I’ve been labeled many things in my life. Some flattering, some not so flattering. Many of them accurate but some of them unfair. There’s one label though that I work very hard not to hear and one that cuts deep when I do hear it: snob… rude… bitch.
Here’s the thing – I’m not saying I haven’t been snobby or rude or even bitchy – but mostly I’m just an introvert. An introvert is literally defined as a a person who tends to shrink from social contacts and to become preoccupied with their own thoughts. A person who tends to be more reserved, less outgoing, and less sociable.
See, my natural instinct is to find alone time. Workout by myself. Read a book. I almost always have to force myself to go to a social gathering. And once I’m there I have to force myself to talk, smile, reach out to others. It’s not that I don’t care about other people. It’s not that I don’t like being around my friends. In fact, I think I’m a good friend. It’s just that it is not easy for me to be outgoing all the time – even with my friends. There are times that I have to remind myself to stop focusing on whatever is going through my head and focus on the people around me.
I’ve taught myself plenty of coping mechanisms over the years. I’ve got a set of standard conversation starters to use in most situations. None of it comes naturally to me but I think I’ve gotten better. On good days I’ll be the one who says hello first, who walks around the treadmills to chat with the people I know. On other days I’ll be happy to talk to you if you come up to me, but I won’t wander around looking for a conversation – I’m just having a day where I don’t have the energy to push myself out there.
There are days where I don’t do as good a job as others. Days where I’m quiet. Where I don’t make a lot of eye contact or small talk. Days where I’m wrapped in my thoughts, thoughts that likely have absolutely nothing to do with the errand I’m running, the laps I’m swimming, the volunteer work I’m doing… but people make assumptions… they see my look in the distance and they think they know what I’m thinking… and those are inevitably the days where people label me. And those are the days when the labels hurt the most.