Wednesday, April 20, 2016

You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.

I have a love-hate relationship with the word shy. And with the word introvert. And with the words quiet and wallflower. Though people usually use these words to describe me, they sometimes use them without knowing what they really mean. So I thought I would clear a few things up about these words, particularly in the way they apply to me.

I'm the first person to admit that I am shy or an introvert. As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, I prefer to step back and listen and observe rather than jump in and speak all the time. Don't get me wrong, I'll speak up when I have something to say or when I want to be heard, but most of the time I prefer to take it all in.

Sometimes, actually a lot of the time, when people notice or realize this, saying, "Don't be shy!" or, "You're so quiet!" Please don't say this. To anyone. Just please, don't.

I think sometimes people think being shy or being an introvert means you don't know how to talk to people or that you're anti-social or something extreme like that. While I suppose this might be true for some people, it's not true about me.

Sure, I'm shy when I meet new people. Who isn't? That doesn't mean I'm incapable of talking to them. But if I'm in a group of people, and I don't have to talk much, then I'm probably just going to sit back and observe. That's how I get to know people and understand them: I just watch them, observe them, listen to them. You can learn so much about a person by just stepping back, but some people don't realize that because they're too busy filling the sweet, sweet silence.

Don't get me wrong: I have absolutely nothing against people who like to talk. I'm thankful for these people; it's because of them that I'm allowed to be quieter and just observe.

I self-identify as an introvert and as shy, but I think it's important to clarify what these words mean to me. Google defines shy as "being reserved or having or showing nervousness or timidity in the company of other people" and introvert as "a shy, reticent person" (reticent means "not revealing one's thoughts or feelings readily").

Overall I would say that these definitions are fairly accurate, but I have a few issues with the definition of shy. Sure, I am more reserved, but that's not the same as being nervous or timid. I really like this definition of introvert, especially the inclusion of reticent. As an introvert, I don't readily give up information about myself easily. I don't like to talk about myself much, so the person I'm talking to has to really show that they care about my thoughts and feelings enough for me to actually reveal them. Sometimes I give short answers in response to questions because I don't want to bother someone with everything I have to say. It may take a few questions for me to actually open up all the way.

One of my favorite terms is wallflower; I really identify as one. I'm not even going to put the Google definition of wallflower here because it's just so wrong and almost offensive. To me, and I think to many, a wallflower is someone who sits and observes and listens and understands and remembers. This is me to a tee. Some might not understand why I'm like this or why I like being a wallflower, but I love it. I love seeing the world this way and getting to know people this way.

I definitely think that since coming to college, I've become more outgoing than I used to be. I really did used to get nervous talking in front of people or talking to new people or just talking to people in general. I don't think that makes me anti-social or anything; it just wasn't the most comfortable thing to me.

But since coming to school and meeting so many new people from so many different places (by lots of different places, I mean lots of different Chicago suburbs), I've just naturally started coming out of my shell more. Plus I think the college atmosphere is just good for bring people out of themselves. People just don't seem to care as much, or maybe I just don't care as much about what they think. My classes have made me more outgoing, my friends, my acquaintances, my professors, my involvement.

No matter what, I think I'll always be someone who is more comfortable and relaxed and maybe just overall happier when I get to spend some time alone. Especially after spending so much time with other people, whether it's friends or roommates or classmates, sometimes I just want to shut myself in my room and watch Netflix or read a book or blog about something.

I hope that this post has given you a little insight into shy people and introverts and wallflowers. I hope that maybe you understand them a little more now. I hope that maybe you understand me a little more now. Everyone has such different personalities, and I think it's so cool to learn more about them. It helps me to understand people better, and I think that's so important.

Lots of love,

Stephen Chbosky, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"

On a related note...
I have a strange fascination with personality tests, and I've taken so many. It's fun to compare answers with people! My favorite personality test is the Myers-Briggs. I'm an INFJ (borderline ENFJ). If you've taken this or decide to take it now, I would seriously LOVE to know what personality type you are! I challenge you to take it and find out a little bit more about yourself and the people you love :)