Though I have always known how hard it is to form any connections, I got to ‘practically’ experience exactly how much with Bloganuary 22 challenge.
I also learned how to go about it even though it’s hard- and by ‘it’, I mean not simply forming connections but actually initiating them, too.
‘Introvert’ doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘the silent type’
An instant dictionary search on Google shows introvert to mean ‘a shy, reticent person’. Since that hardly qualifies for any definition, introvert- in terms of psychology- is defined as ‘a person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.’ Well, that’s a bit more clarifying… and relatable.
I can testify to the fact that introverts aren’t always ‘the silent people’- they are reticent, but not necessarily quiet. I have seen people who might outwardly seem sociable and talkative, occasionally to the point of being garrulous, but closer observation would reveal they did not really ‘connect’ to their surroundings. Make the conversation a little personal, and you could clearly see that they were ‘interactively’ impaired and were actually most comfortable in their own shell. The facade of sociability thus came out as forced.
I, myself, have been very talkative and sociable for most of my life (I’m not anymore) and was always surrounded by a big circle of friends all through my school and college years. I later found that the introvert in you, even if not initially at the forefront, can’t always remain buried underneath the layers of your conscious which has been busy maintaining a facade of extraversion. I’d say I gradually became a ‘full-time’ introvert as I grew older, and finally became free of the self-imposed need to be gregarious amongst people, which had actually always caused immense strain to my nerves.
I gradually gathered enough courage to acknowledge that I can not feel ‘gratification from external things’ (Wikipedia) as extroverts do; that (excepting a couple of people that I am closest to) I find my own company to be the best and, if given the choice, I’d prefer not to make any effort to reach out to people outside my own bubble. I am by no means a Heathcliff (that’s being anti-social… to alarming degrees) and certainly not ‘quiet’ (no one would be able to tell by a short interaction that I am an introvert) but I don’t reach out anymore either.
But that means negligible to no connection at all
And one thing you realise along with that is:
It takes an astoundingly short amount of time to lose connections if you don’t have strong enough desire to maintain them. And reestablishing them, or forming new ones, when you wish to at some point later in your life, is just as astoundingly hard and frustratingly time-taking.Tweet
Furthermore, you’ll find that you are painfully out of practice, too:) It might not be understandable for those to whom socialising comes naturally. But when you are an established introvert, even the basic greeting becomes tough work.
Since social media has always been somewhat of an anathema to me (which might come out as surprising, since I am a millennial), I’ve only ever had connections that I formed through interaction in the non-digital world. Which, to be honest, eventually became (excepting immediate and extended family) ZERO. And yes, there do exist people like that, even in today’s world.
When the introvert realises the need for connections…
Well, forming connections is the first step towards the possibility of gaining any meaningful relationships. And established introvert or not, you do need to form relationships on a basic human level (that are other than your immediate loved ones).
At some point travelling down your smooth, unchallenging ‘comfort-road’, you realise that you need to have at least a few connections that challenge your introversion, where you have to make efforts to get to know and interact with a person outside the boundaries of your comfort zone. There is an element of fear in all this that stems from the risk of getting surprised- of the unexpected being flung your way- and that is an introvert’s nightmare. You have to be prepared to be rejected (or be met with lukewarm reaction) when you open yourself up to the possibility of connecting with people you know very little or nothing about (you never bothered to get to know anyone outside the very small populace of your bubble before this).
Then there is the fear of navigating the give-and-take dynamic which you know you’ll have to deal with if a connection does get established and you decide to take it even further (one doesn’t necessarily need to think that far, and the situation isn’t always that dramatic really😀, but it’s the introvert’s personal Neverland of Horrors we’re describing here).
These, and many other uncertainties and misgivings turn an introvert into a nervous wreck every time they decide to be ‘daring’ (speaking very subjectively, of course) and take the first step towards forming a new connection. And that first step could be as simple as accepting a friend request or worse (eye roll) sending it! Or, if we speak of the non-digital world, talking to your neighbour you previously avoided interacting with.
I came across a Michaela Chung quote that goes like this:
This book is going on my to-read list right this instant.
The introvert’s timid first steps
This is the inherent dichotomy of human nature: we are often bolder and surer of ourselves than we should be in our comfort zones; throw us out and we are more likely than not to feel more scared and doubtful of ourselves than the situation warrants. This essentially keeps us hovering near the edge of the unfamiliar, wanting to go in and explore but anxiety and discomfort holding us back.
- Hence most of us, more often than not, do need a push to steer us in a certain direction. An introvert, at the very least, certainly needs some kind of push (not a sudden shove, a gentle push) into the socialising territory.
- It doesn’t pay to flail about randomly without knowing where to start when you go about forming connections. It is also not beneficial to be hasty and expect the results to materialise after making the first few efforts.
- It works best if you begin by reaching out- or responding- to people you share some common interests with.
- You need to keep pushing yourself to move forward after the first tentative connections are established, and resist the urge to run back and hide in your cave of comfortable solitude.
I learned this as I was fumbling about in my efforts to start somewhere, and stumbled upon the WordPress newsletter mentioning the Bloganuary challenge. It had been a while since I had decided to pick up my blog again and to make some serious efforts to write regularly no matter how awkward I might initially feel, but I most likely would’ve let this ‘resolve’ silently go to the section of my mind marked ‘trash’, if I hadn’t suddenly been intrigued by the thought of writing daily on a readymade prompt without having to rack my brains for topic ideas. I started to hope it would jolt me into establishing a ‘write’ habit as it promised.
That it certainly did. But another thing it pushed me to do was to try to form connection with people who shared a common interest, i.e, writing. True, those connections have only been ‘digital’, and initially I was overwhelmed with awkwardness and the slight feeling of self-deprecation about making such a big deal out of something that’s supposed to be simple and effortless. But this feeling was progressively replaced by the sense of achievement as I took one baby step after another.
I did find that persisting in something makes you used to it and that, in turn, desensitises you to fear of the unfamiliar. A thing as simple as reading what other people have to say, and being courageous enough to put your own thoughts out there helps you go miles- from being wrapped in your cocoon to taking the plunge into a plethora of connection and diversity of opinion.
I am still nowhere near to overcoming the psychological barrier and ‘socialising like normal’ (well, it goes against the very definition of an introvert), but I think I have come much closer to finding the balance between embracing my introversion and acknowledging the need to find a niche in my life for human connection outside my comfort zone. I am recalling some lines from that beautiful poem by Robert Frost, ‘The Road Not Taken:
Well, for me the road less traveled by is the road I have less traveled by, if at all, but deciding to take it has certainly effected a huge shift towards positivity for me.
On the (somewhat) plus side, I think people socialising normally could never feel the gratification that comes with the sense of achievement and fulfilment felt by an introvert in forming every single connection. In there I believe, lies the meaning of it all for an introvert- they are able to cherish and give due value to each connection they form in a way that’s different from the people to whom forming social links is second nature. It’s because human connection costs an introvert the amount of effort and diligence that is greater than what it costs someone who isn’t.
[For some reason I am feeling the need for a sort-of-disclaimer here😀 : All has been said from a purely subjective point of view. I am no expert on psychology or introversion.]