It can be hard being introverted, especially in as social a setting as a modern high school. There are so many groups, so many friendships, so many relationships that begin, that grow, that change, even end. Popularity is often highly prized, and it usually seems to go to those who are the most confident, the most outgoing, the ones who find it easiest to jump in with an opinion, a joke or even just a thought or two. If you’re an introvert, however, all this can be extremely stressful, even terrifying. The good news is, there are ways to make it a bit easier. In a previous post we offered some advice for the quiet kids, but there’s always more to be said on this topic, so here we go:
It’s actually okay to be introverted
No, wait -- really. It is okay. To be an introvert is often to feel like an outcast, or just someone who doesn’t belong. But that’s just not the way it is. We’re all different. We all have our own way of interacting with people, our own social style. Yes it’s true that movies, television and every other type of media celebrates popularity, especially in high school. But popular people aren’t morally superior -- they’re just better-equipped to thrive in social situations. So don’t let your young introvert judge themselves too harshly. She/he is just fine.
If you’re an introvert, there will always be struggles
If you imagine certain social situations, for example a school dance or a group project, some people are going to thrive and have fun. But for introverts these scenarios can be extremely stressful. And since none of it is going to be cancelled for the sake of the socially awkward, it’s best to accept that a certain amount of life is just going to involve struggle. That doesn’t mean that introverts should be forced to change -- but it does mean that challenges inevitably lie in wait.
Take strength in your peers
One of the worst things about being an introvert is the sense of isolation. The truth is, though, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to have friends. Okay, it may not be realistic to aim for attaining the vast social network of the movies that deliver endless high-fives and how-ya-doins to the popular kids (as if that matches reality anyway). It is reasonable, however, to build a small, tightly-knit group of friends you can rely on completely. Standing on the sidelines of a school dance is a lot more bearable -- even fun -- if it’s done with a couple of pals to share the moment.
Another very important thing to remember is that other students don’t care. They may think of introverts as shy or withdrawn but that’s not really something that bothers them. Introverts are no threat. They don’t make others feel insecure. So don’t get to thinking that all these people are enemies, because they’re not. In the vast majority of cases they’re just living their lives.
It’s okay to join clubs and teams
High schools are full of extracurricular activities. These can include clubs focused on arts, science, academics and hobbies, as well as sports of every variety. Common interests can be a fantastic way of connecting with other people and creating a sense of safety, even confidence. Check out the offerings at your school (and your community) and sign up for a program or two that grab your interest. And if there isn’t a club that’s of interest, then start one!
Beware of risky behavior
It’s a sad downside of being an introvert: a desperation for social acceptance can lead some individuals toward poor decisions. Crime, substance abuse and other forms of risky behavior can seem tempting because they can gain attention and make even the most introverted individual seem cool. But it’s entirely pointless. It’s certainly no way to go through life, and the potentially serious dangers that await far outweigh any benefit of a brief and superficial popularity. There are far better ways to stand out. Start a band for instance. Self-publish a book of photography, artwork, poetry or prose. Become a tutor. Build an app. The possibilities are endless. Regardless of what path one takes, every introvert, like every type of human being, should be true to themselves and always treasure the person they are.