Being an Introvert : Why I Struggle with My Personality

being an introvert

I’ve mentioned before that I’m an introvert – that I like my alone time, don’t mind Friday nights in, and probably watch too much Netflix.  It’s a part of my personality that I’ve always struggled with – battling between wanting to want to go out, but instead wanting to do nothing but stay in and read, watch Netflix, and blog.

My being an introvert is something that I know there’s nothing wrong with.  If you told me you were an introvert, I’d tell you all the great things about it.  But when it comes to myself, I sometimes feel as though I could be – want to be – “fixed.”  As though I take it to a new, defective level and that one day, that joke my friends make about me being a crazy cat lady will come true and my only friends will be furry and unable to speak.  As though it’s something that, with the right words or a certain level of practice, I can shed and become the social butterfly type that seems to thrive in our society.  As though my being an introvert is merely a stage before I get to who I am.

It’s one thing to want to accept your personality – to know all the amazing positives that come with who you are – and trust me, I do.  I know that there are things I’m great at, and that it’s most likely because of my being an introvert that I thrive in those areas.  And I know I wouldn’t want to give those things up – my love of reading, and my ability to write as well as I do.

But it’s difficult to accept the downfalls, the desire to stay in on a Friday night up until 10PM when you hear everyone outside your window on their way to the bars or a party.  The inability to small-talk, to the point where you’d rather tell a near-stranger a barely-in-context story about yourself and your life just because it’s something to say.  The complete fear that when you meet someone new, they’re going to hate you; and constantly needing reassurance that your friends don’t wish you’d just go away.  Those are the parts of being an introvert that I don’t want to know about myself, that I wish would go away.

It’s something I struggle with, and something I want to accept.  But at the same time, I want to be better – a more sociable, easy-to-talk-to person.  And I don’t know how to reconcile those two desires, because they are so opposing to one another.

It’s something I don’t know if I’ll ever stop struggling with, but I’d like to start somewhere, to try to acknowledge the great things about myself, like my ability to get a job done quickly, and well; my writing-skills; my love of a new book or a blank page; or a challenge in my work.  My abillity to take a to-do list a mile long, and have it finished by the end of the work day.  These are all great pieces of my being an introvert, pieces that I know I may not have if it weren’t for my personality.  Pieces that I’d like to try to focus on the next time someone asks about the weather, and I respond with an anecdote about the power going out at my apartment last year because of the snow.

So what about you? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? And either way, is it something you struggle with?

  • Stephanie

    I am also an introvert and sometimes I hate it because of the same reasons you said. Struggling with being able to have a great successful conversation with a stranger. I want to go out and be one of those people who go to parties and socialise but I can’t be bothered sometimes.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Yes – I just really want to WANT to go out, but I rarely do (of course, that’s until all my friends/neighbors are going out and I’m sitting inside watching Mad Men wishing I were with them.)

  • http://nomad-notebook.blogspot.co.uk/ Lizzy

    I’m 100% an introvert and i have the same struggles as you. I think one of the hardest things for me is that my partner is an extrovert which can make it difficult when he wants to be gallivanting and socialising a lot of the time! However much i want to, i find it so difficult sometimes. I feel a lot more comfortable with a list of jobs at home to do and a good tv series on in the background to keep me company!

    Lizzy at Nomad Notebook

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Ooo I can definitely see how that would be difficult, because it would be so hard to figure out what to do on any given night. But yes – I’m definitely with you on that! I’d rather work alone and get stuff done, or sit at home relaxing then be with people or in a group most of the time.

  • Shybiker

    Kiersten, I’m as introverted as anyone and have good news. You can and will expand yourself as you age. Social skills can be learned and introverts are usually talented people capable of such growth. While you won’t change your nature (e.g., I still fear walking into a room of strangers), you can become comfortable chatting in social situations. This growth opens doors and will give you more confidence. I can tell from your blog that you’re a wonderful and charming individual; time will only improve on that.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Thank you for that encouragement! I’m glad to hear that it’s something you’re able to work with – I’m hoping working and (soon) moving into the city will help, since I’ll be forced to meet people.

