Up until college, I was never the person to seek the company of other people. I much rather preferred avoiding social situations, reading a book and binge watching Doctor Who on Netflix. In fact, I recall only having about three friends consistently throughout high school.
But this isn’t a sappy story. I chose to write poetry (however horrible and over-dramatic I was with it), read stacks of novels (yes, I was the kid reading 24/7, including while walking through the halls at school), hone in on my drawing skills (no matter how valiant my efforts, the faces I draw still look like anime that has been left in the sun too long) and submerge myself in the smooth ride of jazz music. I chose all of that willingly and enthusiastically.
And no matter how much I tried to explain to people (especially my mother) that I actually enjoyed the reclusive nature of my habits, no one seemed to realize that wanting to be alone in the confines of one’s mind is a legitimate feeling to have. I tried to be around people by doing theatre, joining the rifle team and going to poetry readings. For the most part, I enjoyed those endeavors, but I always found myself huddled in some corner with my headphones in and a pen in my hand scribbling some nonsensical poem.
Then, after the ignorant bliss of high school, I came to Gannon and spent the first few weeks doing what I do best: being alone. That sounds melodramatic and a wee bit sad, but in reality, those first few weeks were phenomenal. I finished three seasons of The Walking Dead, started writing a book, aced all of my science classes and wrote a couple of songs. For what was only about a two and a half week span, I find that impressive. Now I’m gloating, but if I tried to do all of that in two weeks in my current life, I would be the new Johnny Depp and have gone a little mad in my new role.
After those first few weeks, my whole life flipped around. I began forcing myself into social situations, because it seemed to me that that was how you were supposed to experience college. I spent more and more time with large groups of people. I thoroughly enjoyed it, mostly because it was all new to me and exchanging ideas, opinions and laughs with others was an endeavor I wanted to be a part of. The only trouble was that I continued to do everything I did before, including drawing, writing, reading and pursuing various artistic endeavors.
Soon, I found myself at what I infamously call “Meltdown Monday”. I had over-stretched myself, trying to become an extrovert while still holding on to my introverted hobbies. Meltdown Monday left me in a haze of stress and confusion. I ended up switching majors a week later, which helped a bit, but my grades weren’t an issue at all and I was still left with my entire being scattered across campus in what I thought were socially obligatory situations. So I have come to ask myself, why was I so intent on changing who I was? Why did I become so focused on becoming an extrovert?
In today’s culture, there is an emphasis on extroversion running rampant. Yes, being extroverted has its advantages, such as an increased ease in meeting new people, networking, working with clients, creating new friendships, etc. So, what does an introvert living in an extrovert’s world do? Ignore the push to extroversion. Resist with all your might, then go get a coffee at Starbucks with people you met that day.
It seems counterproductive to spend time with new people if your intent is to hold steady with being an introvert, but Carl Jung, psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychiatry, stated, “There’s no such thing as a pure introvert or a pure extrovert. Such a man would be in a lunatic asylum if he existed at all.”
Embrace the fact that more than one third of the population of the United States identifies as an introvert. The only trouble is that society tells us that being an extrovert is the way to go. Even in elementary schools across the nation, children are conditioned with countless group projects and activities. Naturally, this affects us all immensely.
Susan Cain, author of the New York Times Best-Selling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, said, “It turns out that we can’t even be in a group of people without instinctively mirroring or mimicking their opinions, even about seemingly visceral things, like who you’re attracted to.”
Many people wonder if it is even possible to change your personality type. It may be possible, even as “most research points to personality traits being largely due to heredity and not easily changed. There is, however an environmental component and while introverts may always default towards their own style, they can work to become more “social.” Importantly, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be introverted,” stated Danielle Clark, adjunct instructor for the psychology program at Gannon.
From my first-hand experience of freshman year, I can attest that if you are an introvert, you will always have introverted tendencies, no matter if you are able to transition to more extroverted habits or personality types. Yes, college is a time for meeting new people and being around others who share the same ideas as you, but it is also a time of self-discovery.
If you are an introvert, embrace the fact that you would rather read Harry Potter on a Friday night than go out with friends. But also take the time to talk with those people and others you would never have talked to before college. Be adventurous. Be intuitive. Be the mix of introvert/extrovert you want to be.