I Am An Introverted Girl In A Noisy, Scary World

Being introverted in high school was one thing, but in university? This truly has been a whole new ballgame. When I first came to UCT my anxiety would not let me forget that there were twenty-four thousand students on campus. I had no idea how I was going to handle it and so my degree was exceedingly difficult when I started studying. However, over the past year and a half I’ve been able to make some great strides forward. These are my top two tips that have helped me navigate this big space a little better.

  1. 1. Establish a positive relationship with being introverted

    I’ve often noticed that when people identify introverted tendencies within themselves or others, it is something that’s associated with shame. As though being an introvert is the less preferred option over being an extrovert. After all: who doesn’t love a loud, outgoing, social butterfly? I guess the fact that extroversion and introversion are on different sides of the same scale can make it appear as though one is better than the other. Right? I struggled with this concept for a while and often felt like there was something wrong with me just because I wasn’t extroverted. 

    Here’s the thing though, being introverted isn’t an illness. In fact, it simply means that I (we) function a little different. I began to carry out some of my own research about being introverted. Reading various articles about what the term means, and the different traits that introverts tend to have really helped me foster a better relationship with myself. I’m not saying that these findings are the gospel truth about you, but it’s nice to see what professionals have to say. Here is an interesting article that I found helped! 

    Learning and internalising the fact that there is nothing inherently wrong with being introverted allowed me to feel a lot more positive about myself. By extension, it allowed me to walk with more confidence and be content with who I am. By paying attention to myself and learning more about myself, I have become more grounded and I feel in control.

  2. 2. Stop explaining yourself to everyone/Be unapologetic

    I also found myself feeling a lot more at peace when I stopped explaining to other people why I do things the way I do. For instance, many introverts often need to ‘recharge’ by spending some time alone. Other people may not understand this, and that’s okay. But that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, undermine how important it is for you and your wellbeing. 

     “Why can’t you just do it?”

     “Why are you making everything so complicated?”

     “You’re too quiet! Speak up more!”

    These are examples of questions and comments that I received frequently. I found myself constantly explaining myself to other people. It felt like the same conversation every time and I kept getting the same response! 

    “Ah, you’re an introvert? You’re a young adult now, you need to grow out of that!”

    This exhausted me. It drained me, made me feel misunderstood and incompetent. Eventually I stopped with the self-loathing when I realised that at the end of the day, you know yourself better than anyone else does. So why shouldn’t you put yourself and your comfort first? If you know that taking some alone time is how you function, why even bother teaching that to someone else? This small, but vital step allowed me to become a lot more assertive. Now that I think about it, it certainly sent a message to my friends and peers. It sent the message that I had set boundaries in place and that they were non-negotiable. This is the way I work, and even if they don’t fully comprehend it, they at least needed to respect it.

The world is huge and intimidating. It’s a given. But, instead of running away from that fact I’ve tried to embrace it. I have started to align myself and my thoughts with the philosophy “this is my life, and this is for me.” Being kinder to myself and being more patient with myself has really helped me. And since then, the big bad world has gotten somewhat smaller and a lot less scary.