Introvert by Environment, Not by Nature
In my college experience, I look back and feel that I never truly had the opportunity to break out of my shell. I was surrounded by extroverts in one of the nation’s top sales programs and the personality type of most seemed to be in stark contrast to mine. Although I was an introvert in comparison to many of my peers, I’d like to make the argument that my personality was withheld by my environment and beneath it all, I simply needed the proper soil to take root and flourish. Flowers will sprout in certain soil while crops need a more specific earth to grow. I believe that humans work in much the same way.
In college, I didn’t have the “soil” I needed to thrive. I was excelling academically but socially I was only surviving. I didn’t enjoy clubbing or getting blackout drunk, and I certainly don’t have the capacity to participate in fleeting, physical relationships. I think there should be more to life than that. Unfortunately, many would disagree with my stance in the college town I called home and this led to a feeling of isolation and a spell of introversion that would follow me through my time there.
Try asking people if they want to go on a hike in DeKalb, Illinois. There was a chosen few who would oblige, but more often than not, the responses you’ll receive are ripe with excuses or full of hems and haws. In their free time, many people would be busy drinking or recovering from a rough night…again. After living that way for a whole semester (working hungover, being drunk 8 nights of the week, and hanging with people who couldn’t remember my name from the last 5 times we drank together) I realized that lifestyle wasn’t for me. When I stayed home instead of going out to the bars, or went out on a drive instead of day drinking, I would come off as someone who wasn’t engaged and wasn’t social. I was viewed as meek and timid which, while true for me in that situation, wasn’t true for me as a person.
As a person, I enjoy going out into the world and exploring. I’ve been to Europe twice, I enjoy being active, and I am happy being around people with a like mind! The problem I encountered was with my environment, not my personality. Although I’m adaptable, there is only so much you can do to fit a round piece into a square hole until it breaks. Being adaptable shouldn’t mean forgoing who you are for the sake of other people and becoming a square for the sake of others. Many times, I felt that I was on the edge of abandoning certain morals that were engrained in who I was. Luckily, I had the wherewithal to identify what was happening and I eventually abandoned this mindset to pursue a deeper analysis of myself and, more importantly, where I wanted to be.
After going through this stage, I moved out to Wyoming and soon it was clear that there were countless other people with similar, if not identical, interests to mine. If you want to go on a hike there will be at least 5 other people who would like to join you. If you want to go rafting, there will certainly be a group to accompany you down to the launch site. I found myself speaking more and more to people I’d never met. This is something that I often had trouble with in Illinois. I used to be the person that waited to be engaged. Now I am the one who reaches out to initiate the conversations. The reason I can do this now is because I am comfortable and have a feeling of belonging. It was always within me, but in my previous “soil” this part of me was stifled. I’ve never heard anyone bring it up to me personally but in Illinois, I used to stutter, mumble, and trip over my words. I didn’t often make eye contact and felt that I had to act my way through a number of social situations. Now, I speak clearly and the stutter I used to have has suddenly disappeared.
My coworker mentioned that the reason for the change in my personality is because I am “in my element” and I couldn’t agree more. Being in a place that makes me happy, with people who share common interests has allowed me to break out of my shell, speak without pause, and express myself in a way that I was previously unable to fathom.
I hope that someday everyone of you can find this place in their life that allows you to thrive in your situation; not just survive. Find your soil and grow into the beautiful flower that you could always be!