I took this photo on a solo bike ride after work a couple weeks ago.
The weather was gorgeous—finally warm enough to dig out my short sleeve jerseys—and it felt great to be outside in the sunshine after ten hours of people time. Later that evening I posted a black and white version on Instagram with the caption that went something like: “A lone ranger just looking for some good eats. My spirit animal.”
Hashtag I thought it was hilarious.
Then the next day a friend stopped by the shop.
“I laughed so hard at your photo. It’s so true,” she said, eyes wide, big smile.
I knew she was being nice because this friend doesn’t have an insensitive bone in her body. But, also. A wave of embarrassment rippled through me. I could feel my face redden up and get hot.
The photo and caption was obviously a nod to my introverted nature and, in that moment, I was ashamed by it. I was ashamed of riding my bike and taking photos of adorable cows by myself—and also enjoying it.
I took down the photo that evening, as if I’d just told the whole world a big, big secret and this was my attempt to cover it back up.
Why did it bother me so much that someone else acknowledged my very common, very normal, very human trait out loud?
There’s a stigma behind identifying as an introvert, I think. Somewhere along the line the joy of spending time alone was vilified, perhaps because it’s misunderstood or even mistaken for an actual mental health condition such as social anxiety.
I don’t regret taking the photo down because I didn’t love it anyway, even though the cow was frickin’ adorable, but I regret the feelings I felt and the reason I deleted it from my feed.
The thing is, introversion and extroversion has to do with where people get their energy from: being alone or with people. I get mine from doing my own thing, thinking my own thoughts, and a lot of times riding my bike down wide open country roads.
Sometimes, though, being an introvert can get in the way of relationships: making new ones, and maintaining and strengthening current ones. But it doesn’t have to! It just takes a little more effort since my tendency is to do things solo more often. In case you’re like me, here are some things I do to make sure I’m keeping my most important relationships healthy and happy. So, you know, the next time I decide to post a grainy photo of a fat, hungry cow…I won’t be tempted to take it down.
1. Take time to CHARGE UP. Before doing all the activities, I love a little silence and a little me time. That way I can give my people all the attention and be totally present when we’re together.
2. GET EXCITED for the activities! When I’m on the verge of cancelling or bailing, I turn on a little music and think about how much fun I’ll have and how much I love hanging with my friends. Sometimes I’ll buy a new top that day because new clothes = all the motivation to go out!
3. Do the INVITING. It’s not always my first instinct to do the planning and the inviting because that sounds stressful to me. But friendship is a two way street, so I really try to reach out to people and invite them to do things, even if it’s just dinner or drinks after work.
4. Leave if you want, but LEAVE CONFIDENTLY. When I’m ready to leave a party or an event, I’m not shy about it anymore. I can feel when I’m out of energy and need to RECHARGE again, so when I want to leave, I don’t ghost my friends, I just get honest with them and tell them I’m heading home. The ones who really care get it. But also, don’t leave in the middle of a Happy Birthday song, aiiight?
5. CHECK IN. It’s also not my nature to text/call just to text/call. Just to find out how my friends are doing on a random Tuesday. Ya know? I’m going to do that more often. It feels good to be thought about. Ya know?
Have any to add?
Push on, PUSH ANIMALS >>>