“Be yourself, because an original is worth more than a copy.” ~Unknown
There was a moment during my twenties years when I realized I was an introvert.
Now, this may sound like a mundane realization to you, but trust me, this was the Big Epiphany of my young life.
I spent my teenage years pretending to be someone else. Like a lot of my friends, I went out as much as possible. I partied. I was loud.
Until it dawned on me: I hated going out. I hated parties. I wasn’t loud. Honestly? I just wanted to stay home, drink coffee, and wear sweatpants.
This is the story of how I re-learned how to connect with people—without the bars and booze.
Once I realized my life needed a change, I did a complete 180. I didn’t ease out of my old lifestyle so much as stopped cold turkey. Needless to say, my old friends didn’t want to hang out with the new me and I ended up with no one to talk to. It’s shocking how quickly an introvert can get lonely.
This loneliness lasted years. I questioned everything I knew about myself. Who was I? Was I broken? Would anyone want to be with me as I was? How could I be an introverted homebody and make a completely new group of friends?
I also realized I wanted to meet a woman and settle down, but I had no idea how to meet anyone without my old crutch of liquid courage and thumping music.
Eventually I stumbled into the world of pickup. I read dating books and watched YouTube videos. Finally, I felt like I had the answer! Dating would ease that loneliness, right?
For a while, it did—until I realized I was seducing women with another guy’s personality, which wasn’t a good way to attract someone for a long-term relationship.
Eventually I exchanged dating books for personal development blogs and, through a lot of trial and error, came up with my own system for meeting women (and making new friends) using my introverted qualities.
Here’s how I did it:
Ditch the Bars & Clubs
Bars are not a place for people like me. If you’re introverted, you know what I’m talking about. The too-loud music. The sticky floors. The screaming conversations.
Instead, I became more conscious about going places I already went in my daily life—coffee shops, volunteering, hiking… pick your poison.
This made it easier for me to approach not only women, but any new person. If we both enjoyed this activity, it was more likely we were going to have at least one thing in common.
Do Quiet Activities in Social Places
Even after axing bars and clubs, I still wanted to stay home and watch Netflix, but I knew I wouldn’t meet the woman of my dreams if I stayed home.
While I had no intention of going full-on out out, I started taking my non-social activities to social places. So instead of doing homework in my PJs on the couch, I’d take my laptop to a coffee shop and talk to anyone I encountered. Even something simple like chatting up the barista made me more confident in my booze-free social abilities, while also rewarding me with a daily jolt of human interaction.
Want to read a book? Do it in the park.
Exercise? Sure, you could work out at home with your favorite DVD, or you could join a local gym.
There’s power in local community, and you’d be shocked who you’ll meet out in the real world if you’re open to it.
Give Up on the End Game
The biggest shift I made during this period was to remove an expectation of outcome.
For those of you dying to meet the love of your life, hearing the words “Just stop trying so hard!” probably makes you want to punch me in the face. But it really wasn’t until I stopped expecting every interaction to lead to an immediate new friend or partner that I actually started meeting new friends and, ultimately, my partner.
When I was deep in the world of pickup, I learned that the more women I approached, the better my chances. The second I sensed my conversation “going nowhere,” I had full permission to extricate myself. I had an End Goal, and the entire point of going out was the meet it.
The result is, of course, a lot of stress, zero deep interactions, and a lot of frustrations.
Only when I started approaching people out of curiosity did I actually enjoy the process.
Only when I stopped focusing so much on the “outcome” did I actually get the outcome I wanted.
Put another way: As you move through the world, engage with it. Enjoy the process. Embrace the journey of a thousand little micro-conversations. Be present during every social interaction. Ask the questions you want to ask. The answers might surprise you.
Today, instead of lying about who I am, I’ve created a smaller, tighter group of friends.
And, best of all, I actually like myself.
I had always assumed introverts were losers. Turns out, we have a ton of characteristics that make us extraordinary: We’re good listeners. Information just doesn’t go in one ear and out the other. We’re able to tap into other people’s worlds and really connect.
Eventually, I met my now-fiancé. We met online of all places, so I guess it’s not that old-fashioned after all. But it wasn’t until I was really honest about who I was and who I was looking for, did my perfect match actually show up.