As an introvert I am keenly aware just how difficult making meaningful connections can be.
And as an introvert who is also shy well, I know a whole other level of awkward.
I know how it feels to have your voice disappear inside you when you try to speak. I understand that burning sensation as blood rushes to your cheeks in embarrassment. I completely get the unrivalled joy of plans being cancelled last minute.
Introverts walk this fine line between participation and withdrawal.
We long to be a part of the group, to have our voices heard, to be actively involved, but simultaneously, it makes us unbelievably weary.
Making meaningful connections requires so much energy, a resource we only have in limited supply.
Cramming too much into one day can leave us gasping for air or so completely depleted of energy it looks like we’ve contracted the flu. Self care isn’t just all bubble baths and glittery nail polish to us, it is necessary for our day to day survival.
We can’t cope with all the stresses life throws at us if we don’t make ourselves, our needs, and our alone time a priority.
If we don’t give ourselves that space to rest and recharge we become well, not very nice people.
Sometimes, our attempts at making meaningful connections backfire terribly.
Like last Sunday, I went to a dinner party with my boyfriend and his parents at their friend’s house. We had a lovely time watching the sunset on the porch, eating a meal together and playing cards afterwards.
But at one point while I was enthusiastically reaching across the table to grab a card off the deck, I gave my elbow an almighty thump on the edge of the table.
The sound it made was disproportionate to the pain I felt, but of course everybody was quick to dole out their sympathy for me and my stupid, noisy elbow.
I could feel my cheeks burning and my eyes start watering a little as I tried to tell them it really wasn’t so bad.
What WAS bad however, was having everybody’s eyes on me. What made me truly cringe was being the centre of attention.
As an introvert it can be so tempting to curl up inside your shell.
To hide when we should be saying ‘hello.’ To take the easy option of swaying outside the circle of conversations.
How many times have you let your phone go to voicemail so you didn’t have to talk to someone?
How often do you dash into the next aisle when you see someone you know at the supermarket?
How likely are you to avoid going to a social event if you don’t know who else will be there?
But it is these simple moments that provide an opportunity for making meaningful connections.
It’s not enough to just see your co-workers from Monday to Friday but avoid every after work gathering. You can’t just pop in and out of your Pilates class but never stop to chat with anyone beforehand.
We meet people through organised situations, work, gym classes, church, and at parties. But we make connections through the spontaneous, unplanned moments in our everyday lives.
It’s when we bump into someone in town and strike up a conversation. When they pop over to our house to borrow something and we invite them in for a cup of tea. When we accept invitations to go out to lunch instead of eating alone at home.
It takes a lot of courage in those moments, to choose connection over comfort.
To prioritise deepening our relationships when what we really want is to run on home to our cats, fluffy blankets and favourite TV show.
But if you want to make meaningful connections, you have to show up. You have to keep trying, to continually make an effort and to do the best you can to always be reachable.
You have to do the brave thing and participate when you’d really rather withdraw. You have to speak up, share your thoughts and allows others to see who you really are.
This is vulnerability at its finest. The best kind. The sort that fosters intimacy, creativity and innovation.
That’s what we get when we make ourselves available for connection.
You have to know your limits and respect them for sure.
But you shouldn’t allow yourself to be defined by a label. It’s not enough to squeeze yourself into the ‘introvert box‘ and never take any steps to challenge yourself.
I’m all for self care and being aware of your needs but sometimes we can be a little too easy on ourselves.
We can use that introvert label as an excuse to avoid people. We can get stuck in our familiar rhythms and routines and never venture out of them.
You’ve got to start noticing those precious, little chances for connection and choose to take them.
If you are craving community. If you want to make connections; deep, meaningful connections, then you have to be willing to foster them. To give up your homely comforts, your cozy Friday nights, your reliance on our answering machines and to start welcoming people into those spaces instead.
“You can choose courage or you can choose comfort. You cannot have them both.” – Brene Brown