Confessions of an Introvert

Let me set the scene.

It’s Tuesday afternoon, and I’m walking back to the office after lunch. I push open the glass doors to my building, carefully balancing a coffee in my spare hand, and dash across the reception area into one of the three lifts.

On entering the claustrophobic six-foot square space, the unmistakable odour of McDonald’s overwhelms me — every time I breathe, I taste stale chips, sweaty burgers and the artificial tang of their sweet ’n’ sour sauce.

The air and my pores feel congested. A cursory glance in the lift’s mirrors, which are framed with harsh LED lights, confirms my make-up is melting. I’m more clown than city professional. With a sigh, I turn from my reflection and jab the close button.

As if the situation couldn’t get any worse, I see a woman suddenly stride towards me, appearing out of nowhere, an apparition in business attire. She gives me a half-smile and weakly waves her hand, a signal, I assume, for me to hold the doors. I grin back, luring her into a false sense of security, all the while secretly stabbing the up button.

The thought of sharing this swampy space with another breathing human sends shivers down my spine. Not only have I got an irrational fear of small talk, but I’m also certain there’s not enough oxygen for us both to make the ascending journey.

As I resign myself to defeat, the woman only metres away, the doors finally creak into submission. The last thing she would have seen was my maniacal grin — made even more terrifying by the blood-red lipstick that had somehow gathered on my teeth.

Far from feeling embarrassed over this social faux-pas, I felt relieved. Honestly, I’ve shut the lift on way more people than I’d like to admit.

As an introvert, human contact is complicated, and everything from friendly hugs to impromptu parties falls under the umbrella of unwanted social interaction. It’s not that I don’t like people — honestly, I do. It just seems to take me a lot more energy to be around them, particularly for long or unplanned periods.

I’m not unusual in this way. Introverts are everywhere. You could be sitting next to one right now. You could even be married to one!? To check, place your loved one by a window and see if they go up in flames — introverts, like vampires, notoriously hate sunlight.

Confessions of an introvert

Please don’t invade my personal space

As an introvert, lifts, tubes and public bathrooms are distressing places. If I could wear a sign around my neck saying, “please don’t come within two metres of me”, I would. But, alas, it’s a free world and I’m certain nobody would listen. Instead, I’ve found accidentally elbowing people works a treat.

Especially with unwanted human contact

When someone goes to hug me, my body stiffens and my arms do this weird thing where they automatically extend in protest. Maybe I wasn’t held enough as a child or maybe I just prefer to use my words. Either way, touching is off-limits.

I’ve hidden to avoid someone I know

I’m not proud of this, mostly because I’ve been caught pretty much every time and ended up looking like a complete twat. To avoid speaking to friends, I’ve jumped into random shops, hidden behind trees and pretended to be on the phone. In desperate cases, where there was no obvious escape route, I’ve just stopped dead in my tracks, turned around and marched the other way.

I am difficult to get hold of

If you text or call, it might take me a few days to get back to you. Usually, this is because I put my phone down and forget. But sometimes, it’s just because I don’t want to explain myself. Have you ever told a friend you don’t want to go to the pub? Honestly, it’s worse than a break-up. The betrayal.

If you want to hang-out, it must be planned

Nothing scares me more than a spontaneous social gathering. I’m a planner by nature - my life is one long to-do list, characterised by multi-coloured post-it notes and panic. Everything is scheduled ahead of time, even mundane tasks like washing and changing my bed-sheets.

I’ve left parties without saying goodbye

I will always choose mozzarella sticks and my bed over tequila shots and regret. Any sane person would. My distaste for clubs and crowded places means I’ve bailed on many a night out. While my mates are dancing away, I’ve snuck home and started re-watching true crime documentaries on Netflix.

Networking is my kryptonite

There’s nothing more cringe-worthy than walking around like a LinkedIn profile, chit-chatting about work and five-year plans. Besides the shameless self-promotion, it’s incredibly dull. Also, I promise you everyone is lying. It may seem like Nigel from accounts has the perfect life, but I’m sure he’s secretly dying inside like the rest of us.

I plan my outings around when it’s quietest

I live for early morning gym sessions and late-night library trips (or I would if I went to the gym and/or visited libraries). I prefer to venture out when it’s quieter and there are fewer people fighting for resources. Obviously, because I have to work, I can’t always plan my day around these times — the least favourite part of my week is the evening Aldi shop. So. Many. People. I’ve actually wrestled a woman for fishcakes before.

I find it hard to handle other people’s emotional outbursts

Because hugs are out of the question, I end up muttering “there, there” over and over again, until the upset person realises crying to me is completely useless and stops.

I prefer children to adults

I love children — their inability to censor what they say is refreshing, plus they prefer to eat than engage in any sort of conversation. I relate.

I prefer animals to adults (and children)

They like to eat, nap and lounge. Occasionally, they’ll graciously accept a shoulder massage. Other times, they’ll try to scratch your eyes out.

I like being an introvert

Honestly, I like being an introvert.

There was a time when I couldn’t stand to be alone and the thought of an evening by myself filled me with dread. What would I do? What was everyone else doing? Were people having more fun than me?! It was a long road realising none of that really mattered. When I stopped trying to please others, I figured out what actually made me happy.

Turns out, I don’t care much for late-night boozing, expensive brunches or crowded festivals. While my friends love travelling and going on crazy adventures, I’m much happier at home, with family, reading and practising yoga. It might seem boring, but it works for me.

Originally published at https://ashleighmayesyoga.com on September 18, 2019.

My name’s Ashleigh — yoga teacher and mental health advocate.

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