Raise your hand if you’re an introvert and find yourself struggling in college. I 100% understand and I'm right there with you.
College is advertised as "the best four years of your life." There’s freedom, no parents, no rules, and tons and tons of parties. It sounds like the best place on earth... if you’re an extrovert. But where does that leave the introvert?
The stories of introverts, I've found, can get tossed to the side in our extrovert-praising culture. Believe it or not, us introverts have a lot to say. So today, I'm sharing the good and bad aspects of being an introvert in college. Extroverts, all I ask is that you listen.
Disclaimer: I cannot speak to the experience of every introvert. We're all different, after all. These are my personal experiences as an introvert in college.
The Hardest Part About Being an Introvert in College
The hardest part about being an introvert in college is definitely the pressure to socialize. College can feel like a place where you are supposed to socialize 24/7.
Think about the stories you've heard about college: People easily make friends at New Students Orientation. Friends are attached at the hip all the time. Roommates are best friends. People are going out every weekend.
This pressure to be social can be overstimulating to anyone, but especially to introverts. Being in a social setting is one of the most nerve-racking things in the world for me, especially in new and unfamiliar situations. I’m wondering if people will accept me for who I am. Or if they will ask me a billion questions. Or if they'll think I’m weird because I’m not speaking much. These thoughts are constantly running through my head and it's a lot to handle.
It’s almost like a battle we have to gear up for... and we never know how it will go.
In addition to stressing me out, these thoughts make me feel like I'm not "enough," or that something is wrong with me. Popular stereotypes say that in order to make friends, you have to be loud, talkative, and outgoing. I worry that if I’m my normal, reserved self, it won’t be enough for people to want to engage with me. These expectations become detrimental and then play into the larger feelings I experience.
Once I'm done navigating the social setting and expectations, I then have to deal with the aftermath. I’m drained emotionally, mentally, and physically after being with people. People don't realize the amount of energy it takes for introverts to be present, to engage with people, and to keep up with everyone.
Socializing takes a physical toll on my body. I have an internal meter that tells me when I've had enough. The energy leaves my body and people can tell that I'm done based on my facial expressions.
To sum it up, social settings are more than just social settings for introverts. It’s almost like a battle we have to gear up for... and we never know how it will go.
How Introverts are Perceived
Another reason why social settings can be tough for introverts, is because of all the negative stereotypes put on us. We are often seen as cold, awkward, weird, mean, stuck up, mute, or lonely. But if people really got to know us, they would know we are none of these things.
Yes, social situations can be tough for us. But just because we are quiet, doesn’t necessarily mean we are weird or cold. We're probably uncomfortable in that situation or we don’t have anything to say. I’m usually quiet in social situations because I’m uncomfortable. Rather than talk, I tend to stay quiet and observe my surroundings.
I lived in a very social area of my campus last year and it was rough. I kept to myself because I felt uncomfortable with the constant socializing. I felt like people thought I was stuck up but in actuality I wasn't. It was frustrating to feel judged by people who didn't even know me.
While this is unfair, it brings up the question of why introverts are seen this way. Interestingly enough, I learned an answer to this in my class. I'm about to drop some major knowledge on you!
Why are Introverts Perceived Negatively?
I believe that popular perception of introverts stems from how Americans view silence. I had the pleasure of learning about this in my Communication class.
Here in the U.S., there's an underlying consensus that silence is awkward or bad. Talking and initiating equals good while being quiet and keeping to yourself equals bad. In my class, people said that as kids they were teased for being silent, or that their parents told them they should talk more. But it’s interesting because in other cultures silence or keeping to yourself isn’t a bad thing.
Since silence is seen as awkward here, when silence is tied to someone's personality, people are perceived as awkward. Those negative thoughts about silence are ascribed to people, and that then leads to the stereotypes I listed above.
Yes, negative labels may be thrust upon us, however the truth is that introverts are nothing like this. Introverts (I can attest) are awesome, fun-loving people. I believe there are many pros to being an introvert. So before we go, let me touch on the good parts about being an introvert.
The Pros to Being an Introvert
We know how to be alone
In college, I find that many people I know need company 24/7. While that's not bad in itself, at some point you need to take time for yourself. As an introvert, I don't need to be around someone 24/7 to feel complete. I believe this will help in the long run, because there will be a time in my life when I will be alone, without the built-in social life that college provides. Since I know how to do it now, it won't be as hard later.
We are like two people in one
The truth is, introverts contain multitudes -- and we might surprise you. For example, I’m a pretty chill, quiet, and observant human being. I talk when I want to talk and don’t when I don’t want to. But the more you get to know me, the more you will realize I’m hype, funny, and witty. I have a staff member who constantly tells me not to change myself. He sees the different layers to me and appreciates them. I see these layers as another reason to love introverts.
When we do socialize, we give our friends 100%
I remember one of my friends saying that though she doesn't see me all the time, the time she spends with me is meaningful. Introverts need time to themselves to thrive but when we do spend time with those we love, it's high-quality time. As sensitive, observant people, we give the people we are with the attention they need and deserve.
We don’t need to party to have a good time
There’s this weird idea in college that if you aren’t partying every Friday night, you must not be having fun. I realized that's not true. Staying in and watching Netflix is all I need to have a good time. I’m not pressured to do anything, I’m in the comfort of my bed, and I don't have to spend money. Win, win, win. Sure, parties can be great. But I'm just as happy spending quality time with myself, which means my days are almost always enjoyable.
Bonus: Pop culture has plenty of cool introverts
As we've noted here at CF before, plenty of awesome female characters are introverted, so I'm far from alone in the pop culture world. Every little bit of representation helps!
What do you think?
While there are cons to being an introvert, I wanted to end this article on a happy note. At the end of the day, college is hard on everyone, and we all approach it differently. While there are benefits and drawbacks to being introverted in college, there's no one "right" way to be.
By speaking about my struggles, I hope to inspire other introverts to do the same, while hopefully encouraging extroverts to be more understanding with us.
If you are an introvert, how has college been for you? Do you relate to my struggles? Extroverts, did this help you understand us introverts a bit better? Thanks for reading!