Introversion is Not a Disease
May 11th, 2018
Today I found out that I’m at risk for premature ovarian failure. I’m 30. The news felt like a blow, and at the same time, a thought saying “I’m not surprised” floated through my mind. I’ve spent almost my whole life trying to show up for other people but have hardly ever showed up for myself.
Rewind one month to a social media event that lasted the better half of a Saturday afternoon, and ended with invitations for drinks and more connecting/networking. An introvert by nature, I tried really hard that day to be “on”, to “get out of my comfort zone”, ask questions, be outgoing... And I felt pretty good about my effort. When we were saying our goodbyes over half drunk glasses of ranch water (a combination of Topo Chico and tequila), someone turned to me and said: “You’re much more somber in real life.” “I’m sorry,” I said, instantly knowing so much of my insides were melting into a puddle of deflated effort. In that moment, like many moments before, I felt less than. I felt that even on my best day, I wasn’t what people wanted.
This triggered so many things for me. So many past experiences where I felt like I had given my best effort only to be told I wasn’t bubbly enough, confident enough, loud enough, pretty enough, fast enough, smart enough. Moments where it was clear my introversion was a disease that I should just will my way out of, you know, get out of my shell more, talk more, make more friends, tell more jokes. My whole life I’ve been told I’m too sensitive, too serious, that I needed to let things roll off my back more easily. It made me feel alone and as if who I was deep down was strange and unwanted. So, I started to play that game. The game of guessing how people wanted me to show up for them, how to keep them happy, how to keep the peace. It’s obvious to me now that I really lost myself through all of this. I created an internal environment where I hated myself because I thought that who I really was, was hated by everyone else.
Turning into an introverted people pleaser is weird. On the one hand you need a lot of time to just be you and recharge, but I thought who I was was bad. I didn't like spending time with that person—so instead I was constantly looking for ways to show up for other people, to prove I could be who or what they needed. That path has lead me here, to a very unhealthy state for myself, my body, my mind, and my spirit. I’ve spent too many years talking negatively to myself, feeling guilty for not being more like everyone around me. Pushing myself past my own limits, ignoring my body because I wanted so desperately to be different, to be “normal” like everyone else. I’ve ignored myself for too long and I’m not sorry I have to change that.
I’m not sorry that you assumed I’d be different in real life. I’m not forcing myself to fill that gap anymore. I’m not sorry I have needs that might complicate your plans, or have you question my motives. I’m not sorry. I’m not sorry because I know now how much more I deserve—how much more we all deserve—when it comes to knowing ourselves in this crazy journey of life. There can be so much pressure to be something great, but we all get to define what great means to us, what success looks like to us.
So tonight, after hearing the diagnosis, I said, enough. I’m not sorry that I matter. I’m not sorry that I take up space. I’m not sorry that you wanted me to be funnier, more lively, or spontaneously join a dance party with you. I’m not putting your needs above mine, and I’m not compromising who I am for you. I’m no longer sorry because who I am is good and is enough. It’s time for me to start taking care of that person. For the first time in my life, I’m okay if that doesn’t make everyone happy.