January 7, 2012

The Introvert Who Wanted To Be An Extrovert


Happy New Year everybody! I hope that you have had a wonderful break and whether you like it or not, I hope you’re ready for another semester! I’ve had a pretty boring break, but I’ve been hard at work on an important Quidditch project for the IQA, so it has kept me busy. Also, if there are any Class of 2016ers who are reading the blog, welcome to the Duke family! We’re awaiting your arrival here in a short eight months (or four if you visit for Blue Devil Days).

If you have read my posts in the past, you know that I have often made known that I am an introvert (Actually, I’ve been pretty vocal about it, which has some ironic undertones).  By saying that I am an introvert is in no way to undermine being an extrovert, but rather I want to make it well known that I identify as an introvert and I wouldn’t want to be mistaken otherwise. I’ve had to “come out” as an introvert a few times this past year since some people did not believe me.  Needless to say, it can be very exhausting and disheartening when people don’t believe me, but alas, it’s the truth. It’s a shame that I’m often just assumed to be an extrovert, and on at least one occasion, I was pretty much assumed to be an extrovert because I am gay. This is also a serious case of stereotyping, but I reserve this argument for a later time.

I have made the argument in the past that the LGBTQ community is meant for extroverts. Bars, clubs, pride parades and other socials events provide evidence for my claim, with very little evidence for introvert-guided activities, at least that I’ve noticed in college. As an introvert, I have a difficult time immersing myself into a crowd of extroverts with the intention of meeting somebody. Being an introvert is not a temporary state or mood; it is a trait of personality, and by no means does it imply that I’m enjoying being single. Yet when the majority of the LGBT individuals I meet are highly outgoing and extroverted, I lose hope every day of finding another introvert. I have tried very hard to lean into discomfort and go to some events to meet people that made me feel very uncomfortable, but every time I do so, I feel like I’m being judged. I feel like people are fully aware of my social awkwardness and I beat myself up every time because of my looks and because I’m socially awkward, when in reality it is my introversion that holds me back from talking to new people at such events.  The issues with my appearance deal with the lack of self-confidence I have in such situations because extroverts tend to exude confidence more, which is quite the downer for me.

I know that I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but I write this to make a point. And it’s a very simple point. A point that makes me very angry and upset at the very thought of it.

I wish I were an extrovert.

I have been struggling with this for a long time, since being extroverted is inherently not me. It’s a shame that I’m essentially trying to deny a very important part of my personality, but when I feel that I am repeatedly told by the gay community that introverts are “wrong,” I cannot help but feel this way.  If I were an extrovert, I would be able to talk to guys with some social acuity. I would actually be able to talk to somebody on Facebook as opposed to opening a guy’s chat window (who is typically an extrovert), typing out various greetings, and then erasing them for fear of being perceived as a stalker or a creep.  I would actually get to experience rejection from somebody else as opposed to experiencing self-rejection.  And who knows? Maybe I would have a little better self-esteem and self-confidence.

Recently on the blog, there have been many posts on identity, insecurity, and questioning. I write my post to provide a different perspective on my own form of identity and insecurities attached to personality within the LGBTQ community. I am very proud of being an introvert, and in my daily activities, my introversion has been a blessing. But in the social realm, I’ve found it to be a curse. I am frequently misunderstood, and while I often place the social barriers on myself, I have to put on my “extroverted” mask in order to go out in public, especially to events with lots of gay guys so that I don’t come off as weird. Yet this act causes me to lose a large portion of my identity. It’s as if I’m living two lives to please everybody, except myself.

If anybody has any other perspective or advice to offer, I greatly appreciate it, not only for me, but others who can empathize with this post. Please know that you are not alone, and even though it may seem daunting, being yourself is truly the only way to be happy. 

2 comments:

  1. Cameron, Thank goodness for your timely post. I think the social setting makes all the difference in how out we are; I’ve personally found one-to-one conversations insurmountably more difficult than conversations with a large group of people. Be it in person or online, one-to-one chats are exception-lessly shrouded by the initial “What do you REALLY want” question. From this perspective, we can be “introverts” in a one-to-one setting but “extroverts” in a multi-person conversation. I’m a self-proclaimed fan of most BDU posts, but as an introvert, am speechless when I pass the bloggers by. In a lingo you are familiar with, the initial conditions have to be right for the problem to be solved the way you want it to. There’s no need to force yourself to fit the mold of a “good” one-on-one conversationalist. I’ve not supplied any ready solutions, but I’m hoping this clarifies what I perceive your situation to be. In fact, you are already the extrovert in a pretty admirable setting: THIS BLOG, and I’ll continue looking to you for inspiration and speaking out on identity.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey Cameron! It sounds like you have two things going on here: the introversion-extroversion spectrum, and degrees of social anxiety. I've traditionally heard introversion-extroversion defined as what you get your energy from. Introverted people recharge by being alone; extroverted people recharge by being with other people. Neither of those things dictate the level of anxiety and discomfort you seem to have in large group settings. I've met extroverts with social anxiety, and extremely sociable introverts.

    I don't think that you have to give your identity as an introvert in order to become more comfortable in social situations. Social anxiety is a legitimate, treatable problem entirely separate from being an introvert. Introverts seem to be more likely to have social anxiety, but treating one doesn't get rid of the other. I'm not a psychological professional, obviously, and even if I was I couldn't give you a diagnosis from a blog post, but it sounds like this is causing you a lot of pain and that you would like to be able to chat online with new folks or plunge into a group of new people.

    Over the course of college, I went from having anxiety attacks from overstimulation/self consciousness whenever I met a bunch of new people to living with my door open and throwing big parties every month. I'm still an introvert. I was happy to be by myself for most of winter break. When I need to relax, I sit with a book or go out with my camera. But my anxiety and discomfort in social situations has decreased significantly.

    I think what I'm trying to say is, you can get help for social anxiety and still stay an introvert. Extroverts aren't always confident, and introverts aren't always shy. There's help out there if you decide it's something you want to pursue.

    ReplyDelete