Introverting in an extrovert's world
By Talia Santopadre
The world was built for extroverts, so if you’re an introvert like me, you know exactly how hard it is for your voice to be heard. Ironically, though it feels like a majority of the population is extroverts, it is actually not. The split between extroverts and introverts is right around the 50 percent mark, with slightly more introverts than extroverts. So introverts are actually the slight majority of the population. This shows just how loud extroverts can be, and proves that the way they fill a room can sometimes feel like that of a thousand people. This overwhelming nature of extroverts can be daunting, and make introverts, like myself, feel intimidated in spaces where they should feel welcomed for their opinions and thoughts.
One of the places where you are expected to use your voice the most, both figuratively and literally, is college. Everything about going away to college is geared toward extroverts. First, there’s having to live in a space with a roommate — never mind the possibility of getting stuck in a triple or quad. When I was moving to college, the thought of living with other people nearly killed me. The thought of putting on my happy, pretend-to-be-friendly face every minute of every day sounded exhausting, and I was afraid of needing to be something that I really wasn’t in the least: extroverted. Maybe I could pull it off for a day or two, but eight whole months? I didn’t think I could do it.
I was both lucky and unlucky in my first year. I was placed in a suite with five women, but thankfully I only needed to share a room with one of them. Lucky for me, that roommate happened to be extremely introverted as well. We were fast friends, being that we were both painfully anxious about the whole shabang. Despite that luck-of-the-draw-wonderful human, making friends is hard and exhausting for introverts. Getting to know your roommates is no exception to this rule. I would recommend not talking to them when you are an emotional basket-case, which is what I did my freshman year. Wait until the dust settles and then spark up a conversation about something in your space or something that you know you have in common. While you are all your own individual people there has to be something you have in common. One of the biggest things most introverts feel is anxiety surrounding interactions, however, by starting on common ground, this can settle that anxious feeling, since you know that you can talk about the same thing. You can then back into other topics as you get to know more about them.
You may be wondering: How do you function as a person when you’re living in a constant state of anxiety? How can I get alone time in a shared room?
Unfortunately, for most of us, being introverted doesn’t go away, no matter how hard you might try. Being introverted isn’t the end of the world though; it’s what helps make the world work. Can you imagine if we were all extroverts? There would be a lot of unneeded chaos if that were the case especially looking at the theory of a member on Quora.com who explains that extroverts want to talk, but because of this they sometimes forget to listen. I mean, picture a thanksgiving dinner where everyone is talking about a different thing and not a single person is listening. A literal nightmare for introverts, but the reason why we are important. The world needs listeners.
Now that you know how important you are as an introvert, you can embrace it. While some people will shift into more extroverted people, don’t feel like you have to do the same to be successful. From my experience, if you find things you are interested in around campus, you will find other introverts in those groups as well. We all tend to gravitate toward the same social groups, since these groups allow introverted individuals to feel more comfortable in the organization’s environment.
For me, these groups are literary magazines on campus. I’ve found a lot of people there that have similar interests to me, and we all come together to talk about the stories we have read. It's a great environment, and since many of us are introverted, we all get a chance to share what we think about different pieces. Like me, you’ll start finding friends in these organizations, and even though it might take you a little longer, those friendships can become so rewarding. Some of my closest friends came out of the groups I joined, and they are mostly introverted people as well. Let me be the first to tell you that a spirited conversation about literature in a group of introverts is possible and fun, since you don’t have to fight for your voice to be heard. These friendships don’t happen overnight, especially for introverts, and can be really overwhelming for the first few months of college.
"Going to college sounded like fun when I was accepted... after arriving I realized that it was one of my worst nightmares come to life."
Going to college sounded like fun when I was accepted. It was the normal thing to do after high school, but after arriving I realized that it wasn’t going to be easy for me since it was one of my worst nightmares come to life. Being in a new city, with new people, and not having a single friend in sight? For an introvert who took 18 years to make five friendships? Big yikes on that one. My first day of college, I talked to so many people that I was mentally unable to be a person. I couldn’t talk to anyone, and at 4 PM I got into my pajamas and crawled into a blanket cocoon to be alone for the next few hours. Not to be dramatic… but it was one of the most overwhelming things that has ever happened to me.
Taking moments to myself was so difficult while having a roommate, but I quickly pieced together her schedule and used that to take time for myself. I would use the time to meditate or watch one of my favorite movies. If I knew she was going to be home and I didn’t have the energy to talk, I would find a quiet place on campus to hang out and decompress, or say a quick hello and then stick in some headphones. It might seem a little rude, but it can make living with a roommate a little easier, even if you are the most introverted of introverts.
Despite the way extroverted people tend to overtake a room, the room is as much yours as it is theirs. Take care of yourself, so that when it comes to fighting for a space at the table with all the extroverts around you, you have the mental energy to do so.