In The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, a side character says about our main protagonist Charlie: “He’s a wallflower. You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”
Is there a better way to describe what it’s like to be a socially introverted person who notices things others don’t?
Didn’t think so.
Being shy or withdrawn has its cons, there’s no doubt about that. But there are two sides to every coin. All you have to do is flip it.
These are the 8 signs you’re a wallflower in social situations and see things others don’t.
1) You often find yourself on the outskirts of social groups
When you think about it, “wallflower” is a beautiful way to describe social awkwardness.
Instead of being the life of the party, you’re like a gentle flower adorning the walls, making the room feel more comfortable.
To put it in other words, you often stand a bit further away from others. A quiet presence humming in the background, that’s what you are. If there’s a circle, you’re the one whose shoulder just about counts as another group member, but the rest of you is hidden in the shadows.
Have you ever felt like when there’s a loud party going on, you feel your best when you go for a breath of fresh air on the balcony, the muted sounds of the party calming you down?
Yes? Welcome to the wallflower club!
We like to watch and listen from a safe distance away. But that has its perks, namely the fact that…
2) You’re an excellent observer
Remember that “you see things” part of the opening quote?
That’s your superpower.
As a wallflower, you often feel like you’re an observer looking from the outside in – as if there’s a glass between you and the social gathering, cutting you off. Alienating you.
I’m not going to lie, it can be a very disconnecting experience.
But hey, it gives you an amazing vantage point from which to observe people! As someone who prefers to listen rather than talk, you see things others don’t.
That guy who’s always in the spotlight? He has self-esteem issues.
That girl in the corner? Also a wallflower.
The friend who drinks a bit too much? Loves to overshare.
Wallflowers easily see through the masks others put on, sensing the depths beneath.
But the amazing thing about many wallflowers is that they don’t look at people through the lens of judgment or contempt – instead, they listen, empathize, and understand.
3) You’re a wonderful listener
Obviously, your listening abilities are off the charts. People open up to you as if they were flowers and you the sun, spilling all they need to get off their chest.
Which is… a lot.
As a wallflower, you’ve realized long ago that most people aren’t really invested in equal dialogue. They want to talk about themselves, see whether you understand where they’re coming from, and potentially get some advice.
Above all, people just want to be heard.
Especially at parties.
You’re the perfect person to confide in because you like to listen empathetically, ask follow-up questions, and really put yourself in the shoes of others.
Careful, though! If you’re too empathetic, it might get difficult for you to carry all that weight on your shoulders. To quote The Perks of Being a Wallflower once again: “Try to be a filter, not a sponge.”
4) New social situations set you on edge
You might be quite comfortable listening to people vent, but the same doesn’t apply to new social situations. You hate those.
Simple. It’s all the rules and expectations that come as part of the package. You’re never quite sure how to act, and it sends nervous jitters down your spine.
What’s appropriate to say at a business party and what isn’t? If you go to your friend’s wedding, how much should you speak to them without stealing their attention away from others? When someone joins you in an elevator, should you greet them or just stand there, pretending they don’t exist?
Social rules confuse you, which means you overthink them, sending your anxiety into overdrive mode.
And while we’re on the topic of anxiety…
5) Social anxiety is an old friend of yours
Many wallflowers are wallflowers for a reason. And that reason has a name: Social Anxiety, that overpowering shadow you can’t ever seem to shake.
I’ve suffered from social anxiety for as long as I can remember. It makes every interaction so stressful that you’d rather just stay home for the rest of your life, safe from danger (and by “danger”, I mean “people”).
Got a social event coming up? It’s time to rehearse exactly what you’ll say, prepare five random topics in case there’s an awkward silence (“Hey, uhm, what do you think about the fact that Pluto is no longer a planet?”), and lose all appetite.
And once you’re finally at the dreaded event, it’s not like things suddenly get much better – you often find yourself standing in the corner, too self-aware of your bodily movements.
When someone does strike up a conversation with you, it’s not uncommon to suddenly start overthinking how long you should keep eye contact for and completely blank out as a result.
But hey! There’s a perk to being a socially awkward wallflower. It’s usually the genuinely kind people who tend to “adopt” you as it were, helping you feel safe and get out of your shell.
This means you automatically know who wants an authentic connection with you and who doesn’t, helping you become a better judge of character.
6) You prefer to have a small circle of friends
Authentic connections are what you’re truly after. Wallflowers don’t need to have fifty acquaintances to keep themselves occupied.
On the contrary, they enjoy being in their own company for much of the time, so a couple of true friends are all they really need to be happy.
The same goes for social situations. You’d much rather hang out with three friends at a quiet parking lot than go clubbing with twenty other people.
When you socialize, you’re in it for the deep conversations and the warm feeling of safety.
In fact, it is precisely in situations like this that you begin to relax, stop overthinking, and just… enjoy being in the present moment with the people you love most in this world.
7) You can’t stand small talk
Small talk is where authentic connections don’t even get the chance to thrive. There is no bonding to speak of. And it’s infinitely tiring.
When I started studying at a university, all conversations at parties revolved around the same set of questions.
“What do you study? Are you enjoying it?”
“Where are you from?”
“Do you like the campus?”
After we ran out of the usual go-to topics, we usually scrambled to come up with more, running into dead-ends and suffering through minutes of awkward silence.
I wouldn’t wish that fate upon my worst enemy.
(Not that I have any. I’m too introverted to make ten friends, let alone enemies. But you get the point.)
If you’d rather be quiet than go through minutes or hours of small talk, it’s a sign you might be a wallflower.
8) You have a rich inner world
Let’s end this post on a positive note!
Wallflowers are quiet and non-assuming, so some people might think there’s not much else to them.
They couldn’t be more wrong. Once you begin peeling that onion, you realize just how many layers there are. Where does it even stop?! Are you just going to keep peeling forever?!
The external demeanor of wallflowers doesn’t accurately depict the fascinating depths of their minds, and once you open up to someone, they begin to realize just how rich in texture your inner world is.
Stephen Hawking said it best: “Quiet people have the loudest minds.”
Listen to the voice of yours.