I’m introverted. For a long time, I thought there was something wrong with me. Why did I find it so difficult to talk with others and make new friends? Everyone else could do it, why couldn’t I?
Throughout my teens and into my early 20s, I felt like a social failure. Heck, even now nearing 30, I still feel that way at times. As a whole, I’ve made peace with my need for solitude and time for myself. I’ve also come to accept that making friends, at times, can feel like an arduous task. It’s not that I don’t want to socialise; I really do. The issue lies with the sense of awkwardness I feel when thrust into new social environments. What do I say? I don’t want to be that strange person making conversation and drawing everyone’s attention. Seriously, why hasn’t someone come up with something akin to a dating service, but for introverts to make friends?
That being said, I don’t find that being introverted keeps me from being apart of things or travelling. Honestly, I usually love exploring new places by myself or with one very close friend. Nonetheless, sometimes before going out, I need to research my options and mentally prepare for meeting new people.
If you’re similarly introverted and find yourself feeling discouraged, please know that you’re not alone. There’s nothing wrong with you. The world is full of introverts. In fact, according to an article by Psychology Today, 16-50 percent of the population is introverted, and that includes people like Barbara Walters.
Not being one to let myself mope or feel down for too long, I’ve developed a few coping mechanisms for both meeting people in a new city/country and for combating homesickness and the loneliness that stems from it.
- Make a point of getting out of the house every day, even if it’s for a short walk. Yes, it may be pouring and you may worry that you’re going to get lost, but, going out and getting some exercise, as well as becoming familiar with your new surroundings, will go a long way towards making you feel at home.
- Look for volunteer opportunities. If you’re in a new country, first be sure that you’re allowed to volunteer, as some countries consider it a form of work (the UK is one of those countries). If you can and are allowed to volunteer, please consider doing so. It’s a great way to go out and meet people without having to worry about a pretense for the interaction.
- Look for events or clubs at your local library or art centre. For me, going to a local cross stitch and knitting group has been a good way to meet new people. At first it was difficult and I was nervous, but I just reminded myself that I could always make up an excuse to leave early if I wasn’t enjoying myself.
- Try using a website like meetup.com There are loads of events and meet ups from book clubs to yoga groups. Bowser and I found a nice dog walking group and we were able to meet some nice ladies and their puppies.
- Be realistic with your social calendar. At first, I got excited with meet up and filled my calendar with lots of events. However, when the time came for me to go, I became overwhelmed and ended up cancelling all my plans. It’s ok if you only feel comfortable going to one event a week, or even every other week What’s important is that you’re going out.
I know this sounds awful, but I’m not sure that being an introvert and meeting people ever gets easier. I think I’ve just gotten better at putting on a brave face and pretending that I feel confident when I don’t.
What about you? Are you introverted? How do you handle new, and sometimes daunting, social situations?