  • http://heidikate73.wordpress.com Heidi Knepper

    I am introverted as well, and I struggle because everyone thinks that the desire to have alone time and stay in rather than go out is something we should fix or WANT to change. I challenge that belief and am working hard to understand that it is ok for me to spend a weekend at home, not going out anywhere.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I do sometimes want to change…. I enjoy my life, but then I also think about, I’m 22 and I never go out and that upsets me. I’m somewhere in between I think, still definitely working on being okay with who I am.

  • Kristen Warren

    I am definitely an introvert as well – moving overseas really helped me ‘get better’ because like you I always thought one day I would get to who I was supposed to be, that this was a stepping stone. And it wasn’t, I am still an introvert and I kinda love it. I struggle meeting new people, making small talk, I always feel out of place and awkward, but moving overseas (not a solution for everyone lol) forced me to come out of my shell even if it was just a little bit.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I can definitely see how that would help! I know just waitressing helped me a lot – I can’t imagine being put in a situation where I don’t know ANYONE and have to meet people. I think it would be kind of terrifying!

    • http://www.thelemonhive.com/ Hannah Taylor-Johnson

      Moving overseas was a great experience. It made me push myself to put a little more energy into trying small talk and the other things I disliked. You’re right!

  • http://www.sarahchristinestyle.com/ Sarah Christine

    I’m an introvert too. I’m in the middle of reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that won’t stop talking, and I am learning so much about myself as I read it, I highly recommend it. I have the same struggles you do though, I am so quick to explain how amazing being an introvert can be and all the strengths that come along with it to anyone that will listen, but at the same time I often find myself feeling ashamed of others parts of it. When I look at my calendar and see that I have no plans Friday night I get so excited to just curl up at home and catch up on my TV watching or read with a big glass of wine, up until the time on Friday afternoon when everyone at work is talking about their plans for the night, then I start feeling like there is something wrong with the fact that I’m just going home.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Oooo Diane suggested that too! I’m definitely adding it to my reading list :) And I’m definitely with you – I know the positives, but I just wish I could be the kind of person who goes out and has a ton of friends and such. It’s just not me though. Monday mornings at my last job were the worst, because the attorneys would all ask how my weekend was and what I did and I’d be like “uhm, my roommate and I went to the farmers’ market…”

  • http://mariellegreen.com/ Marielle

    I’m fine with being introverted but sometimes I feel bad because I’m not naturally “friendly.” Carrying on superficial conversations with strangers or near strangers is just not usually worth the effort for me. I’m also super awkward talking to my boyfriend’s friend’s girlfriends and now I think they just don’t like me and avoid my company. Haha. Mostly kidding. And I KNOW I don’t interview well, because our culture tends to view loud, talkative people as “more confident.” I personally am more swayed by people who can say things succinctly and precisely. . . but that’s a pet peeve of mine. I’m quite fine on my own but every once in a while I WANT to go out and be social – but I know I probably won’t enjoy it unless it’s a small enough group.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      See I know how to be friendly, probably because of waitressing. But it definitely didn’t come easy, because so much of that is small talk. I always come off as SO awkward, so you’re definitely not alone there! But I’m with you – I’d rather someone get to the point than sit there and ramble on about how their sorority/book club/whatever makes them SOOO qualified. I’ve been wanting to go out more lately, but it’s always followed with that thought that I’ll be so awkward, or painfully quiet, or just want to go home after an hour or two.

  • http://snowintromso.com/ Van @ Snow in Tromso

    I’m definitely an introvert and usually, I don’t really think about that but recently when I moved abroad to start grad studies and found myself in the international student’s introduction week, surrounded by hundreds of people I didn’t know, constantly switching between 2, sometimes 3 languages – that was when I realized again that I’m a real introvert. It was all a little too much and I wished I had been less shy and had not blushed whenever a stranger started talking to me and just had been more comfortable but I can’t really have an influence on when I feel comfortable and when I don’t, do I? So I just have to accept that I’m not one of those girls that can make small-talk with everyone and are popular the second they enter a room…..and most of the time, I really don’t want to be this kind of girl. I just wish I would feel less anxious whenever I’m surrounded by one of them and just feel a little bit more confident in general ;)

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Oh gosh I can’t even imagine! I started a new job today, and it was so overwhelming meeting that many people at once! I can’t imagine doing it in another country, while speaking in different languages!

