‘Sociable,’ ‘party girl,’ and ‘outgoing’ are often words people use to describe me. I’m able to appear confident when I meet people for the first time, to smile and ask all of the right questions at the right times, and to engage in small talk with flair.
My interaction with others can come across as easy and natural, almost like I’m totally extroverted and comfortable in social situations, and to anyone who doesn’t spend a prolonged period of time with me, that is the impression I am able to give. But as someone gets to know me and really connect with me, they quickly realize this front I put on for the world takes a lot of mental energy. Being a highly sensitive, “extroverted” introvert can feel like a bit of a contradiction, so for anyone who doesn’t totally understand what this means, here are eight ways it impacts the way I function.
1. I’m actually not interested in small talk
While I am able to initiate and sustain small talk for the purpose of avoiding an awkward silence, there is honestly nothing I find more draining. I don’t give a shit about the weather or the boring, pointless details about your day. I want the real stuff. Tell me about your complex relationship with your colleagues or the conversation you had with your dad on the commute that brought a tear to your eye. I want the details, the things which stir something inside of you so they can stir something inside of me too. Having to think of surface-level topics to fill the silence is painful and exhausting, and I would honestly prefer to just say nothing. Give me a person I can click with immediately, who I don’t have to pretend to be anything other than myself around, and I’ll talk for hours. Anyone else, I’ll want to escape as quickly as possible.
2. I prefer a small circle to a big crowd
Give me a sleepover with a few friends and a bottle of wine over a nightclub or house party any day. I’ve always preferred intimate settings where I can be completely myself without worrying about being judged by people I don’t totally know or feel comfortable around. Once I get to know someone — and sometimes I have felt completely comfortable and at ease immediately — I will talk nonstop and feel relaxed and enjoy myself. Again, I have often been told that I come across as rude, standoffish, or as a “bitch,” but I’m simply assessing the situation and trying to figure people out before I dive in and give pieces of myself to them. I have a pretty good judge of character, and I want to make sure I’m giving my time to people who are warm, authentic, and kind. So if I’m at a house party and only talking to the same two or three people, I’m not being rude, I just had a mild case of the anxiets.
3. I love to party and socialize, but I need mental preparation
I think the thing that confuses a lot of people about me when I say I’m introverted is that I love to party. I love hanging out with my friends, and I generally just enjoy being with people, but this has to be on my own terms. I need to know where we’re going, who else will be there, what the vibe is. I need to be able to mentally prepare myself and to give myself that charging time before I go. This is why I’m usually the host — that way I get to be in control of that, and while that may be neurotic to some, it also allows me to make sure that during that event, I am completely “on” and can give my best self and full attention. I’m outgoing to the world around me, but I can only be that version of myself for a certain period of time, and I need to know when that’s going to end so I can be fully present while it lasts.
4. I get introvert hangovers
It doesn’t matter whether it’s been a long day at work or a day spent with my family, the only thing I want to do when it ends is come home, run a hot bubble bath, light some incense and candles, and crawl into bed with a book or my latest Netflix obsession. Being “on” for a prolonged period of time is extremely exhausting to me. Too much stimulation can feel like my brain is going into shut down — I’ll forget how to form sentences, how to interact, how to be understanding or giving of attention and empathy. I want to — trust me, I want to — but I am so exhausted from having to be sociable, to be present and my ‘best self,’ from having to give parts of myself all day, that I just need a few hours to recharge.
5. I feel anxious in busy environments
Anything from the work office to a bar on a Friday night can give me anxiety. The people pushing and shoving, the loud music, the conversations which are coming at me from every angle, which stop and start and have no real substance to them. It’s like my mind can’t settle because it’s extremely alert to everything going on around me — it stimulates my brain to such an extent that I shut down and can’t process. People often think I’m being rude, zoning out, or having a terrible time, but the truth is, I’m trying to regulate, accustom myself, settle in, and adjust. This can take me a while. I need to ease into it, get used to the noise, the crowds, the people invading my personal space so much I want to scream, and I can do it, it just takes a little bit of time. It’s something a lot of people wouldn’t think twice about, but for me, it’s a process I have to run through with myself where I have to talk back to my anxiety that nothing terrible is about to happen.
6. I feel things deeply, like really deeply
I will never say that being sensitive is a bad thing, and I certainly wouldn’t like to call myself overly sensitive (even though a lot of friends and people I have dated have). But it does mean that whenever I have an argument with someone, no matter how big or small, I will remember every single hurtful thing they say, especially if it is a reflection upon my character. I’ll ruminate and obsess and analyze what’s been said a million times, trying to figure out if I’m a bad person and how I can be better. I’ll curse myself for hurting someone’s feelings, for losing control of my emotions, for letting my anger get the better of me. I’ll punish myself for not being “more together,” and I’ll feel deeply upset with myself for weeks or even months after. While this punishing of myself will subside eventually, I never forget the negative things people say to or about me.
7. I can hear the words you aren’t saying
My hypersensitivity also means that I’m very good at noticing what people aren’t saying – whether it’s their facial expression, a certain look in their eyes, the tone of their texts, or just a feeling, I will know when something is off. Sometimes I think of this as my superpower as a HSP, as it allows me to communicate with people better, to understand what is going on with someone else and broach tricky subjects if I feel there’s a negative energy between me and someone else. But it’s also my kryptonite. Constantly reading people without choosing to and constantly feeling other people’s pain and anger drains me, but I can’t switch it off. I am often an emotional sponge for other people’s feelings, whether they intend it or not, which means that sometimes, I need a little space to separate myself from the heaviness of it.
8. Being alone is my happy place
If someone asked me to describe my “happy place,” I would say my bedroom, when the sun is just disappearing so the light is soothing. There would need to be aromatherapy candles, incense, probably a playlist of chill soul music, and absolutely no one else (unless that person is there to not speak, be my chest pillow, and stroke my hair). I enjoy the quiet, the relaxation, and the ability to just process my day and spend some time with me. It doesn’t matter what has gone on in my day, if I haven’t gotten home until 11 p.m. and I’m exhausted, I will always give myself at least an hour to just be alone and do something for me, otherwise I’ll be irritable, quiet, and mentally isolated as soon as I wake.