How to Be an Introvert with Friends
It’s pretty funny when I think about my own introversion – looking back on my childhood I am quite positive I had more imaginary and Barbie friends than I did real ones. Being an introverted child was sort of a dissociative experience. I FELT like I was always talking, but I remember my mom asking me “Sydney, why are you being so quiet?” And I was like what are you talking about mom? I have been carrying on healthy amounts of conversation for the last thirty minutes. But it turns out the conversation was only in my head and the words never came out of my mouth. So strange right?? But I am sure other naturally introverted people can relate to this as well! I never felt the need to talk much because there was always so much to listen to, read, observe. All thanks to my mom, I was a voracious reader as a kid. And my books were my best friends. Couple OCD and introversion into one child, and you get a kid who went through obsessive states of studying about one VERY random topic for up to six weeks at a time. My topics of study (at the age of eleven) ranged from the Holocaust, World War II, Ancient Egyptian mummification and religion, Michael Jackson, the BeeGees, and probably more random things that I really cannot think of right now. And I mean, it sounds pretty cool to talk about now, but try plopping that same kid into a fishbowl full of puberty hormones, cliquey girls, and popularity that we call middle school and you can probably see where I began running into social issues.
And by issues, I mean that middle school and high school were hellish for me. Oh boy. There was no room for my weirdness if I wanted to fit in with the girls I had been hanging out with in as a younger kid when nobody cared where you got your jeans from. But now they had all grown boobs, kissed boys, filled up their closets with Abercrombie and Fitch, and dedicated their main topic of conversation to whose house they would be having a pool party and sleepover at the next weekend. I was so lost. And I was still wearing my Aeropostale dresses with t shirts underneath and sporting a nice set of braces, while reading the dictionary commentary on Star Wars in my free time. Literally none of what I had floating around in my head fit in with what these popular girls wanted to talk about. And I remember one day, standing outside in the “car riders line” where we all waited for our parents to pick us up (aka the place where you either sank or swam in your social life), and I sank. I sank HARD. So hard that I found myself standing alone and looking around at all of the cliques that I didn’t fit in with. And I desperately wanted to fit in, because that feeling was incredibly painful. And I did not have the maturity to know that those cliques didn’t even matter in the grand scheme of things. I wanted to fit in. So you may be able to guess what happens next. Or you may not. No worries, I will tell you anyways.
I straightened the shit out of my hair.
I filled my closet with Abercrombie and American Eagle, even if they were from Goodwill because my family definitely was not rich.
I changed the tone of my voice so it wouldn’t sound so deep.
I started walking pigeon toed and standing with my hips out so boys would notice me more.
I started breaking rules so I could stay out later to hang out with the popular kids more.
I treated boys like shit just so I could enjoy the attention have clout when I bragged to my clique about how I didn’t want them.
And this shit went on for at least another four years, until I became exhausted. I mean I was doing all of those things and literally sweating hoping that no one would figure out I was an impostor. And then I would go home, put on my Star Wars pajamas and read Stephen Hawking until I fell asleep. I was a fucking impostor at the age of 14. And for what?
It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that things started to change. My Dad changed jobs and moved my family to a different state where I knew literally no one. I had no friends, no cliques. I started from scratch. And I started to do that fitting in thing for the first year or so, but then my mom, God bless her, REALLY started urging me to apply for the county art school. And somehow, by the grace of God, I made it in. And that’s when things shifted for me. I now spent half of my day in regular high school with regular kids flaunting their Southern Marsh and Lilly Pulitzer outfits, and the rest of my day in a school full of outcasts where anything goes and everyone is welcome. In the first class I took, photography, I had my first encounter with people whose sexuality deviated from what I had been taught growing up, and I loved them all the same. I met kids who wore black cut off socks on their hands to school as gloves for no reason, and I loved them all the same. I even met one girl who meditated on top of the table every morning before class started. What a fucking progressive. I loved them all. And they all loved me. And I never felt like I had to be someone I wasn’t. In fact, the more I showed up as me, the better my art became. I remember the first film project I did, was as progression of black and white self portraits taken with a pinhole camera. The first photo was me with a mask on. The second was me removing the mask and trying the hide behind my own hands, and the third was me with no mask on. I don’t even think I realized what this piece was saying about my life at the time, but now I see it so clearly. That school taught me that I can take off this stupid, expensive, exhausting mask I have been wearing, and show up in the world exactly as I am. That was only the beginning, and since then, I have ever so slowly but surely began to find my footing in this world as an proud, introverted, book loving, curious, anti-social individual with a passion for finding clothes that represent who I am on the inside on the outside. I am looking back on those days in art school with a heart full of gratitude, because without them, I never would have believed that I could be loved as I am, and I never would have known that no one set rules about who I could and couldn’t be, and who I could and could not be friends with.
So, to address the title of this post - How did I start building authentic relationships as a serial introvert? The answer is two fold:
1. I set out on a journey to discover EXACTLY who I am
2. And I work every day to show up in the world EXACTLY as her.
And when I meet people now, I make sure to talk about the things that interest me, to be honest about how I spend my time, and what I care about. And I have learned – and this is SO important – that if things just are not clicking with the other person, IT IS OKAY. It just means that they are not a vibrational match for me. And I have the freedom to move on, to keep showing up as me, and to keep trusting that I will meet people and friends who are vibrational matches to me. Just because things didn’t quite mesh with one person, doesn’t mean there isn’t another girl sitting across the bar just DYING to have a friend like me who can relate with her weird introverted habits and philosophical views on romance. That is the kind of faith leap I have take in terms of finding friends as an introvert. I have learned to trust that God, the Universe, or whoever you want to call the higher power that connects us all, honors authenticity with reciprocation. And I have been blessed with some of the most incredible fulfilling relationships, far beyond what I could have ever asked for.
So, to you beautiful introverts out there, please know that it is OKAY to spend those nights alone reading when that is what your soul craves. And it is OKAY to talk about the thing you were reading about the next day in class or at work. And I promise you, that once you start showing up like this, like the unique creation that you are, you are going to attract beautiful relationships, and repel toxic or unfulfilling ones.
You. Can. Do. This. <3
All my introverted love,
PS I am wearing the sweater I have been RAVING about in my stories in this photo! Seriously have worn it three times this week and I have no shame. Twice to work, and once out on the town. And you can click here to find it! I finally got my Amazon Storefront set up so I can start sharing my fits with you.