That’s easy, - everyone would probably say. Every introvert simply wants to be left alone. And this is true. But… To a certain extent.
When the room I am in is surrounded by people, my only wish is to run away. Whenever I’m using public transport, and people are so close to me that I can literally feel their breath on my neck, I want to jump out. When an old friend of mine stops me on the street, willing to chat about how my life has been going, the only thing I want is to say I’m in a hurry, my day is packed and I must run (when I’m actually on my way home anticipating a cozy evening with a pillow and a cup of tea).
While all of this is very true for me, my biggest wish is not be left alone. My biggest wish is something maybe a little bit deeper than that, something that, I think, many of us introverts tend to keep a secret, because it exposes our insecurity and makes us feel vulnerable.
I remember being a kid I spent most of my time alone. I had my dolls as my friends, and a few imaginary friends. I was able to share my deepest secrets with them, without shame and fear I would be judged or abandoned. I liked to think they understood me, and I loved the thought they loved me regardless of who I was and how I was behaving, even in times I didn’t like myself.
Growing up I never had that connection with people. I felt like maybe something was wrong with me and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be just like everyone else. It’s only later in life I found out there is a “name” for people like me, and I am not alone. People like me are called introverts, people like me are called INFP, and we are indeed different, but not as different as I thought I was.
It seems there is so much to explain when you are an introvert, and there is so much going in my mind each time I interact with people, that I can hardly hear their voices. Instead I’m mostly present in my head. It is my world, that was created for me (or should I say by me). Not that I chose it, but it seemed to have been there already when I came into this world.
And I wish people could get it. I wish I didn’t have to try to “justify” my behaviours because almost none of them represent the way I truly feel.
If I disappear in the middle of the conversation, I probably needed to breathe some fresh air. If I don’t look you in the eye while talking to you, I am probably trying to avoid any tension I am experiencing while doing so. If I say "no" when I am invited to attend an important event, I probably just don’t feel like going anywhere and prefer to rest at home. And if I am all the sudden quiet in the middle of an argument, I don’t see the point to keep going and understand there’s nothing else that I should say. But it’s not that I don’t care, it is just the way I am. I stop myself from being in the situation that I’d feel uncomfortable in, I know by now what is best for my mental health, and I try to live accordingly.
So, my biggest wish is to be understood. Because if people could understand me, I think they would also get it why I am the way that I am without judging. They would simply see me differently: you need to spend time alone, I get it. It’s so much easier to empathize when you understand!
And while empathy is not necessary something I am expecting from others, understanding is something completely different. When people understand you, you no longer feel like an outsider, but you feel like you belong. Yes, I do prefer solitude but that doesn’t mean I am not longing for deeper connection with other people.
There’s so much prejudice in this world. It seems like everyone knows how others should be, how they should behave, how they should respond, and very often I get lost in the chaos of these expectations.
I don’t need others to try to help me, to listen to my sometimes-confusing talks about the previous life that I lived, but simple “I get it” would be enough for me.
And I think with that wish comes much more. Forgiveness. If I knew people understand, not only I’d know they forgive me, but I’d also forgive myself.
Every now and then we have to apologize for who we are and for our values and priorities. About 2 years ago I decided that I’d prioritize my mental health above everything else, and boy, wasn’t that easy. But I finally discovered myself and didn’t want to break that commitment to myself: to always put myself first. And while it sounds selfish to somebody, I truly believe it is the right thing to do. It doesn’t mean I never feel guilty for the decisions that I make in order to keep that commitment though. So, forgiveness that comes as a bonus with understanding would be absolutely freeing.
Do I believe that one day people will be able to understand those who appear to be different? I definitely think we have come a long way in comparison with the past. But there is still long way to go. It’s hard to understand something that was never experienced by you. And if you are an outgoing, talkative party-persona, it seems bizarre to you how someone can feel completely happy in the quiet corner of their home. But I guess awareness is a first and important step.
Yes, I want to be left alone for a while, but only because solitude is my only way to recover from the chaos of this world and is not less important to me than the next friends gathering is to others. Please understand that.