  • http://simply--a.blogspot.com/ Alison Toback

    I am definitely an introvert, but I didn’t really know it until a couple of years ago! I always assumed that since I liked people that I was an extravert. Turns out that isn’t the definitive quality of an extravert, haha. I love making plans and seeing my friends, but sometimes, I overschedule myself and end up wanting to cancel plans and hide in my bed. I struggle between wanting to make all of these plans and also wanting to do what I affectionately refer to as “hamster ball” that I stole from this comic that I talked about in my blog. (http://simply–a.blogspot.com/2013/05/in-which-i-discuss-introversion.html)

    Overall, I really like being an introvert, but sometimes I feel like people assume that introverted = antisocial, which just isn’t true! :)

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I definitely understand that misconception. I don’t ever think it was that with me, I just always thought I was the only person like this. That everyone else WANTED to go out and be with people and I was really weird. It was so nice when I read an article about introversion and was like “OHH that’s me!”

      And I definitely have heard that a lot! Thankfully, my friends all seem to understand it and don’t hold it against me, but it still really stinks sometimes.

  • http://www.sweetcatastropheblog.blogspot.com/ Diane

    I completely know what you mean! Have you read Quiet : The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain? I think you might enjoy it. We read it as an office and it was very interesting to learn about my colleagues personalities and tendencies!

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I’ve had that book suggested to me a couple times now – I’ll definitely be downloading the sample on my iPad tonight! Thanks for the suggestion :)

    • http://beyondthekhakipants.com Trish

      I am reading that book right now. I am an introvert (an INTP to be exact) and the book is so fitting, I would recommend it too!

  • http://www.thechroniclesofchaos.com Mia Sutton

    Oh my goodness. This is me on so many levels! Especially the inability to small talk – I just can’t do it. It always ends with awkward silences and me just wishing the other person would go away. Lol. I too wish I could be the outgoing person who goes out and has a great time, but it’s just not me. I’m definitely a stay at home and watch Netflix and read and blog type of girl, too. Thanks for sharing this!!!

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Ugh, I’m so glad I’m not the only one who struggles with that! I honestly have NO idea how to talk to people I don’t know, let alone sit there and discuss the weather and stuff like that.

  • http://thethingsiamcrazyfor.wordpress.com/ Camila

    Oh wow, I completely get that! I’m so totally fine with my personality, but sometimes I also feel like there is something wrong with me. I can’t small talk for my life – I try and fail horribly! You know in movies when someone says something super awkward and everyone turns away and sips on their drinks…well that awkward person is totally me. I just LOVE to try new things, etc. and knowing no one doesn’t bother me, until I arrive at said place or event and I realise that everyone is talking to someone and I have no idea how to introduce myself into a group or conversation. I feel bad that most of the time I’m the one in the corner that waits for others to come talk to her – I’m really trying to work on that because I know that for ‘networking’ and other nightmares for introverts, it would be useful to be better at this!

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      HAHAH Oh my gosh that’s definitely me too! For the most part I can see the exact moment when people are like “okay, did she really just say that?” And exactly – I don’t inherently mind being in a group of new people. It’s that I have no idea how to MEET those new people that freaks me out.

  • http://www.thelemonhive.com/ Hannah Taylor-Johnson

    Being introverted is awesome! I love it. I struggle sometimes when the people I love are extroverted because I don’t always have the social energy to match them but other than that I enjoy the experience. I see being an introvert as me being someone who gets social energy from being alone, spending it with other people, as opposed to extroverts who get it from being with people and spend that energy when they’re alone.

    I think it’s important to note that introverts, generally, dislike small talk rather than being fearful of it. Some of what you described was akin to shyness and, perhaps, some facets of social anxiety. There’s a misconception that shyness is synonymous with being an introvert. That’s what I always struggled with.

    Getting away from the idea that the things that bring you anxiety are things that are not caused by being an introvert is awesome. For me, I used to be really shy and awkward but that’s also because I didn’t relish the situations so I never sought them out, as such, I wasn’t as good with them when they happened. I’m the worst at small talk but I spent time listening to others do it and generally got the gist of what people like. Even now, I avoid small talk because it feels like a waste of my precious social energy. If I’m going to be spending my carefully cultivated social energy, I try to make sure it’s for situations that make me feel good.

