How to Come Out of Your Shell for Extreme Hermits
You May Say I'm a Dreamer, but I'm Not the Only One
If you are like me—introverted, sensitive, lost in thought, an artist—it is likely you have been lovingly labeled a "hermit." Or perhaps you have been drawn to the Carl Jung personality types with "I" in them. (INFJ here!) Now that you have an understanding of your personality and an awareness of the amount of alone time you need to feel sane and recharged, you might be asking yourself, "How do I find other people like me?" It is not usually a question asked out of need for people like us, although there is no shame in feeling lonely at times. Even if you have mastered the art of being alone without being lonely, it is only natural to crave the company of others who hold similar interests and ways of thinking about the world. Here are some tried and true methods for finding acquaintances and friends, and getting more involved in your community.
Use Social Media With Intent
Social media, when used with intent, can be an effective tool for creating and maintaining friendships. Dating apps aside, it can be a great way to meet platonic friends. The app that I found the most success with was Meetup, but what kept me away from it for the longest time was the fact that I had to leave the comfort of my home to go out and meet strangers. Oh, the horror! However, many groups are held at public spaces such as coffee shops, libraries, or metaphysical shops. The people coming to the Meetups are often just like you – looking to create new experiences and connect with those of a similar vibration. Getting established within a group may take some time, and you may have some experiences that do not resonate with you, but it is well worth it once you finally find your niche.
I have met some people that I enjoy greatly and stay in touch with outside meetings, and it has been a way for me to network and find people who are looking for freelance writers. The key with it is to go slowly and not overwhelm yourself by joining too many groups at once. Pick one or two key interests to explore, since your feed on Meetup is organized by categories that you select – for instance, crafting, hiking, music, or spirituality. Don’t let your shyness stop you from clicking the RSVP button. Keep in mind that there will probably be other people there who are new to the group, just like you. It isn’t like school, where people are forced to attend against their will. People are at meetings because they want to be, and this creates a very accepting and safe space in which you can connect with them.
Manage Your Expectations and Get Curious
When you are starting to come out of your shell, it is important to keep an open mind toward what you experience. You may not meet your best friend at the first few Meetups you attend, but chances are you will have a better idea of what you would like to get from your time spent socializing. This will help you to choose events and outings that are a better fit for you. Or you may absolutely hit it off with the people at the first few meetings you go to – but be okay with whatever wants to unfold for you. Get curious about your preferences, what you are gaining from each experience.
Sometimes it can feel soothing just to sit quietly and listen to a lecture on a topic that you’re interested in, especially if you are accustomed to spending a lot of time alone. I personally have felt a big difference between listening to a lecture online and being part of a group, in-person. The energy is totally different. Even if you don’t do a lot of talking, you might have interactions that you wouldn’t online, or gain new ideas, or experience sensations that are different. Coming out of your shell isn’t just about making new friends, but about seeing how you are out in the world, what new passions can be discovered.
One of the key messages in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, that I absolutely love, is that following your heart can lead you to unlikely places. When you hold a desire, sometimes it can link you up to another desire that you never knew you had. In order for this to happen, you have to be willing to experience the occasional, momentary disappointment, and be curious about it, in order to get to the gold.
Love Things and Be Vocal About It
If you love something, say it. If you see someone with a cool tattoo, or on a park bench playing a ukulele, or reading a book you like, don’t be afraid to compliment them on their awesome taste. It might make their day! It might be the beginning of a beautiful acquaintance or a conversation that teaches you something new. It might go nowhere; if the person reading the book says “thanks” and goes back to reading, at least you know you tried. Sometimes it seems to make no difference, or maybe a compliment only affects a person in retrospect (in which case, they might really wish they had talked to you more).
Synchronicity happens, but it happens more often when you’re willing to put yourself out there. My friend was looking for a place to rent and wasn’t happy with the apartments she had been looking at. She happened to speak with her Airbnb host and found that the lady wanted to rent out a portion of her lake house and was willing to waive the first month’s rent. My friend had already put down the security deposit at the apartment and shared that information with her host. If she had been too shy to make conversation, or talk about her situation, right now she would be living in an apartment that she doesn’t particularly love or even like. The lake house (and first month free!) was not something she could have stumbled across on Zillow!
As introverts, we often curse small talk, but it is the small talk that can get a person comfortable enough to be deeper with us. It leads to the good stuff. Small talk can reveal a lot about someone’s personality, their likes and dislikes, their sense of humor. Sometimes it can lead you to a sweet lake house rental. The only way to know for certain is to start doing it.
Address Your Anxiety
If you experience social anxiety, how to do these things I have mentioned may not seem evident. I used to worry about a whole host of problems before I finally started to go out. I worried about the driving, the gas to get to a place, how the people would respond to me, whether they'd like me, if it would be awkward for me to be there. The underlying question was, "Is this going to be a waste of time?" I thought it would be horrible to make all that effort for nothing, but being stuck in my same old routine was intensifying my depression. It felt like relief when I decided to scrap plans and stay home, but it was keeping me away from things that could bring more light into my life, or at the very least, help me understand more about myself. It kept me stuck in patterns that were not serving me. It was difficult for me to see the truth of this underneath my insecurity and fear that nothing I did would be significant.
If you try something new and it doesn't work out, for whatever reason, you can always go back to the old way of doing things. Or you can rest and regroup and find a new approach. Once you take the first step out of your comfort zone, I can guarantee you from personal experience that life will handle the rest. You just have to trust it.