I’m going to start this little commentary blog post of mine with a few questions. Feel free to answer them in your heart.
Have you ever been in a certain place or event, being surrounded by a lot of people (even those that you know), and somehow feel like you don’t belong there? Have you ever felt lonely in a crowd? Or have you ever thought to yourself, “Things would have been better if I just stayed at home by myself.”
I have. A lot of times actually.
I’m going to tell you a little story. Well, not exactly, but maybe a little something similar to that. Quite a while ago, I was invited to an event that one of my friend’s held. I knew I wasn’t really going to know a lot of people who were invited as well. The only person I really knew was my friend who asked me to come. Nevertheless, I was happy to be invited and I sort of wanted to go, and so I did. But after an hour of making awkward small talk with others that I had just met, or others that I barely knew, I started to feel a strong pull towards the door. A lot of parties and social gatherings were like this for me. After two hours tops, I would be more than ready to leave. I would sometimes feel very lost and mystified by the ease and energy that everybody else seems to have. The good time they were having and how they had their conversations seemed so effortless. They had great social skills, something I felt I didn’t have. I was so anxious to leave. To get back to my room, my private sanctuary where I could wallow in the glory of my own company.
You’re probably thinking, well, that is not good at all. Or maybe even, what a shame that she feels that way. Because that’s pretty much what I thought about myself as well. I began to think that the way I connect with people is different from how most people connect with each other. I thought to myself, something must be wrong with me.
Most adolescents would want to go to the movies, get dinner and hang out together all the time it seems, whereas I myself am always drifting on the edge, wanting to join on these occasions, but never one to really make an effort to go. They seem so excited to be spending hours with each other, having fun talks about their crushes, gossips and life. And I’m sort of in between having fun and not enjoying those moments at all.
I did some reading. I browsed for more information on the web about the so called ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’, because I thought that it could be the only way that I could understand this weird personality I thought I had.
From a few websites and articles, I found out how extroverts gain energy and how they are stimulated by a large company, whereas introverts are often overwhelmed in similar situations. And it definitely slapped me in the face: I’m an introvert.
It was reassuring to read something that basically said I wasn’t a weirdo and that there are a lot of other people like me as well. The article explained that it’s not that introverts don’t like other people, it’s just that socializing isn’t necessarily a huge source of our happiness. We take pleasure in solitary activities, we prefer doing things where we can work alone and concentrate, we don’t like small talk, we prefer a small gathering of friends to a big party, we like to curl up with a book more than we like hanging out, et cetera.
So I spent quite a while living my life thinking I was an introvert, basically just using my introversion as an excuse for how I was behaving and also for my poor social skills.
But quite recently, I had an enlightening conversation about this matter, and I suddenly realized how silly it is to label ourselves as ‘introverts’ just because we have felt socially inadequate at times. I’ve had a lot of those weird and awkward moments, being very timid, feeling socially inept and just wanting to lock myself in my room. But then I start to think about the times where I actually did enjoy participating in social events or gatherings. There are countless amounts of time where I seemed to function best and enjoy life more in the company of other people, just like my friends or family. I am an introvert but I will be comfortable with a group of friends that I know well.
Of course it is an understandable tendency to want to know where we fit in socially, especially if we have been exposed to certain struggles. And yes, I think if you really are an introvert you won’t get on too well pretending to be an extrovert, but I think we all would be much happier and even more at ease if we would just dropped these labels altogether and let go of ideas and concepts from other people that are trying to describe who we are.
As humans we tend to think in very black and white terms. What we should always remember is that people, including ourselves, have many dimensions. Grey areas do exist. Some might be really dark that it gets mistaken for black, and some can also be very light resembling the color white. What we see is not necessarily true, especially when it comes to labeling ourselves (or others as well) as an “introvert”, an “extrovert”, or basically any other label that exists in this world.
Labels are simply generalities. Generalizing may be a necessary part of the way our brain functions because so much information is received on a daily basis, and to work effectively, we do need to create categories to help us organize all the data. But it becomes a problem when people don’t fit into those generalizations. What they do then is prevent us from seeing the person for who he/she really is. We always end up seeing only who we expect to see, thus canceling out that individual. Furthermore, when people don’t fit into generalizations, we often assume they are an exception to the rule rather than questioning our general statement. I think that generalizations should never influence the way we deal with or treat ourselves and others as well. In terms of that, I believe that we need to be more specific.
But anyway, the point of all of this is that generalizing and labeling is prevalent among everyone’s lives, and it will always be. But getting out of a problem doesn’t come from stamping our foreheads with yet another label to hang around our necks (or others for that matter); finding a solution comes from wanting to find the answer, and that comes from investigating it, formulating and finding our true nature – beyond those limiting concepts and labels.
“The curious thing about individuals is that their singularity always goes beyond any category or generalization in the book.” ― Haruki Murakami, The Elephant Vanishes