As people who know me will tell you, I am not, by any means, quiet. Honestly, when I know you, or have at least decided that you are not a threat, I am animated, talkative, and fun. However, I have this strange shy streak that appears at certain times. I never could put a word to what I was: not shy, because that implies a fear of people. Not quiet, because my friends can never seem to get me to shut up. At last I found it: I am a textbook introvert.
This means that, while I don't fear people, I simply feel no need to talk to the ones I don't know. I'll sit quietly in a crowd of unfamiliar people and be fine. If you want to meet me, approach me first and say hello. I'll gladly talk to you, but I will NOT be the first to engage in conversation. This introversion explains my crowd anxiety, my need for alone time, and my sometimes rough outer shell. I'm not mean. I'm not shy. I'm not quiet. I'm just an introvert.
I think the best way to explain it is this: it's like I was born with a fear of the word "no". My mom used to always tell me, "just ask. The worst they can say is no." The idea of being told no terrifies me. To me, "no" is like failure. It's why I don't talk to new people (what if I annoy them?), it's why I don't like trying new things (what if I'm bad at them?), and it's why I hate to lose or be rejected. Rejection is the ultimate "no". It's like saying, "no. You aren't good enough and we don't want you."
This fear of "no" permeates everything I do, ultimately leading to introversion. So seek me out. Show me that you like me. At that point, I'm happy to put myself out there. I just need to feel safe first.
So, to all you introverts out there, I get you. I know how you feel. Occasionally, try to get out of your comfort zone. Try something new, or go to a party where you know only one person and actually talk to someone new. Try to smile more. People will think you're friendly even if you are scared to death of them. Just relax. It'll all be okay.
And to the extroverts: be kind to us. We're doing our best.