Written by Humeira Kazmi
There are plenty of reasons I don’t socialize. First, and foremost: People.
You’re probably thinking “OMG, a chronic introvert!”
I don’t believe in labels. Introvert. Extrovert. Socialite. Anti-social. These are just boxes that simply cannot appreciate the complexity of any personality.
For instance, I’m an introvert, but I like talking to people too – from a distance, for a few seconds, not every day, maybe once a month. Also, never call me. There’s a text thing on phones these days. It was invented for people like me who want human interaction, but not too much, just enough to have a sense of not being marooned on an island.
Actually, scratch that. I would so love to be on an island!
It doesn’t mean I hate people.
It doesn’t mean I don’t like being invited to parties I may never attend.
I mean, I might attend. If I like you enough.
It just means I love my freedom to be myself and by myself more. If you’re really a friend to me, you wouldn’t touch that freedom. You wouldn’t complain, either.
After all, that freedom to answer to your own schedule — and not someone else’s expectations or demands — is what’s so precious to an introvert like me.
I’m a writer, and people often have difficulty understanding why and how could that be a tough thing. After all, I work from home. I work for me. It’s my work. Hence, I must have a lot of time on my hands, with virtually zero routine that needs sticking to and possibly nothing scheduled that cannot be rescheduled. And of course, I can just ditch my writing for anything and everything in the world, and up and leave and come back to it later.
It doesn’t work like that.
I always try to help people picture how my brain works.
It’s like an internet browser with a hundred open tabs that I’m working with all at once, all the time. Now, if one or more of those sites start interrupting what I’m currently doing by shooting requests and unsolicited messages at me, I’ll simply close that tab and go back to it when I have the freaking time. If it still doesn’t behave and gets too overwhelming, I’ll find another site to help me do what I was planning. Very few sites are regular/must-have/permanent in my browser. Everything else is disposable.
I’m no expert on people of any kind, but this is how I can best describe how most introverts I’ve known (including me) deal with relationships, regardless of their profession.
We may have a million different lifestyles, and a hundred different priorities, but an active social life is not something we cannot live without. We don’t work around our social life. Our social life catches up with all those permanent/must-have tabs: Family, work, a truckload of “me time.” The moment you start pressuring us with your constant demands to socialize and mingle, you become that annoying site that we boot out of the browser.
As harsh as it may sound, it is true, and very much part of our psychology.
According to Carl Jung’s psychoanalysis, introverts are naturally inclined towards their inner world, while extroverts are inclined to the world outside. This Jungian psychology explains that interaction drains introverts of energy and leaves them feeling fatigued, while solitude and alone time recharges them.
The opposite stands true for extroverts.
It is more an energy issue with us than anything else. Think about your phone when it’s not charged; it’s not very useful or fun, is it? All the screaming, head banging, and cursing in the world does nothing for it, but find a quiet, available socket? It’s a different story.
I’ve been treated to all sorts of reprimands all my life for being the way I am.
“You need to get out more!”
“Get out of your comfort zone!”
“Let me teach you to have fun!”
“Why aren’t you coming????”
“You’re full of excuses!”
“If you don’t go, nobody would invite you anymore!”
“Don’t you value our friendship?”
Ugh, please! You’re so off the mark, you’d have to buy a map and a compass to locate it.
It’s not an outgoing versus creative, solitary versus quiet, fun versus boring, friendly versus grouch issue at all.
I can go to a huge bash of a hundred plus people, and chat up every person in the room, only to come home drained and not wanting to speak to another soul for the rest of eternity. I can host a party of fifty people, and love to have them over, only to not repeat the event for another year. I can speak with all eyes on me without messing up even once at a conference, only to be the first one to leave that gathering and hurry home to my chai/couch/hubby/TV, all in that order.
Introverts don’t come with a label stuck to their foreheads, though that would’ve been easier for everybody. However, I suppose their resistance to be made to socialize and participate gives away their true nature. For instance, I don’t reschedule my life to attend a party. I’ll attend that party if it fits my schedule, and if I want to. I don’t go shopping to buy the perfect outfit for this amazing bash that’ll stun everyone. I dress to impress me and if I like what I see in the mirror, we’re good. I don’t have a need to belong to a group. I am my own group.
Having said that, quite a few introverts learn to be convincingly deceptive when it comes to social setups. And that is a shame, because that implies they wouldn’t be acceptable otherwise. That can be a real threat if you belong to a minority or a community that thrives on “sticking together.”
I’m a Pakistani Muslim from a not so huge town in Tennessee. That kinda shrinks my people pool to fish out friends in my own community who’ll not only get me, but also not try to “fix” my “anti-social” temperament.
Minority communities are often broken up into groups because it’s just so easy to do so. I mean, you probably get like a 1000 people with the same ethnicity in a city of millions. Of course there will be groups! Like the mosque group. The [insert profession] group. The group of the hijabi sisters who are ever ready to pull you back to Sirat-e-Mustaqeem, wallahi. The group opposite of the hijabi sisters; you can’t sit with them if you’re wearing even a semblance of a scarf. (No, they’ve never heard of Hermès.) Then, there are the moms — the social butterflies, the PTA favorites, the professionals, the single, the married ones who feel single, the moms-to-be, the moms who aren’t really moms because they don’t have children, but somehow fit in that group. (Go figure, and please add dads here too, for gender equality.)
And then, there’s you. The introvert. Where do you fit in?
Almost every group has a basic underlying rule of socializing: Out of sight, out of mind. To an introvert, that’s nothing but a clear warning to conform or be out. If you don’t attend all or most of the social events you’re invited to, you’ll be ignored and written off as rude and socially inept for the future.
Believe me, even for an introvert, nothing sucks more than being an outcast among your own people.
What y’all party animals must realize is that introverts are not hermits. They like to be included, or at least feel included; they don’t like to be pressured into attendance. Their RSVP aka regret that they’re not able to attend is not a vindictive attempt feeding some personal agenda to render your event a total flop by not showing up. It only reflects their energy levels at that given time. It probably wasn’t a fit for their schedule.
Don’t try to fix your introvert friends. They’re not broken. They don’t need help. They need understanding.