A 17 year old introvert wrote a wonderful message to me in the comment box a few days ago, and I really appreciate it! I often get great comments from awesome introverts, but you often don’t leave an email address where I could reply to you! I just want you to know that I really appreciate all of you who read and/or comment on this site! It’s enjoyable for us all to talk to each other, plus the comments help many, many introverts out there to know that they are not alone in having the feelings and experiences they have every day.
I remember very well being an introvert in high school, so I wanted to talk about that with you all. High school can be a rough time for almost anyone. Those are the years when the pressure starts to mount to look, act, and think a certain way, and it seems there are labels for everyone who is a real individual. Even parents can add to the problem, although often it’s only because they want the very best for their kids. A sweet extroverted woman told me this past weekend, “All parents want their kids to be popular!” Sure, the real meaning of the word popular is to be well-liked by a lot of people, widely liked. But when we think about high school, the word popular could just as often be used interchangeably with words like socially feared, mindlessly imitated, or envied. Still, it’s a state that we’ve led ourselves to believe is ideal – the sought-after status that is considered “golden,” with huge packs of friends and endless invitations, and we’re brainwashed nearly from birth to feel cheated and disappointed if instead we just have a couple of close friends plus a loving family with whom to spend our time.
I could take the easy route and point out that one or two genuine friends plus school work plus a little of the delicious solitude on which you thrive is really plenty to fill your days, but that wouldn’t really help. The big failure message for those of us who don’t fit the nearly fictional stereotype of the “popular life” isn’t just coming from inside our own heads. Everything from TV shows and movies to the questions of well-meaning relatives to the remarks of big-mouthed “popular” kids can make you feel like a big loser if your interests run to the intellectual or your idea of a fun evening is playing with your pets and listening to some great music.
As for the smaller number of friends and fewer social events that often comes with being an introvert, try to figure out what you truly want. Are you staying home because you’re enjoying following a passion or hobby, or are you afraid to try to socialize? If it’s the former, go ahead and dig in to things that interest you; enjoy your life! If it’s the latter, or if you don’t have anyone to do things with, keep your ears open for church or school or other community group activities where there will be things to do other than a lot of small talk. I know one introvert in his late teens who recently signed up to go on a ski trip with six other students he’d never seen before! Perhaps the van trip up to the mountains was a little tough if he was worried about being too quiet, but once they got on the slopes there was plenty of active and fun stuff to do, then of course there was plenty to talk about the rest of the weekend! Even if you’re pretty much confined to a small town or high school, you may find in the course of daily life that you have something in common with another person you’d seen around but never thought about before. Maybe a topic will come up in class one day, or it may be a volunteer opportunity that brings you together with others like you.
Like we all know, it’s entirely possible to be lonely, while still needing our solitude and spending a lot of time alone by choice. All our lives, but especially during the years we’re in high school and college, we have strong urges to be with others and to find that special someone too. Being an introvert doesn’t squash those instincts, but of course it does mean that we have to ration our people-time and make sure we get our me-time too. I remember feeling an almost physical pain in the warm sunshine of springtime, almost as if I’d suffered a loss, when really the issue was just that I felt as if I were missing life, missing out on everything. This sort of feeling definitely got resolved over time, as I learned to relax and let people who liked and appreciated me into my life. First it was a classmate and then another. Then in my first job after college I found a couple of friends from whom I became inseparable. It just took time, and the numbers weren’t big. Definitely a matter of “quality, not quantity.”
If you’re an introvert in high school, remember – you’re not alone, not by a long shot! Do your best in your classes, enjoy your life, and know that high school is not forever! If you’re reading this and already realize that you’re an introvert, then you’re ‘way ahead of the game. You already know how you recharge your energy and why you react the way you do to various things in life. Relax and be yourself, and live the wonderful life you were meant to have.