By Elaine Zhou & Saf Shams

Illustration credit: Kathy Lee

He stood before an unanswering world, lost in the labyrinth of his own mind while the city moved around him. Every once a while, the bus would stop, an old lady would hobble on while a university student rushed out, and then the movement would continue. Head poised against the large window frame, the lone figure watched. To the onboarding old lady, he must have seemed a lonesome sight. To the man lost in thought, he was more at peace with himself than the city itself. Though, that was his peace to express and only his to experience. 

The granny’s perception of this lone man must resemble that of many who spot an introvert. Many believe that introverts are much less sociable, prefer to keep to themselves, and most definitely will not be the life of a party. That must be a role reserved for extroverts, right?

You thought. 

Many people think that the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is their degree of outgoing-ness and willingness to socialize. However, the difference between the two classifications is actually in the differing ways they use to recharge their energy. Introverts need to slip away from the crowd and spend some time alone to feel energized again, whereas extroverts recharge by being around those very crowds.

And let me tell you! This is very credible information. You are hearing from two introverts themselves!

The popular myth that introverts like to keep to themselves on an exclusive basis is, mayhaps, a tad bit misleading. I shall have you know that while I do enjoy all stereotypical introvert-y things like going on long walks, painting, reading a book in a library full of the ghosts of those who forgot to return their books on time, I quite enjoy the traditional extrovert experiences as well. Whether it’s chatting with a friend about the latest soccer scores, a lighthearted war of roasts (which, contrary to other sources of information, I always win), or getting drunk and telling the most embarrassing stories never known or never told beyond the confines of a bar, I’ve more or less done them all, and it has not, in any way, broken the matter that I remain an introvert.

Mhm mhm! And I shall have you know that this little one has PARTIED YAYYYYYYY (safely of course, nothing naughty, no no). I give all my friends the loveliest nicknames, from Mango Puff (because she will not disappoint you in her mango everything menu orders) to Panda Chan (simply because he reminds me of a panda) to Hehe (because He is his last name) to NeyyNeyy (derived from Selina → Selineyy) and definitely don’t mind going out there to meet all sorts of new people!

Ok, let’s be more serious now. What I was trying to say in all my excitement of writing to you, dear audience, is that I do not mind socializing a single bit. However, I am more reserved when I first meet someone, so I tend not to speak as much during those first meetings. I need to really feel a connection, a click, before I gradually and slowly start opening up, unraveling like an onion (of course, without the making people cry feature). I also like to listen more to others talk about themselves because I find that to be the more interesting topic, which adds to my quietness at first. And on some special occasions where everyone and everything else is loud and rowdy, I would choose to throw away my restraints and just dance and sing like there is no tomorrow. That said, I am so happy my friends accept this weird, hyper side of me too because I see those eyes of theirs sometimes questioning how I went from the calm, quieter person they usually know of to this excited, bubbly person in less than an instant. These moments are when my energy is highest, and these moments happen regardless of who I am with, whether that be my closest friends or a big group of random strangers.

While meeting new people is so cool because people are just so fascinating, yes yes, my energy, feels like it drains the longer I spend in a big crowd of new people. I then feel really tired. It’s interesting that the opposite is true when I am hanging out with my close friends, but we can put that aside. With this energy draining, I feel an intense need to withdraw back to my own coziness, and hopefully there is a plush waiting for me there to jump on. After some time recharging my introvert battery, I be reborn! Ready to conquer the world! But you may have had enough of my high energy and may be currently draining yourself dosing on it, so I will pass it back to my calmer writing partner 🙂

I reckon that energy recharging method is where the common misconceptions about introverts arise from. Surely, taking a bit of time to let it go after considerable amounts of hakuna matata-ing cannot be a crime, can it? But whatever we choose to do, however much we seem to express ourselves, the stereotype of a low-energy, non-social introvert is forever branded upon us simply because we have different and self-sufficient ways to recharge our batteries.

My introversion does not make me a subject for diagnosis nor a patient to cure. I enjoy spending time with people, both familiar and new, and I shall always appreciate an invite to the next event. What I simply ask is that my recharge space is respected, and as importantly, understood. Empathy is all we ask. At the end of the day, being an introvert is not a problem, nor is it a solution. All it is, all it has ever been, is simply a unique and slightly different state of being than that of an extrovert.

And to all our dearest extroverts, we are in no way denouncing your way of recharging either! We think you guys are awesome, just like us! Two very different-looking peas in a pod 🙂

Overall, we are proud to be introverts. And we want you all to see the beauty of introversion too. So that next time you see that lonesome person? Go and say hi! Once an introvert opens up, you’ll be exposed to a whole world of colours, of dreams, and above all, prepare yourself…for weirdness.

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