Growing up, I used to be a lot more self-hating.
I hated how I was so unlikable by aggravating every single person I encounter. I hated how I spent too much time alone, reading, listening to music and watching videos, never interested in having a large social circle.
Then, maturity hit me.
One day, I realised that my hatred of my own introversion (not to be confused with shyness) and lack of likability is caused by the shaming I had been constantly receiving for many years, not because those two traits are inherently evil that must be eradicated once for all!
My unlikable nature is indeed irksome to deal with. But, it is a combination of my social ineptitude and non-conformist attitude. You know, two harmless things. The former is something I always try to overcome. The latter is something I am planning to keep; just like introversion, it is considered evil simply because it makes me different from everyone else, not because it actually is.
Oh, and speaking about introversion…
I acknowledge that we need our fellow human beings to live a more complete life. But, we don’t need them in every waking second! You can still have a quality life while spending most of your time alone. ‘Quality’ and ‘quantity’ are two (often) mutually exclusive words. Whether you like it or not, extroverts can also be anti-social (which is different from being asocial)*. Even the most social creatures I know still embrace solitariness from time to time.
In order to avoid the constant shaming, I often tried to act like I was a lovable and outgoing person. You know, faking. It took an emotional toll on me.
Every time I put on the mask of superficial charm and conformity, I was fooling everyone with this phony ‘lovable’ character (and I am sure the most intelligent among them could see past my bullshit). I was being dishonest about my true self. Even though it was not a fitting figure of speech, I often felt like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I was a fraud, a sinner. Sounds a bit too dramatic. But, that was what I sincerely felt.
This tendency also didn’t solve the problem with my awkwardness. Instead of encouraging myself to overcome it, I preferred to falsely declare its non-existence. That’s like having a bulging tumour on your abdomen and your solution is to wear dark, loose clothing; the more you ignore your problem, the harder it will to triumph over.
Contrary to popular belief, extroversion is not the end-all cure for loneliness. In fact, for people like me, it can either cause or exacerbate the sense of desolation. I am more likely to feel lonely among the crowds than when I am just by myself.
The presence of other beings can make me feel too self-conscious. Not counting my gawky and rebellious personality which already makes me stick out like a sore thumb, many people (especially the petty ones) love to point out my silence which they deem ‘uncomfortably deafening’. I become too mindful of my inability and unwillingness to interact with the piling stacks of homo sapiens.
I constantly dreamed of being someone else.
The process itself was gradual. I started to accept my love of solitariness when I was a teen (which coincidentally when I also started to interact more). But, the guilt still lingered and it felt like I was loving a diseased part of myself.
Fast forward to my college years, when I became an internet addict who love to browse ‘trivia’, I added another word into my vocabulary: introversion. For the first time in my life, I accepted that my ‘hermitic’ tendency was not a mental disorder, but a personality trait that every reasonable and receptive individual regard as normal. No longer I see solitude as a vice. But, this journey of self-acceptance is relatively easy to overcome.
Regarding my social ‘charm’, it is still an ongoing issue as awkwardness persistently haunts my life to this day. Escalating the quantity of human contacts does not work for me. So, I try to behave in a palatable manner as naturally as possible.
I have three mottos for my social life: ‘be polite (to strangers, at least)’, ‘wrong someone who wrong you first’ and ‘be honest’. Of course, it is far from perfect. What we consider to be polite and nice is always influenced by our own subjectivity and, for someone who experienced stereotypical Asian upbringing, being honest is easier said than done.
But, at least, this is better than intentionally painting ourselves with false colours.
Unsurprisingly, the act of affirming selfhood is and will always be in one’s favour. In my case, there are quite a few of them.
My acknowledgement of introversion as a legitimate personality trait has three effects on me, two of them seem counter-intuitive. First, I recognise the importance of spending some time with your thoughts and feelings; like it or not, they need to be nourished with self-reflection. Second, I appreciate the importance of quality human relationships; no matter how much I love solitude, I still cherish the amicable presence of fellow human beings. Third, I also appreciate extroversion as a legitimate personality trait instead of a festive of noise and smarminess; no longer I see all extroverts as repulsive creatures.
The self-toleration of my social ineptitude compels me to be more vigilant about human behaviours. My past attempts of putting up shows enlighten me of one thing: humans are creatures of falsehood. We will do anything to be the possessors of ‘attractive’ personas, no matter how deceitful they are; it is worth the death of sincerity.
It sounds cynical. But, as I said before, I am being vigilant. Unlike me, many people I know still easily fall for those so-called philanthropists and motivational/spiritual speakers. They are ignorant of how those philanthropists guilt-trip us by constantly bragging about their open-handedness. They are ignorant of how those speakers present anecdotes as objective facts and constantly use fallacies. They don’t realise they are victims of rhetorics.
Oh, and because I merge introversion and vigilance together, I am picky regarding the people in my intimate space. As I get older, I become more restrained about giving personal information. I constantly make sure the people I interact with are not back-stabbers; despite the nastiness of front-stabbers, at least they are blunt about their true nature. As Indonesians would say, I don’t want a snake under my blanket.
But, the best benefit I obtain from the self-acceptance is this: contentment.
I am content about living a relatively solitary life. I am content about my status as a deeply unsavoury individual. I am content about its negative effects on my fate as I would probably have a hard time maintaining careers and networks. I am content about my ‘abnormality’ and I have stopped giving a fuck about what people think of me.
…and the contentment helps to validate my own individuality. No longer I see myself as diseased. Contentment makes me feel more human.
*’Asocial’ is what we use to describe people who avoid social interactions, either out of shyness or lack of interest. ‘Anti-social’ is what we often say to describe sociopaths.
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