One psychology lesson at school, we took some kind of multiple choice test, that placed us as either extrovert or introvert.
Raising our hands, we had to say which category we fell in to. Everyone raised their hand when my teacher said extrovert. Everyone except me.
Categorising is something they do pretty well at schools, and it tends to have negative effects. This didn’t bother me though, it simply confirmed what I already knew. I had always been shy (not that all introverts are shy) and I had always been a little… different. And I still am.
At university, I really came out my shell. I learned how to be confident, I got to a point where I actively enjoyed doing presentations, I would speak up when others wouldn’t. I became confident in my abilities, and expressing them, too. But I never lost that introvert nature.
I struggle to fit in. Most places, really. I struggle to find people to talk to, I find it hard to get people to understand – especially when it comes to my lifestyle. I’m not the typical 20-something.
And yet, this lifestyle serves me well. I discovered the gym four years ago now, but I found my passion only 18 months ago. Real weightlifting, sculpting my own physique, getting stronger, succeeding in something I had a real love for. Finding a place where I fitted in.
For an introvert, it’s a challenge. We don’t like to be surrounded by loads of people, we like to do our own thing, we love our own company, or the company of a small group of others whom we get along with. And that’s not to say we don’t get along with other people, we just don’t fit in with them as a group.
But there are some places where fitting in feels a little easier. Where it feels like it is right. These have to be places where we are surrounded by like-minded people; by people who share our passions, who acknowledge what we do and understand why we do it, who know that it’s okay to be a little bit different, because they are too.
For me, this place is the gym. I am always true to myself and will always be myself, no matter where I am, but truthfully, the gym is the only place where I feel like that it’s acceptable to be this person. I’m with people who get it. People who get why I like to train five times a week and make sacrifices, people who understand that I don’t want to do things like go out on the piss or lie in bed all day doing nothing, when I could be doing something that challenges me and makes me a better person.
In a gym, I am surrounded by people who I feel comfortable to be around, even though most of them are strangers. I can put my headphones in and get lost in my own little world for an hour, because that’s what us introverts do best, anyway.
It’s not to say that I am unhappy about not fitting in. Nor am I saying that all introverts struggle to do so, either.
I’m currently reading The Litte Book of Hygge by Mark Wiking, and he touches on the subject of introverts. One point he makes in the book really stood out to me:
“It is known that introverts derive their energy from within, while extroverts derive theirs from external stimulation,” he writes. “Introverts are often seen as loners.”
It struck a chord with me, because it rang so true. I don’t need to bounce off other people to find motivation or energy, I get it all from within. So I guess that does make me a bit of a loner, in the sense that I don’t have to surround myself with other people to feel good about myself. To achieve something. To do what I love.
And I think that’s why the gym and I get on so well: it doesn’t require anything from me other than what’s inside me: the determination, motivation, passion and drive to keep going.
I’m not saying all introverts will benefit from the gym, but I believe that many of us have been able to find a home within it because of the above, and because it enables us to be ourselves in a world which doesn’t always seem to enable us to fit in.