to have a happy friend who understood me.
I stumbled upon personality types in my twenties and learned about the differences between introverts and extroverts. I finally realized nothing was wrong with me. I realized I was an introvert, and I learned that us introverts often feel isolated and misunderstood by society.
After I understood myself, I stopped working so hard to fit in and please people. I was finally content just being myself.
Knowing I was introverted empowered me to stand up for myself and overcome some of the roadblocks to my happiness. You can do this too.
1. Focus on your strengths.
Introverts tend to focus on their weaknesses, like not being good at small talk, and some beat themselves up trying to fix them.
They might desire to be more talkative and outgoing, so they promise themselves the next time they go out, they’ll strike up a conversation. Or they promise in the next office meeting to voice their opinion. But when the moment comes, they back out and feel disappointed with themselves.
I knew I was self-conscious when I danced, but I felt it was something I needed to fix. That’s why I kept signing up for dance teams, even while knowing that they’d just make me want to crawl under a chair.
Are you focusing on your weaknesses and sinking in the sea of unhappiness?
So what if you’re not the best at small talk? You have plenty of other positive qualities that you should be proud of—having a strong conscience, drawing energy from deep conversation, and being empathetic.
Take fifteen minutes to just think about all the qualities you like about yourself. Jot them down. You might realize you have more positive qualities than you give yourself credit for.
2. Socialize selectively.
Shy introverts want to fit in, so they push their limit by attending parties out of their comfort zone.
In college, my friends handled going out every weekend with ease. I followed my friends to parties I didn’t even care about, only to be left overwhelmed by all the noise and small talk.
I started suppressing the feelings and struggled to toughen up. Doing so left me swinging back and forth, from happy to unhappy.
Does that sound familiar?
Trust your feelings to guide you. Learn to stop and retreat when you feel over-stimulated.
You should only socialize in ways you feel comfortable with.
Maybe having a small group of friends over for dinner is better suited to you. Maybe you know a couple of quieter cafes that you like and can refuse invitations to places you dislike.
And maybe, if you do want to step out of your social comfort zone a bit, you should feel free doing so, but you should also feel free to go home when you feel over-stimulated.
3. Honor your quiet time.
Most introverts need their alone time. It makes them feel at ease and can help them catch their breath between social events. However, many introverts neglect this need.
I used to say yes to every request I got, such as school sports kiosk, fundraising events, and baby showers. I wanted to fit in and was afraid of missing out on what was happening, but that only exhausted me.
All that stopped when I understood I was wired differently and deserved to pamper myself with some quiet time.
Honor your quiet time, and consider it as an investment.
It’s okay to retreat for some nourishment and recharging. This sounds selfish, but it’s not. You cannot serve others well if you cannot care for yourself.
4. Seek out kindred spirits.
Most introverts have those friends who make them feel different and alone because not all understand the nature of introverts.
They might try to bring you into the conversation when you’re content just listening. They might try to “help” you be more social and talkative. Or they might constantly ask why you’re being so quiet.
I had such friends, and the more I tried to make them happy, the unhappier I got.
I finally rocked my own boat. I no longer bent over backward to fit in, and I just expected people to respect me for who I was. Some fell overboard, but those who really understood me stayed.
So, seek out support of kindred spirits who understand the uniqueness of each person.
And because they understand other personalities, they already know how to manage and treat others.
They will make you feel comfortable just being you around them. And you don’t have to try and fit in because they understand you and accept you for who you are.
Time To Feel Complete
Stop trying to fit in by changing your personality to match others because you’ll only make yourself unhappy.
Instead, try to find people who will accept you for the introverted spirit you are.
Remember, you’re not alone. Some historic figures such as Martin Luther King and Steve Jobs were introverts and happy too.
You can be happier too if you focus on your strengths and accept yourself for who you are instead of trying to fit into someone else’s mold.
Embrace your introversion.
And spread your happiness to the world.
Introvert image via Shutterstock