Without a doubt, university has shown me how difficult it can be to thrive as an introvert in a world where noise seems constant and favourable. As an introvert myself, I have always felt misunderstood as the signs of being an introvert tend to get confused with being upset or unsociable. It’s important to recognise that an introverted nature isn’t the same as being shy or socially anxious as these tend to be driven by fear as opposed to impacted by stimulation. The world appears almost tailor-made for extroverts. From a young age, I was one of several classmates who’d be penalised for being quiet. I was always told to speak up, to make myself heard, to be more confident and to spend more time with people, all of which are so important but it’s also okay to take some time for you to re-energise! That’s more than okay; in fact, it’s necessary.
Recently as a flat, we were sharing first impressions and the words ‘quiet’ and ‘unsociable’ kept cropping up at which point I really started to wonder whether there is a place for introverts in university life. So, when I came to write this blog, I questioned whether I was the right person to encourage introverts to pursue university. But, then I sat back and looked at the way I’ve managed to thrive here despite being introverted and wanted to share with you guys just five ways how you too can thrive in a world that isn’t shutting up any time soon!
1. Know your social strengths and limitations…
By this I mean know what works for you socially. Having a social life at university is obviously important. Building relationships is key to getting through those tough moments of social and academic pressures. Some good go to social activities are watching a movie or TV together, or even something as simple as cooking in the kitchen at the same time as others. They are perfect ways to spend time with people whilst spending time with yourself. Alternatively, you might enjoy going for a walk with someone, or having a coffee date. Find what works for you and recognise these things as strengths. You should also embrace the qualities that being an introvert comes with. They are perfect attributes to a team or group of friends and they are just as appreciated as the qualities of extroverts (check out the book ‘Quiet Power’ by Susan Cain or watch her Ted Talk for more on this – I’ve found this book incredibly helpful to understanding myself better and embracing things I would’ve otherwise called a weakness). Equally, it’s okay to recognise how being an introvert may limit you. Listen to your body and find space where appropriate.
2. Make your room your own space
Honestly, turning my bedroom into my own little haven has been so important to maintaining a healthy balance of social and me time at university. It’s become somewhere I enjoy spending time as it’s been decorated in a quietly stimulating way where I can re-energise myself for a new day.
3. Be honest with yourself
Understanding who you are and what you need is vital to making it at uni. You never have to be apologetic for being introverted, nor do you have to change yourself for anyone! Pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone is okay every once in a while. Particularly at university you can expect to spend a lot of time with people who enjoy constant stimulation (this is also okay – in fact some of my best mates at uni and at home are extroverts) but stay true to who you are. You can’t give from an empty cup so it’s important to be honest with yourself about what is attainable socially.
4. Take control
At times, taking control as an introvert will not feel comfortable or natural but organising gatherings and social events that you feel you can take part in, is a great way to push yourself with the knowledge that you can manage it!
5. Release that fear or guilt of missing out
There have been too many times that I’ve given myself a hard time for missing out on social events at uni but honestly beating yourself up about it or pushing yourself into situations that are too uncomfortable is worse than taking time for you. You need not feel guilty for being introverted!!! The world will tell you that you do but the world is wrong. It’s possible to thrive as an introvert and being kind to yourself will be a massive part of that.
So that’s me! Whoever you are and wherever you lie on that spectrum, enjoy being who you are and thrive in it. University isn’t everyone, but it can be for you no matter who you are and what you believe limits you.
By Millie Capon.