It’s an extrovert’s world, but there’s nothing abnormal about not conforming to an ideal during your time at university.
Introversion somehow continues to be a misunderstood personality type even in today’s golden age of information and lit memes. First off, let’s just destroy the myth that it’s the same as shyness or social anxiety once and for all, because that’s FAKE NEWS. Sure, there can be some correlation, but at the end of the day all three remain separate things in their own right. We all fall somewhere on the spectrum for most traits anyway, so prepare to have your mind blown: introverts can be confident and outgoing, and extroverts can be reserved and/or socially anxious. Who knew?! Scandalous.
In reality, the main difference simply lies in where you get your energy from. Do people exhaust you? Extroverts get their energy from being around people; introverts get theirs from being alone. That’s it.
Take yours truly, for example. Despite relative shyness and social anxiety, I consider myself an outgoing introvert or ‘ambivert’ – I love spending time with people and am regularly up for a night of madness when I can unleash my hyper and bubbly side, but often my happiest moments are when I’ve got my headphones on and can get lost in my own little world; I can go for a day or two by myself before I feel bored or crave more than just minimal social interaction, and not having enough alone time away from fellow human beings is a guaranteed way to make me grumpy AF when I’ve already reached my limit.
According to science, this phenomenon may have something to do with how sensitive you are to your surroundings regardless of social context, which would certainly seem to explain why us introverts can quickly feel overwhelmed by too much going on around us. Fun fact: some studies actually suggest that self-proclaimed introverts salivate more when given lemon juice (seriously, look it up if you don’t believe me).
Lemon juice and saliva aside, the point is this: introversion is not merely a matter of preference but, fundamentally, a matter of needs. So whilst it’s tempting to follow the crowd and pretend you’re up for getting on the sesh 24/7, it’s important to find the right balance so that you don’t burn out. Being a student at uni can make this difficult seeing as there can be a lot of pressure to be constantly out and about with others, but it’s worth realizing that headspace is vital for your health, so if you’d rather just go home and watch Netflix than hit the pub, you’re in no way obliged to justify yourself. I repeat, you are in no way obliged to justify yourself. After all, even the most extroverted individuals still need time out to recharge their batteries, and this is actually a form of self-care in order to be able to function at your best.
“What about FOMO, the fear of missing out?” Okay, THE FEAR IS ALL TOO REAL. But here are the facts: it’s literally impossible to be present for every single awesome thing that ever happens, and the sooner you accept that, the less fucks you’ll give. Besides, sometimes it’s better to have an epic time at one event that you were in the right mindset for than to go to several things and feel unable to fully appreciate them because you feel drained and secretly wish you could go home and hibernate. Quality over quantity, eh?
That being said, it’s true that university genuinely is one of the best times in your life for meeting all kinds of new people, so it’s definitely worth pushing yourself beyond your usual boundaries, at least during your first year when it’s easier because everyone else is in the same boat and settling in. Who knows? You might just surprise yourself and witness those boundaries grow. Chances are you won’t be the only non-extrovert in your immediate circle either because introverts make up just under half of the population. There’s something for everyone too, whether it’s trying your hand at journalism, getting politically active or even just joining the Tea Society for a cuppa and chat. Don’t worry though, you’ll have four years to try out new things at your own pace.
Whether you’re an introvert or not, part of being a student is learning things about yourself and how to adjust to your new life. Ultimately, you’ll have more fun when you stay true to your own needs and remember that it’s okay to do your own thing too. Yeah yeah, being out and having banter with pals is great and all, but sometimes there really is nothing like sweet solitude for enjoying some blissful peace and quiet.