Yesterday I had an epiphany that, like many of the epiphanies I've had as I've become healthier, seems really obvious when I say it out loud.
It's simply this: It's okay to want to be around people.
I grew up in a family of introverts who, on top of being introverts, didn't have any friends. My parents and sister still to this day have no real close friends. Neither do my grandparents. I was homeschooled, but that wasn't the reason I didn't have many friends. I just didn't trust anyone to like me or want to be close to me. There was this unspoken assumption, throughout my childhood and into adulthood, and emphasized by all the people around me, that it's unhealthy to want to be around people all the time, that it means you're running away from your problems, and that especially as a woman it means you're an "attention whore" – one of the worst things you can be. And yet I suffered from the worst loneliness from elementary school on. Loneliness is the single most difficult thing I've ever suffered from in my life. When the Abusive Asshole was making my life hell, the most difficult part was that I was alone all the time and no one cared about what happened to me – not my family, not my friends, not the AA for sure.
I love to help others. And I think I genuinely do like to help others, but I also think part of it is that helping others was the one sanctioned way I was able to get attention and affection from other people throughout my life to this point. I knew I wasn't supposed to need attention, or anything from others really, but if I gave them things, then I got their gratitude, and that was a form of attention. This is hard to say out loud. It makes me feel like a liar, because I genuinely love helping others and it makes me feel like that joy I feel is fake, selfish and wrong.
But here's the thing, the epiphany I had yesterday, which I accidentally blurted out to my closest friend, and I wasn't planning on saying it. Everyone always talks about what introverts need – space, distance, time to be alone. But people talk less about what extroverts need. We need attention, conversation, connection. I have never in my life felt as miserable as the times when no one talked to me. And what I also realized yesterday is...I don't need to feel guilty about that anymore. If I'm using people as an escape from dealing with my problems, that's unhealthy, but I'm not. I'm working hard to deal with my problems as they arise. I just love people and want them to love me back. That is the motivation for my life. And it's not wrong to want them to love me back. It doesn't make me selfish or an attention whore. It makes me normal, for an extrovert at least.
That's why Groupthink has been so huge for me, honestly. Most of my real life friends are either too wrapped up in their own lives to want to talk much, or too introverted to want to talk much. I have GreenHunk, and he is always willing to talk to me, and that's helped, but still, my job is to sit at a desk in a cubicle, in almost complete isolation, and write things about manufactured goods for 8 hours a day. It's lonely as fuck. You guys have been a life saver to me. I love reading about your days and celebrating your accomplishments and mourning your losses with you. You are connection. And that's something to be happy about.
I'm done feeling guilty for needing other people. Other people are what makes my life worth living.