I have always been a private person, much to the chagrin of my friends.
In distress, as far as possible, I prefer to process my situation without involving a second person. Venting and ranting bring relief to many, but I regain my composure by pondering over my issues – the ifs, buts, and whys. Of course, this is not always healthy because I end up bottling my emotions and eventually bursting like a volcano.
I have lost friends or faced misunderstandings because people could not understand my introversion. I was never rude to anyone, but I simply could not find the energy to pick up the phone and keep in touch. This would upset those who expected more from me and wished to be in sync with my private life. Being a single woman, everyone is curious to know whom I’m dating, why I’m dating him, and what my future plans are with him. I find this intrusive, even if well-intentioned. Maybe I have no future plans with him, but would they understand that? Mostly no. To add to that, I never found the need to discuss my life events, scrutinize them, or share every little info with friends. I find the process exhausting and find it difficult to manage many friends as I get older. I am good as long as I have one listening, non-judging ear. Yes, even we loners wish to be heard sometimes.
In friendship, I realize that communicating regularly helps build a deep connection. This is why extroverts have many close friends. Keeping in touch comes naturally to them. The more friends they have and the more socializing they do, the more fulfilled they feel. Loners, like me, prefer to have that one good friend, with whom we can talk without restraint. We want to invest our energy wisely without draining out. This may give us an impression of aloofness as we are not actively seeking new friends.
What I find uncomfortable about discussing my life is that most would expect a follow-up story. If timely updates are not shared, questions arise. It is why numerous anonymous posts asking for advice are seen on Reddit. There are issues you are wary of telling your friends and family, no matter how close you are to them. You want to talk about them, but without the responsibility of being answerable to anyone in the future. I don’t have a problem sharing my life events, but it’s the questions thereafter I have an issue with – because you never know when they will stop.
My hesitation is not entirely inherent. I cannot put the whole blame on nature. It is part contrived as well. Experience has taught me that some things are better left unspoken. Recently, I let go of my inhibitions and, in a state of vulnerability, told a few friends at a party about my brother-in-law’s infidelity. I was feeling disoriented and needed someone to confide in desperately. I regret it now because what I did in the process of revealing something private was enable my friends to openly judge my sibling’s life, probably till the end of time. My brother-in-law and sister sorted out their problems, but the judgments did not stop. It is difficult to forgive and forget a terrible event in your life when there’s someone constantly reminding you about it. “My brother-in-law took my sister out for dinner.” “Oh, is it? (smirks and eye-rolling ensue)“. After facing the judgments, you hesitate to share your issues if you know there’s a remote chance that the situation might improve later. And what happens when you stop talking about such intimate parts of your life? Friendships become stale.
Self-reliance can be a boon as it teaches you to be independent, but it’s a bane if you wish to establish a solid network. I love to keep to myself most of the time but also love sharing ideas. These conflicting interests can prove overwhelming at times.
I sometimes envy extroverts. They come fully equipped into a world exclusively built for them. While they start life from ground zero, introverts have to start from minus 10. Introverts reach ground zero sometime later in life when they begin to understand the art of faking extroversion. Being an introvert, socializing never came easy. I have now learned to put up a façade of extroversion to please the people I love and work with, but I end up exhausted by the end of the day. I would wait to get back home and be myself. Finding a partner, who gets my true self, is difficult. They usually fall for the extroverted side I reserve for the world and back off as soon as they learn I am not all that. I have been called “weird” for not liking parties and being quiet. But now I am in a space where I get the solitude I need and a partner who is comfortable with my solitude.
According to Susan Cain’s Quiet, most introverts develop this dual personality to keep up with the extroverted world around them. Society expects them to be outgoing, jovial, and giving – such energy consumers for the quiet. It might be impossible for an extrovert to understand how much energy goes into socializing because mingling comes naturally to them. When the whole world is geared towards extroversion in all forms of life, an introvert has no choice but to conform and act as if they fit right in.