I’m going to address the elephant that’s been in the room for most of my life: I’m bad at socialising. And it’s getting worse with age.
Don’t get me wrong, I have friends and can make pleasant small talk with strangers. Having said that, as an introvert, I hate small talk and will avoid it whenever possible. With friends, I am lively and opinionated and (occasionally) the life of the party. Although at work, I eer on the side of caution, I keep my head down and just get on with my work.
Ever since I was little, I’ve been branded as ‘quiet’ or ‘shy’, which to some extent, is true. However, if you asked any of my friends, they would scoff and say, “Ella is not shy.” I guess the term I identify with the most is, “quiet at first, but warms up quickly.” I’ve never enjoyed the term ‘shy’, and I’ve always shied away from it, if you’ll pardon the pun. ‘Shy’ indicates fear; fear of people, new situations, what others may think. Being socially anxious brings about many negative connotations. But the more I think about, the more I realise, but I am an anxious person!
My life is ruled by fear and anxiety, and the worse my episodes get, the harder time I have socialising like a normal person. My brain is ruled with thoughts like: What impression am I giving? Am I saying the right things? Is my body language approachable? Is my accent too ‘posh’? Do I seem stuck up?
At a party a couple of years ago, I was told by someone I had met that night that they ‘wouldn’t know [I] was an introvert’ because I came across so fun and lively and opinionated. They sensed no fear or apprehension in my deamour. But considering my environment, I had no reason to be anxious: I was at a small house party, surrounded by mainly people I knew very well, and I had had a little bit to drink (which we all know is a social lubricant). Why would I have any reason to feel shy?
I also hate the negative stereotype that is bestowed upon Introverts. That we’re somehow rude, or off putting, compared to the vibrant and energetic Extroverts.
I went on a website called 16 Personalities, in which I took a little test to figure out my Myers-Briggs personality type. Turns out I’m an INFP, also known as ‘the Mediator‘. I’ve done Myers-Briggs tests before, so this didn’t really come as a surprise, and I highly encourage anyone else to do so.
But what’s the point in all this, Ella?
Though the test reinforced some things I already knew, (ie. Mediators are private, reserved and self-conscious. This makes them notoriously difficult to really get to know, and their need for these qualities contributes to the guilt they often feel for not giving more of themselves to those they care about), I also learned a little bit more about myself.
I found out that INFPs find it more difficult to to find a satisying career, have a core interest in people, a flair for language and written expression, and prefer to immerse themselves in a project alone – all things I thought were a product of my environment, rather than my personality. I also learnt about the celebrities that share my personality type, including Lisa Kudrow, Tom Hiddleston and Björk.
What I’m trying to get at, in a very round about way, is that I learned that I should be unapologetic about who I am. Introversion and the way you act around people has a lot to do with energy. My energy just happens to come from being alone, and I tend to only give my attention to a few people at a time so that I don’t get spread out so thin. If that makes me ‘bad’ at socialising, well then, that’s okay.
I’m gonna leave you guys with a few of my favourite finding from my personality test:
If they are not careful, Mediators can lose themselves in their quest for good and neglect the day-to-day upkeep that life demands. Mediators often drift into deep thought, enjoying contemplating the hypothetical and the philosophical more than any other personality type. Left unchecked, Mediators may start to lose touch, withdrawing into “hermit mode”, and it can take a great deal of energy from their friends or partner to bring them back to the real world.
Luckily, like the flowers in spring, Mediator’s affection, creativity, altruism and idealism will always come back, rewarding them and those they love perhaps not with logic and utility, but with a world view that inspires compassion, kindness and beauty wherever they go.
Mediators will always need to disappear for a while, removing themselves from others so they can re-center on their own minds and feelings. Often enough people with the Mediator personality type will emerge from this time alone having come to some momentous decision that even their closest friends didn’t know was weighing on them, evading even the option of receiving the sort of support and advice they so readily give. Such is Mediators’ way, for better or for worse.
Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert? Have you ever taken a personality test? Tell me all about it!