i'm not crazy. i'm an introvert.
Being around people can be exhausting.
I feel much more comfortable interacting with people intimately, one on one. I’m friendly but quiet, often preoccupied with my thoughts. I’ve probably been perceived as standoffish from time to time. It’s not that I don’t like people, but I have to observe my environment to see what part I want to play in it. I may choose to open up or I may choose to stay on the outskirts looking in.
At the risk of putting myself in a box, I’m going to say that I’m an introvert. That doesn't mean I'm not social or friendly. It does mean that I savor my time alone.
Psychiatrist Carl Jung introduced the concept of the introvert in his book Psychological Types. Jung’s definition of an introvert is “wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life,” while the extrovert is “predominantly concerned with obtaining gratification from what is outside the self.”
If ever a girl craved a self-definition, this was it for me. So many times I’ve doubted my sanity or thought something was wrong with me for being so socially awkward. I could be surrounded by people trying to outtalk each other and I’d be the quiet one wishing everyone would stop being so vocal and be more perceptive.
I struggle with giving access to people when it’s not on my terms. I’d rather schedule a call than have someone call me unexpectedly. Confrontations put me at a disadvantage because I’m not able to take my time and process what’s happening. I prefer writing to talking because it gives me the space and time to find the right words. When I talk too much I always end up feeling like I’m depleting my life force. That will either sound overdramatic to you, or it will sound like the words of a woman after your own heart.
I used to think that I was shy, but now I know that’s not the case. I’m just reflective. I instinctively take measures to preserve myself in social environments.
According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, “Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not over-stimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.”
I’ve been told that I appear confident and outgoing, and many people are shocked that I’ve ever been known as a shy person. But I’ve learned how to manage it so I can get out there and do what I need to do. When I have time to prepare for it, I’m quite social. But I need limits and buffers and escapes.
After a period of heavy socializing, I feel worn down, spent, drained of energy. Then I have to go be quiet for a long time.
When I don’t take this time to recharge, I get cranky, impatient, and eventually sad and even depressed. I existed that way for years: constantly surrounded by people, constantly on the go, totally neglecting my need for solitude. The whole time, wondering why I was so miserable.
And then one day I realized that much of my anxiety came from not knowing how to take care of myself, not only as an introvert, but as a soulful person who needs to find meaning in what I do to feel content.
Instead of fighting against my nature, I started thinking about how to nurture it. I stopped calling myself crazy. I stopped apologizing for needing time to be alone with my thoughts. With an enlightened view of myself, I learned how to set boundaries without feeling uncertain or selfish.
I’ve come to accept that I will always be torn between my inner and outer worlds. I will always be slightly off the grid. Seeing things differently, experiencing things differently, stars in my eyes and fire in my bones.
I call myself a wallflower because I like to stay low-key, but I have a voice — I’ve worked hard to find it — and I want to be heard and make a difference. When I finally stopped resisting this truth, and gave myself the time alone that I craved, I began to evolve.
If you often feel overwhelmed by life, then I have some truth for you: You are not crazy or selfish or weird to value your solitude. It is important to protect your private time and preserve yourself. There’s nothing wrong with being sensitive, feeling things deeply and craving creative ways to express those feelings.
If you feel like your personality holds you back because you’re shy, or no one cares what you have to say because you’re quiet, my intention with this book is to encourage you to find your authentic voice and express yourself in your own way.
I see you.
You are quiet, but you want to be heard.
You are afraid, but you are not weak.
You have silenced, hidden and altered parts of yourself, but you are ready to be free.
With personal stories and insights to guide you, Wallflower will help you peel back your layers to reveal your most fundamental fears and desires. With this awareness, you will be better positioned to channel your energy in meaningful ways and reveal the soulful, expressive woman that lives within you.
This excerpt appears in the new edition of my book, Wallflower: Healing Stories and Creative Inspiration for Quiet Women Who Want to Be Heard which will be published on August 9, 2018. Preorders are now open for signed copies.