Maybe I need to stop focusing on trying to fit in and trying to adapt to what society wants me to be like. Photo credit: Stephen Priel

Whenever I’m around my family in Montreal, one thing I really enjoy doing is going on walks with them at night. Especially with my older sister, Vanessa, although she can get a little annoyed with me because she always carries our conversations.

When it comes to her, Vanessa’s at her best when she let’s everything out. Whether she is describing every part of her day in descriptive detail or ranting about the things in her life that irritate her, being a chatter box is simply in her nature.

As for me, I like to keep my cards pressed against my chest. I like to soak it all in, be the person who can just listen to hour-long rants and mull things over in my mind before any words escape me. It may be calculated, sure. But thinking before speaking is also a huge benefit socially, allowing me to figure out the right things to say at the ideal moment.

That’s how most introverts operate. Introverts like me.

An introverted person can be described as someone who likes to keep to themselves and prefers limited company. Compared to our extroverted counterparts, we tend to fixate more on our inner thoughts, and less so on what’s happening externally.

This is who I am, and I know I am not the only one who is wired this way. But being someone who society looks at differently presents many hurdles, and it’s only caused me to overthink every aspect of my life.

Accepting who I am isn’t easy.

It all started when I was a toddler, when my parents noticed that my verbal skills weren’t developing at the rate of the average child. It wasn’t until the age of three when I was finally able to talk, not just mumble.

However, my social struggles would continue, and I found myself regularly attending speech therapy throughout the first half of elementary school. I eventually learned how to communicate normally, but that didn’t change how I would interact with classmates. I was never incapable of interacting with others. I simply was afraid talk to them, and I could feel the judgement from those around me as they wonder:

“So that quiet kid in the back corner of the class? What’s his deal?”

I managed to make a small group of friends by the time I got to high school, but I was never comfortable socializing with anybody else. So if none of my friends were in one of my classes, I would find myself ostracized from the crowd. Not sure how to fit in with my peers, I was always curious about whether there was something I did or said that prevented people from approaching me. Maybe the way I am intimidates people?

But that’s never been my intention.

Even when it comes to my friends, the insecurities constantly creep in. I’ll wonder if I’m making enough of an effort as a friend or if my lack of social contributions leave them questioning if I bring enough to the table. Might they consider cutting me loose?

Since my arrival at Algonquin College, I made many more friends and built several strong connections. But again, the intrusive thoughts can take over.

Does my reserved and evasive nature hinder people from feeling closer to me? Do they care about me the way I care about them, even if I struggle to show it? Will I be nothing more than a face they vaguely remember in a few months’ time?

Going beyond friendship to consider if someone like me could ever find a romantic partner, negative thoughts creep in there too. Would my quiet personality be enough for her? Do I repel interest because it’s harder for someone like me to open up and tell someone how I feel? Would she even bother taking notice of me?

I keep convincing myself that nobody would ever value me the same. That it’s me and only me that’s doing something wrong. That I am the problem.

But Benjamin Scher, a geomatics technician student and fellow introvert, sees his situation through a more positive lens.

“For me, I find it easier to enjoy my own company because there’s less of a chance for conflict,” he said. “Being who I am did use to bother me, admittedly. I would wonder if people thought I was arrogant because I like to keep to myself. But I’ve eventually learned to accept the fact that people are always going to jump to their own conclusions about you. As long as I continue to be true to myself, whatever preconceived notions people have about me is not my concern.”

Being unfazed by how you are seen is definitely a mindset I should adopt.

Maybe I need to stop focusing on trying to fit in, trying to adapt to what society wants me to be like. Maybe society needs to adapt to people like me, and start perceiving me as a blessing rather than a burden.

Why should I stress out if people don’t care about me the same way they would about others? I’m better off simply cherishing those who do care, the people in my life who truly deserve me.

At the end of the day, there is a place for everyone in society. You just have to believe it and surround yourself with the right people, those that show their appreciation that you are apart of their lives.

Being our true selves is what makes us all human. I am beautiful. You are beautiful. We are beautiful.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some heads to turn.