Move over anxiety; being an introvert is the new fashionable difficulty! I am of course, being slightly tongue-in-cheek, but I when I recently started getting into You Tube, I couldn’t believe how many people are giving their videos titles such as, ‘Coping with anxiety,’ and ‘My depression story.’ I couldn’t help but be a little cynical. Could this many people really be dealing with mental health issues, or has it just become a little fashionable? Then I considered two things…..
- Maybe there actually is a much higher number of people dealing with this than I ever imagined. Or maybe it’s just higher amongst Youtubers. After all, those people not dealing with them are probably out and about enjoying their lives, rather than living it in an online world.
and 2. I couldn’t believe that people genuinely suffering with anxiety and depression would want to share it with the world on You Tube. However, then I remembered I’m an introvert – just because I don’t want to share personal things like that; it doesn’t mean to say others aren’t fine with it.
Oh and 3. It is good to share. I hope you don’t feel I’m jumping on the bandwagon by talking about being an introvert – it’s probably only the fact that other people are talking about it that makes it feel ok if I do too. (Which is probably the explanation as to why there was an explosion of mental health issues on You Tube all at once.) It helps others feel comforted by the fact that other people are sharing their struggles.
Back in my day it was just called shyness, but now we get this much more interesting word, and even brand new trendy ones like ‘introverting’ that aren’t even in the dictionary yet – isn’t that fun?! I recently read an unrelated article by someone who was introduced as ‘Writer and Introvert’. It is her label; her tagline on her blog – it is the way she defines herself like she is proud of it. I don’t like it, or want to be like this. I would dearly love to be that person who, at a drop of a hat can real off a funny story with all the confidence in the world. Unfortunately, as much as I’ve tried, I simply cannot change this inherent part of my character.
Throughout school, without fail, at the end of the year my report would say the same thing. ‘Helen is very quiet; it would be nice if she could put her hand up in class more often.’ In secondary school the wording changed slightly to ‘it would be nice if she could contribute more in class.’ One could infer from that that a quiet person who doesn’t speak up or ‘contribute’, is therefore less valuable, a less worthwhile member of the class. If I stop to think about it, then yes, maybe all this criticism about being quiet has affected me over the years. Maybe I do think of myself as being a lesser person for being quiet and shy. Whenever I find myself in a social setting, I do everything in my power to say something; anything; even if it ends up being stupid and I immediately regret it, and for months afterwards go over and over it in my mind until I decide I will never speak to anyone ever again.
Recently for example, I went to the village fair. I hadn’t mentally prepared for it though and I knew it was a mistake the minute I got there and saw lots of people I vaguely know. I only had one conversation that must’ve lasted about sixty seconds and I still managed to cock it up. In that minute I went from saying that the weather couldn’t be worse really; to changing my mind and saying that at least it wasn’t windy, so actually the weather could be worse.
I’m still cringing about it now. It wasn’t like I was even trying to say something interesting for goodness sake!
So why am I writing this? Well, secretly I’m hoping people I know in real life will read it and go, ‘Oh that’s why…’ This is my chance to explain myself really. However, I’m hoping that another addition to the introvert brigade will actually make other people think. We all have a habit of forgetting that everyone else isn’t actually the same as us. (I’m just as guilty of this by the way – I’m not trying to sound like I’m better than anyone else). We’re busy people with busy lives and it’s easy to forget that everyone we meet are going through their own thing. In a similar way to all the social media attention on mental health, it’s just worth understanding that we don’t all have the same personality type as well because some people just don’t understand. A long time ago, I was on the train coming back from the Lancashire Libraries Children’s Book award ceremony (don’t-ya-know), and was talking to a very extrovert literary agent who simply could not fathom why I’d find it difficult to stand in the front of a classroom and give a talk. She was saying how it’s such a good way to get book sales and unless it really was a serious problem, I should definitely do it. I didn’t have the guts to tell her that yes, it was a serious problem.
There are different levels of introvertness, and I go through all of them at different times. I’m writing this at the moment because I’m going through a stage of seriously considering living like a hermit and never attempting a conversation with anyone ever again. However my Mum’s mantra of ‘You just have to get on with it,’ is so ingrained in me, I know I will pull myself out of it. I’ll still go to all my little village groups that stress me all day beforehand, because at the end of the day I know I can’t live like that. I know that when I reach the end of my life I don’t want to look back regretting not doing anything. So although it scares me to talk to people; I hope I’ll always have the courage to try, even if I find it stressful beforehand, or embarrassing afterwards when the wrong thing comes out of my mouth!
By the way, I’m not putting my situation in the same category as those suffering depression or debilitating anxiety, believe me, I know about those things too…and there are probably introverts reading this and going What? you actually go to village groups by choice and you call yourself an introvert? I remember being squashed in the back of a taxi coming home from a Christmas party, and the other three girls in the car talking loudly about how shy they are, whilst I sat in silence wondering whether it would sound stupid if I told them I was shy too. Do one thing that scares you every day. It’s a ridiculous stupid saying, and one that most people would really struggle accomplish. But I am a trier, and yes, I do deliberately put myself in situations that scare me. I’m not sure why, but it probably goes down to the fact that wasting my life hiding scares me more.
There is one thing I’m not sure I’ll ever get over though, and that is making phone calls. I missed out on a very interesting writing job once because I was too scared to phone them when they asked me to. A friend asked me to call her last Monday because she had some fabric to give me. Well you know how much I love fabric, but it’s ten days later and I still haven’t managed to make that call! Receiving them is fine – it’s instant and I can’t do anything about it. I’m put on the spot and don’t have the time to think it through (or over-think it through, I should say.)
It is the mental preparation for things that annoys me too. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t do things spontaneously until recently. I realised I just need quite a lot of time to get my head around to the fact that I might need to talk to people. I can build up to it and sometimes even be quite good at it and come off as quite confident, but if I don’t; I find myself mumbling contradictions about the weather!
One day I hope to make the transition from introvert to eccentric. That way, it doesn’t matter if I talk nonsense because I just won’t care. after saying the weather is one thing and then the other will hopefully just leave them bemused rather than confused!
I hope you don’t mind this more personal post than usual. I can’t remember now what triggered me to write it, but it’s done now, and what’s the point of having a blog if I don’t share things?!
Linking with Not Dressed as Lamb for the #SaturdayShareLinkup