Secret struggles of an introvert and how to solve them

Secret struggles of an introvert

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Let’s face it: it’s not easy to be an introvert in a world that cherishes the extrovert ideal. 

A third to a half of all people in the world* are introverts, and we have plenty of great qualities. But instead of encouraging them, we still get told way to often that there is something wrong with us.

We’re too quiet in social settings. We don’t speak enough in class or at work. We won’t succeed if we don’t learn to speak up more. 

Really, we’ve probably heard it all so many times that we started believing it. I know I did.

Yet in reality, introverts can be just as happy as extroverts! We just need to find a way to navigate a predominantly extroverted society.

I’ve shared my story about accepting introversion when I first started this blog. Since then, I have been doing a lot of research on introversion to understand how we can adapt to the world we live in without changing our personality.

If you’re interested, you can read my posts about small talk tips for introverts, negotiation for introverts, how to deal with extroverted friends, how to make new friends as an introverted adult, and how to stop living inside your head.

And then recently, I finally got my hands on Susan Cain’s book « Quiet ». I knew about it for a long time, I’d watched her TED talks and interviews about the book – but I hadn’t actually read it. And when I did, I suddenly realised that so many things she talks about could have been taken straight out of my head.

As it turns out, introverts have even more in common than I originally thought! And there I was, thinking that some of my struggles just came from me being weird.

Taking the inspiration of « Quiet », I want to explore 3 struggles that I (and maybe you, too?) encounter as an introvert and that aren’t talked about enough. And more importantly, I want to discuss a couple of ideas on how to make them work in our favor!

1. You don’t make connections as easily as other people

Have you ever noticed that extroverted people can go to the same event or party as you, but know ten times as many people by the time they leave? And that, even though you spent the whole time following them around?

This happens to me all the time, and not only at events. My extroverted friends and co-workers always have more connections than I do, no matter the setting. And it’s true for the opposite side, too: people always remember them, but don’t seem to recall me quite as easily.

Oh, but when they do remember me, they never forget to ask why I’m so quiet! Even when I feel like I’ve been talking for hours on end. So reassuring.

Well, I know now why I’m not that good at making connections.

First of all, I’m not interested in small talk. I have learnt a couple of tricks to get through it, but I don’t enjoy it. And thus, I don’t particularly look for opportunities to make it.

Second, my voice isn’t as loud as that of my extroverted friends. No matter how much I feel like I’m screaming: I’m really not. At least not in social settings. I always thought that this was just me, but as it turns out, introverts generally speak more softly according to Susan Cain.

And lastly, I get tired really quickly when I’m around large groups of people. And when I get tired, I stop talking to them. No wonder they don’t remember me afterwards!

The solution for introverts

Were you ever in the following situation? You’re at an event and found one person you can talk to really easily. Yet while you’re enjoying a conversation with that person, you keep feeling guilty because you’re both hiding out in a corner instead of participating. 

You constantly look over to groups of people engaged in socialising and feel like this is what you should be doing. And so at one point, you decide that you need to get over there. Then, after that and for the rest of the event, you feel awkward and struggle to take part in the conversations.

This used to happen to me all the time! And it took me years to understand that I was actually sabotaging my own socialising experience by trying to do what I thought was right.

Introverts just don’t do as well as extroverts in large groups of people. At least introverts like me who can’t act like extroverts, even when they try.

So, instead of trying to join a large group, we should focus on what we do best: one-on-one conversations. The thing that came so naturally to me ever since I was younger. But instead of feeling guilty about it, I should have embraced the chance to make a new friend. Or at least have a nice time at the event.

Whenever we’re participating in a social setting that we can’t thrive in, we should focus on making it work for us. Look around the room for other introverts who might be feeling exactly the same. Don’t run away from effortless conversations if they happen. Look for one person to network with, instead of collecting names of people who might not be impressed by your small talk skills.

And if you happen to find an extroverted person (or even group) that’s a great fit for you? Go for it! But don’t try to force it by all means.

2. You think too much before saying something

When I was little, teachers would always tell me that I didn’t participate enough in class. And even though I really tried, I just didn’t have enough to say.

After all, I can’t just give an answer that’s plainly written in the textbook, right? And I can’t just ask a question that might sound stupid!

The only time when I did participate was when I had a real contribution to make. I just couldn’t say something purely for the sake of speaking more.

This mindset has followed me throughout my life. It got me plenty of comments about being too quiet. But it also saved me from hurting people by saying something inconsiderate.

I hated this personality trait when I was little, but I’ve come to like it over the years. In the end, there’s a silver lining to everything.

Now I know that introverts aren’t born with the best self-presentation skills

Some learn them later in life. Others, like me, get better, but never perfect.

I’ve never figured out how to say something trivial while making it sound smart. I don’t even always sound smart when I actually do say something smart.