    I know this has already been mentioned but challenging yourself, in a way that feels good, through travel or anything else, is a great way to build confidence. generally, introverts love the opportunity to reflect and learn, so there’s always the opportunity to see it as a self improvement project. It took me from about age 22-25 to become comfortable with being an introvert and to fully relish the fact that I’d rather be home learning Photoshop or html on a Friday night than partying. Not that I don’t sometimes wish for wilder nights out but really, I do really enjoy the quiet. And being awkward is quirky, I try to embrace it!

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      First of all – thank you for the long comment. I really appreciate it!

      I think that’s actually the definition – and it definitely feels the same for me! “Exhausted” is the perfect word to describe how I feel after a lot of social interaction.

      And definitely at least SOME of my trouble with social situations is social anxiety, but I can’t really figure out where the line is between what’s my anxiety and what’s my introversion.

      When I told my roommate I had no idea how to do small talk, she was so confused! She was like “but you’re a waitress” and how does anyone not know how to small talk? I think it’s not even that I don’t know HOW, but I don’t know how to make myself sound interested? I guess…It’s difficult to explain, but I just honestly can’t stand small talk, because I come off as such an idiot.

      And I definitely think waitressing helped! It’s a much smaller scale than travel, obviously, but it forced me to talk to people I didn’t know and to have conversations with them. Plus it forced me to spend long hours socialising.

      I think the biggest thing I need to come to terms with is that I’ll never have this huge social calendar with tons of friends. And for the most part, I love that! But when I want to do something, and my 2 or 3 friends aren’t available, it kind of really stinks. It also worries me since I’ll be moving into the city, away from everyone I know in May – I have no idea how to meet people. But it;s something I’m going to work on :)

      • http://www.thelemonhive.com/ Hannah Taylor-Johnson

        I think I got a bit carried away! whoops! :)

        You totally hit the nail on the head. There can be a fine line between being introverted and having social anxiety. I always found it best to think ” would this be different if I really enjoyed and sought out big groups?”. This helped me understand *some* of the nuances for me. To be fair, I still struggle with small talk. It’s tiring and it doesn’t build relationships at the level that I want; I’d rather spend all day talking about introversion than I would about the weather.

        A tip that an extrovert once gave me: “ask people questions about themselves, people love to talk about themselves”. I adapted that slightly and found that when I relate the small talk to peoples’ lives, the conversation can get beyond superficial very fast. “Oh, yes, the weather is dreadful today. But, ya know, try to look at the positive, I love reading in this type of weather” this will open people up to telling you about what they like to do – then you can pounce and ask all kinds of questions :)

        I also get jealous of those with large groups of friends. You know, like the people who always have a group to go on holiday with or can just have a little party with their friendship group? That’s just not me, it’s far too difficult for me to be a part of large group, I’d rather have small intimate friends than a large group and, like you, for the most part I love it, but sometimes you have that little twinge of ‘I want to be like everyone else’. Then I remember I don’t like big social gatherings and everything is ok again.

        • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

          I definitely like that advice! I also find that talking about something I’m really interested in, I can have a conversation for hours! If you can find something in common, I think that’s great! and Yeah – as much as I don’t want to be spending a TON of time with people, and probably wouldn’t want to have big parties, I’m so jealous sometimes of the people who do those things. I WANT to want it, because my personality definitely leaves room for loneliness. But I also know how much I love being alone with my cat and a book. Nights when my roommates are all out for whatever reason, I love having the whole place to myself!

          • http://www.thelemonhive.com/ Hannah Taylor-Johnson

            Alone time is the absolute best though, isn’t it! I used to love that time. As much as I love my husband being home, when he leaves on his business trips it’s super stressful because then I have to take over the 50% he used to do but… the time alone: priceless!

  • http://www.businesslifeanddesign.com/ Jenn @ Business, Life & Design

    I think technically to be introverted, you just feel drained from social interaction (as opposed to energized by it, like extroverts). Some of what you’re describing is introverted, but some of it sounds like social anxiety. But I don’t know a ton about anxiety in general. I’m borderline introvert/extrovert. Sometimes I get all bubbly after talking to people, and sometimes I get tired and need a break. I used to be really reluctant to go out, and I always wanted to cancel at the last minute, and now I think that was more of a mild anxiety thing. I was lucky, and it’s mostly gone away with practice, but I know other people who have it worse.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Ohh I definitely think that part of my social difficulties are social anxiety, but I’m not really sure where the line is between “anxiety” and “introversion.” You know? But you’re right – tired is such a perfect way to explain how I feel after a lot of social interaction.

