I’ve never been great at being social. I was a nervous child who rarely spoke out of turn. Add a paranoid schizophrenia diagnosis, and you have a recipe for anti-social behavior. I don’t even really comment on Facebook. I’m one of those incessant likers. I face the fear that something I say will not be appropriate or professional or socially acceptable. Every time I click “post” I have this anxiety that there will be something I said that will offend someone. I’m the same in real life. Sometimes I stutter or struggle to get the right words out, which makes me self-conscious. Balancing schizophrenia and Not Being Awkward is a challenge for me each day.
I read in my psychology textbook about a theory called Psychosocial Development (Sanderson & Huffman, 2017, p. 265). According to Erik Erikson, there are 8 stages of this development to correspond with different age groups across a life span (Sanderson & Huffman, 2017, p. 265). My age group is associated with “intimacy versus isolation (early adulthood) (Sanderson & Huffman, 2017, p. 265). It is defined by “Young adults form lasting, meaningful [relation]ships that help them develop a sense of connectedness and intimacy with others. If not, they become psychologically isolated (Sanderson & Huffman, 2017, p. 265).” When I was doing my assignment this week, which was to identify with some stage of a developmental theory, I realized, “that’s me!” and not in a good way. I am psychologically isolated. It’s true that I go to work each day and I play tennis and I go to class and participate in group discussions, but outside of that, I am psychologically isolated. I spend a lot of time alone. I rarely go out on the weekends and I spent the weekdays locked in my room doing homework (I live with 3 other people).
I recently discovered how much value you can get out of your life each day when it is spent with others. A quote by John Green sums it up well:
“In the end, what you do isn’t going to be nearly as interesting or important as who you do it with.”
Though I have made a conscious effort to work on building more relationships with likeminded people, it is something I have to work at; it doesn’t come naturally to me. Despite this, I never realized that this introvertness I have could be perceived scientifically as a negative thing. I thought my shyness was part of me as much is my love for literature and writing (both very solitary hobbies). Reading this now, I am thankful for the corporate setting filled with wonderful people that I get to embrace every week. Every day I am building more lasting relationships, and this feels like a great accomplishment for someone like me who has spent so much of her life psychologically alone, or, isolated. This is part of my development as an individual, and I feel good about it every time I come out of my comfort zone.
What about you? Are you an introvert or does relationship building come natural to you? Or maybe both?
Allie Burke is a writer and mental health advocate. You can find her literary novel Paper Souls here.