I have only recently realised that I might have at one time been autophobic, or afraid of being alone.
When I think about my early childhood and teenage experiences, the happiest times were spent with other people. A true-blue extrovert, I recharged my batteries around others. Time by myself was never a preference and it would drag unbearably.
When I talk to people about my high school experiences, they’re often surprised to hear how much I loved it. For me, high school was one big social club. I remember becoming physically excited the closer and closer I got to the very building, as the frequency of seeing familiar faces would increase to the point that it was more common than not. Every day was another opportunity to relate to more and more people. Every night was either spent around friends whether it was in person or on the phone. As a senior, I strove for popularity, for acceptance, and to be liked, so that I’d never have to be alone. And I very rarely was. In fact, I considered being alone tantamount to being lonely, to having no friends, and the worst of all a possible states…. to being a Loser.
All that changed when I went to university. Despite going to a relatively big high school, even in that moderately sized pond I was a Somebody. Overnight, my whole world went from being a youthful bright star among 1,000 people to becoming a dwindling red dwarf among 30,000. Worse, I knew only seven of them, and liked only one.
It was then that my autophobia became more and more noticeable, albeit only in hindsight. At the time, I didn’t understand why I was having so much trouble. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t make friends as easily as I could before, and I was getting stressed about it. As a child and teenager, I’d moved around constantly. Making new friends at new schools had become a routine aspect of my existence. In that first year of university, my perspective of “school” changed almost overnight. Far from being a lovely place I couldn’t wait to be, it had morphed into a lonely place I couldn’t get away from fast enough.
Now I know, it wasn’t so much me, it was the environment: the class sizes, the transience of the students, the pre-established social structures, the transactional relationships with the teachers, the distance between home from school, and the sheer variety of types of people involved. It was a universe compared to my familiar solar system, and I wasn’t at all equipped for that type of leap.
Eventually though, my well-practiced abilities at making friends resulted in filling the gaps. It was never again the same as high school, but it was never as bad as that first year of university.
Now that I know a lot more about personality types, I’ve realised that people who are very extraverted in their youth become less and less extremely dependent on others as they mature. It’s like we manage a switch from one type of battery to another, where we need not only rely on being around others to get our energy. Perhaps it’s a coping mechanism or born as a natural imperative when moving away from home to far away places.
Much to my surprise, today I spend more and more time alone, and have actually become quite used to it. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually beginning to crave it. So what is going on here? Am I becoming an introvert? It’s quite possible, and research suggest that it happens all the time. In many ways, I’m not at all bothered. I like my alone times now, almost as much as I enjoy being with others, and sometimes, even more.
Even better, I’ve realised that I am more creative when I’m alone than when I’m with others. I have more time to bake my ideas, more time to explore where I’m going, and more focus to expand nothing into something. I know that for many people this won’t come as any kind of revelation, but for me, it’s like the massive leap in thinking – a grand jeté. I have, over years now, built up a tolerance for solitude that I never had before, and it’s become a dear part of my life.
Whilst not exclusive to the preferences of introverts, there are some things that I think I would have really enjoyed if I had had the discipline to just be with myself. I wish I’d been more active in individual sports when I was younger, instead of only always opting for team sports. I wish I’d stuck more with my art, instead of so easily tossing it aside to join others in partying or socialising. I wish I had had the patience to learn an instrument. I know that all of these things are still within my grasp, and I have developed more resources to engage in them successfully. I just wish I’d been more balanced, and had learned how to recharge my batteries when alone much sooner than I did.
Also, I wish I hadn’t judged introverts as harshly as so many of us extroverts do, branding them as “shy”, or lacking social skills, or being people with no friends, or losers, or anything but what they actually are; just people who recharge by being alone.
- Introverted Does NOT Mean Ill. (aliciahafner.wordpress.com)
- Introvert or extravert? Maybe you’re an ambivert (thingscareerrelated.com)
- 10 Myths about Introverts (Carl King)-Relate to it! (ameliathinks.wordpress.com)
- 8 ways introverts like to be alone (thingscareerrelated.com)
- Quite: the power of introvert in a world that can’t stop talking… (postsfromthepath.com)