No matter how hard I try, I’m not good at speaking just for the sake of participation. It makes me feel uncomfortable, and I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t paint the best picture of me, either.

Instead, I’ve learnt that introverts are often better served when they focus on quality over quantity. 

Don’t worry about how often you say something, but rather about what you say. Your goal is to provide valuable information, and that’s all you need to think about.

People will come to value and respect someone if they add value to discussions, even if they don’t talk as much.

But how do you achieve that?

The solution for introverts

One thing that’s probably true for most introverts is that we’re not as spontaneous as we’d like to be. But that’s okay!

Instead of desperately trying to come up with something great to say on the spot, focus on being prepared. Go over the topics of meetings in advance. Make sure that you know the topic very well. And even better: write down what you would like to talk about. 

I’ve found that preparing for meetings in this manner not only helps me participate more but it sometimes even leads to me leading the meeting. Especially when no one else took the time to do any research.

The same goes for classes. Do the readings (maybe even more than required), and write down your thoughts and potential questions. 

There is no guarantee that things will go exactly as planned. But more often than not, you’ll find it much easier to participate in discussions if you have had the chance to gather information and form your opinion in advance.

3. You love spending time in your head, but also feel guilty about it

I honestly always thought that no one else spent as much time in their head as me. And yet, my post « How to stop living in your head » is the most visited one on my blog. This still seems strange to me!

Even as a kid, I would constantly imagine stories. I wrote three « books » before the age of 13 – all equally cringe-y, but I did enjoy the process! 

My mind seemed like the most interesting space to me. I could be anything, not just the awkward kid that I was in real life. And even though I always had friends, my mom would often have to force me to see them after school.

As an adult, I still enjoy stories. I love reading, or good movies or TV shows. And I much prefer spending my afternoon learning about psychology instead of going to some social gathering where I don’t know anyone.

However, spending time in your head doesn’t align with our society’s ideal.

While I’m writing these things down, they seem so positive. Isn’t it great that I love learning and books? Shouldn’t I be proud that I’m disciplined enough to stick to « productive » activities like that instead of going out all the time?

Yet in reality, I don’t really feel that way. When someone asks me how I cope with working from home, I tell them that I have tons of activities at night. I prefer not to specify that these activities include photography and language classes and going out with one or two people once a week.

I’m not going to share my reality because I don’t want to be judged. I don’t want people to think that I’m anti-social. Which I’m not, I promise! I love going out and seeing friends, and I would do it more if I had more friends where I live now.

But isn’t it strange how we feel like we have to conform to these social norms, even if we crave a lifestyle that we know works well for us?

The solution for introverts

Just like with everything in life, it’s all about the balance. 

It’s okay to stay home and do what you love. It’s actually more than okay: you need to do what you love in order to be happy.

And we definitely should work on accepting ourselves for being introverts. Instead of apologising or exaggerating our social activity when we talk to other people, we could simply share our passions. Who knows – maybe the person you’re talking to is an introvert , too, and will open up to you as well!

Being open and vulnerable is the best way to create bonds and friendships with the right people. And the others might still judge, but that’s okay, too.

However, we also need to remember that socialising is important. No introvert is self-sufficient!

So even if you’re like me last year and moved to a new town recently, find ways to meet new people. Join clubs for an activity you love, or groups of like-minded people that you’re most likely to get along with.

Find the right balance for you, and don’t apologise for it!

Secret struggles of an introvert and how to solve them

If you read up to here, this means that you just finished the probably longest post I’ve ever written. Thank you so much! I really hope that you found it helpful, interesting, or at least entertaining. Please let me know what you thought in the comments!

And if you like, you can share it with your friends or other introverts. 🙂

*Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Penguin Books, 2013.

26 Replies to “Secret struggles of an introvert and how to solve them”

  1. The most relatable post I’ve read in such a long time! So many things started making sense now.
    Especially what you said about making connections and small talk, I’ve always hated small talk.

    I’ve read so many posts about solo travel that say how everyone meets new people at hostels and that couldn’t be further from the truth for me. I literally avoid talking to people at hostels because I already know how the conversation is going to go… A bunch of basic questions always in the same order, hah.

    I definitely want to read the book you mentioned, seems like a good read. 🙂

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I feel you, I would be the exact same! Have you found other ways to meet new people though? I’m pretty sure that if I were to travel alone, that part would be really hard for me!

      1. I relate to what Ivana said and it’s funny that I just tweeted about it today that i’m terrible at small talk and also get somewhat overwhelmed in large groups of people so this post is right on point. I’ll have to come back and read your other posts because I saw a few recommendations that I know I relate to.