  • http://dbkstreamofconsciousness.com/ Delia

    Kiersten, I found your blog through Madison a few weeks ago, and have been that secret reader who never comments. But I just love your blog, and this post really spoke to me. My ideal Friday night consists of Netflix and perhaps some baking, and when I was in college, it was all about bingeing on Friends or One Tree Hill, and not going out with the rest of them. I love how you phrased this: “wanting to want to go out, but instead wanting to do nothing but stay in…” That is how I would always feel. I’d always feel left out when my friends would tell their stories of going out together, but at the same time, I rarely actually chose to go out with them. And when I did, I was just filled with the same fears you described. I’ve come to better terms with my personality traits now, but there were some harder times–and I still can find myself in that “fear of missing out” mindset! I’m glad it’s not just me :)

    Anyway, great post!

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Well I’m so so glad you found She is Fierce, and that you’re commenting now!

      I’m definitely exactly the same! When most people are dreaming of the weekend because it means parties and going out and such, I’m thinking about sleeping in, going to the farmers’ market, watching Netflix, and blogging! I definitely think at least some of my “problem” is social anxiety, but I have trouble figuring out the line between anxiety and just introversion.

  • Aly Bubbles

    I totally understand where you’re coming from, Kiersten. It’s hard for anyone to force themselves to “socialize” when they don’t want to. When I have to talk to people I don’t know very well (like family members whom I haven’t seen in years), I find that the conversation is more pleasant when we talk about a subject we all like. I love Marvel movies, and that usually starts up a good conversation :)

    http://alybubbles.wordpress.com

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Exactly – I really want to, but I just CAN’T sometimes. That’s a really good suggestion though – if it’s something I’m interested in, I’m like to be more interested in talking.

  • Cole Nemeth

    I know exactly how you feel! I tried for years to push myself out there, but it always felt unnatural and I always felt awkward and unsure. Your fourth paragraph really, truly speaks to me because I suck at small-talk, I’m constantly questioning whether or not my friends actually like me, and while I love staying home by myself I can’t help but feel like I should be out doing things with other people instead.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I DEFINITELY understand questioning whether my friends hate me! I do it constantly, and my close friends know it.

  • http://withaheartindanger.com Alexandra

    Giiiiirl, I am RIGHT THERE with you. I am really struggling with this; not to mention, the guy I’m with is a total extrovert. He doesn’t understand my desire to stay in, or when I’ve planned for going to some event and the day of, I’d rather just be at home. I am careful to not put myself in very social situations at the end of long days, since I know I’ll act strangely or be perceived as odd. And it’s all about how I’m perceived – I’m SO in my head about that and I HATE IT. I want to relax and not worry about what everyone’s thinking of me! To be able to walk down the street or sit at a cafe and NOT wonder, “Am I annoying anyone by sitting here?” “Is that person staring at me? What are they thinking?”
    Sigh. I’m trying to accept the way I am, but it’s rough. The way my man friend finally understood a TINY bit of how I am is with the Spoons Theory.

    • http://withaheartindanger.com Alexandra

      Oh, and I’m an ISFP.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I’m definitely the same! Monday through Friday, by the time I get home, I’m just done with people haha I’ve never heard of the Spoons Theory….I’ll definitely have to look into that

      • http://withaheartindanger.com Alexandra

        Do! It’s usually for those with chronic illness, but weirdly enough, it applies to introverts as well. It helps my friends understand me a little better.

  • Mon

    This is obviously an old blog but hey, it is still very true. I tick all boxes mentioned in both the blog and in comments. Struggling both with being tired all the time – people think I have iron deficiency or some other physical issue, when I’m just socially spent. Also, the friends issue do stink. Have a few good friends myself and when the stars align against me and they all are very busy at the same time, it gets to me and I wish I was more extroverted….But hey, I am what I am, and it’s really nice to know that there are people like me out there. Cheers

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I love seeing people comment on old posts – it means I did a good job writing them and that they’re still relevant!

      My mom is always worried I have an iron deficiency, and I probably do to a point. But it’s not just physical exhaustion, like you said a lot of it is social/emotional exhaustion.