        1. Thank you! 🙂 I’m glad that you can relate!

  2. ashooha samsudeen says: Reply

    ahhhhh!!! I exclaimed EXACTLY in my head soo many times while reading this because they were my feelings put into words. I hate small talk! Just the other day I was wondering if i was the only one who did. I’m curious about the book you mentioned now. Hoping to try it out soon!

    1. I’m sure that you’ll love it, I had exactly the same feeling while I was reading it! You’re definitely not the only one who doesn’t like small talk!

  3. Fellow introvert here and this is so incredibly accurate! I love how you gave a solution for each point, that’s very helpful. I’ll have to check out more by Susan Cain.

    1. I’m glad that you found it helpful! 🙂

  4. This post is so relatable. As a fellow introvert – I definitely feel the struggle. Thank you for sharing!

    1. I’m glad you liked it! 🙂

  5. Thanks for you article – great points. In relation to making connections and you not doing “small talk” so well. I’m certain that you are wonderful at making connections, brilliant even – you’re just a little more choosy with who you connect with. You may not have as many, but those that you do go deep and they last and they are precious.

    1. That’s something I was wondering about lately – why some people are so good at making tons of friends while I don’t even know that many people that I would actually want to be friends with. It’s quite rare that I meet someone whom I get along with really easily but those are the people I want to keep around!

  6. I can totally relate. But for me, I’m some social situations, I am ok. Some I avoid with everything I’ve got! For instance, a get together at my house, I am good. Girls night out, unless it’s only about two other’s, nope, nope and nope! I have read about ambiverts, and that is closer to me. I definitely get all of the introvert signs, though.

    1. I’m the same actually! I think that no one is a “perfect introvert” in the sense that they’ll be introverted in every situation. For example, I behave like a total extrovert when I’m with family and close friends that I feel comfortable with. Or just with a group of people that I get along with really well. But as soon as I’m not 100% comfortable in a situation, it gets so draining.

  7. This is a beautiful post and I personally LOATHE crowds (even regularly scheduled activities), but I tend to gravitate towards one person and do deep talk (can’t stand the small stuff either) and make deep connections and that coupled with the fact that we have moved a lot means I have lots of people I cherish through the years. I am also thankful for your #2 and think there needs to be a lot more of THAT in the world instead of what is presently going on….everyone speaking their random thoughts that pop in their head with no thought of others or long term consequences and no filter. Thanks for sharing from one introvert to another! Have a blessed day!

    1. Thank you so much! I do agree that it would be great if people thought more about the possible impact their word can have on other people. It happens so often that people say something to me and I’ll be wondering why they did that, long after they have already forgotten the whole conversation.

  8. Oh my gosh, I feel like you’ve just summed me up! You’ve done in a more eloquent way than what I could have done!

    1. Thank you! I’m happy that you can relate! 🙂

  9. What great tips for introverts!

    1. Thank you!

  10. Great post and tips! I find myself somewhere in the middle (depending on the crowd or situation.). I too, dislike small talk but understand conventional norms so I try to make the best of it. In my head, if we have to talk…let’s really talk — whether about ourselves or worldly things. I want to know what makes people tick and what makes them happy (or sad). Small talk doesn’t allow for that and not everyone wants to spill to a stranger! So sometimes I find myself being more quiet than I want to be, longing to be out of this event and back with those with whom I can have engaging discussions. Can you be an introverted extrovert?

    1. I am the exact same! I LOVE meaningful conversations and learning more about people’s thoughts, lives and so on. With small talk, I always feel like it has no real point except it being a social norm – like you said.
      As for introverted extroverts, I don’t think that anyone is a “perfect” introvert anyway. I, for example, can behave (and feel) like an extrovert when I’m with close friends and family, but not when I’m with strangers or people who I’m not 100% comfortable with. My boyfriend, a fellow introvert, can enjoy multiple days of social interaction in a row, even if he’s with new people, but at the same time he needs less social interaction on a daily basis than I do. We’re all situated somewhere on the introvert-extrovert spectrum I guess.

  11. As an introvert, this is all so true. Being around people for extended periods of time is exhausting and I always feel awkward and out of place. I’m 40 and it never seems to get easier, only harder if anything. “Quiet” is a great book for introverts to read and extroverts can benefit too from understanding how the introverted mind works. Thanks for these solutions!

    1. I’m glad that you liked the book! I feel like every introvert who ever felt bad about not being extroverted enough should give it a go… for me, it was sort of a validation that I’m not weird and that it’s not a bad thing to be introverted.

  12. Very interesting! I am always being told at work that I talk too quiet and, like you, I thought it was just me. I work with a very extroverted person and we definitely disagree on things like social encounters. We’ve learned to accept that we’re different and leave it at that. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. I hope that finding out that it’s not just you helped you as much as it helped me! There’s something very reassuring about the knowledge that a lot of other people experience the same struggles… at least for me. And it’s great that your co-worker accepts that you two are different!

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