What is an introvert? Per the dictionary – shy, reticent person. Eh. A definition of introversion – the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life. Again, eh. I don’t find either of these definitions to be really accurate. It’s like they can’t really figure out how to describe or define a person who in many ways, prefers solitude some of the time, may or may not be shy, may be outgoing at times and other times quiet or reserved. I’m more of an ambivert which is the middle of the road version of introversion vs. extroversion. Is one side better than the other? No, I don’t think so. I prefer to look at it as how you were made, end of story. If you would rather spend Friday night home with a book and Chinese takeout, have at it. If your ideal Friday night is a big rave type party with 100’s of your friends, more power to you. It’s just a difference in how we are made. There is no right or wrong way to be. Why must we force our “way” on others? Can’t we just all get along? Just accept there are differences and go with it.
Why do we all have to be the same? Could you imagine a world of nothing but white, Christian Republicans (I’m registered Republican but would register with the Common Sense party if I could) who dress, eat, look and behave the same way? UGH. How boring!!!! There would be no ethnic food, no different religions, no different cultures, no nothing… I can disagree without feeling that the other person is ‘wrong’ and I’m ‘right’. Someone might believe that the man is the head of the household based on religion or culture where I believe that men and women should have equal footing. Does that make me right and them wrong? No. It means we have different ways of thinking and living. As long as the person(s) in that situation are happy and that’s how they believe, Namaste. It’s not hurting me even if I believe a woman shouldn’t be subservient. But seriously, I’m not asking a man if I can cut my hair.
It’s the same with the introverts vs. extroverts. Why is extroversion pushed? Can’t we just accept people as they are and look at their strengths rather than say oh, they don’t speak up in meetings all the time like Joe Blowhard so they must be stupid. Introverts normally don’t speak unless they have something useful to say and we are quietly observing while formulating solutions to problems, etc. Each camp has its weaknesses and strengths. Introverts actually make excellent employees because they are quietly dedicated to work. They are there to work not to sit around the water cooler or schmooze with the boss. Give us a task and it will get done most of the time, probably better than you expected.
Forcing people to be social at work is ridiculous. Open offices are a nightmare for the introvert who needs quiet to focus and concentrate, to survive. Constant noise overloads our sensitive systems. My husband paid over $300 for Bose noise canceling headphones for me because my area was constantly abuzz with noise and drama that I would come home in tears from being overstimulated. My system is naturally über sensitive. I can’t help it. I was making stupid mistakes at work because I couldn’t focus and then getting criticized for it. This was incredibly frustrating for me as I take my job seriously and want to do the best job I can. When someone is pacing behind your cube like a caged animal all the time, you notice it and feel uncomfortable. Another person was causing incessant drama for no reason other than they enjoyed it. Your ability to focus on your detail-oriented project is compromised by all the chaos. I started working at home more especially on sensitive projects so I didn’t mess them up. Luckily my boss is understanding of this and supports me.
The stereotype of introverts are that we are painfully shy and socially awkward, that we spend all our time like a hermit but that isn’t true either. Yes, some really struggle with social interaction and some are shy. Just like some extroverts are shy as well. The biggest difference is that introverts are drained with most social interaction outside of their close circle. We can do it for an hour or two but then we want to retreat for the quiet, the solitude to recharge. Extroverts are charged by social interaction, it feeds their energy and soul. Again, is one right and one wrong? Fuck no. It’s a difference that’s all. If I’m invited to a party that I feel important to go to, I will arrive for a while, make my excuses and leave. It’s really not personal at all.
As an introvert, I’ve felt like an outsider most of my life. That I was weird because I just wasn’t as into things as my friends. I hated group sleep overs but I went so I could be ‘normal’. I preferred to go over to one friend’s house and sleepover. I’d rather sit on a blanket in my backyard and read a book than go to the pool with a bunch of friends. Recently, I’ve been faced with a ‘crises’ of the empty nest as my youngest graduated college and is preparing to move out an hour away. My husband works swing shifts, my older two daughters work second shift so I was suddenly faced with having a lot more time alone for the first time in my life. Not to mention since I’ve been young, I’ve been caring for people all my life. Now my list of things I must do is small:
- Work and pay bills/taxes
- Feed and care for myself
- Feed and care for 2 pets
- Keep up house/yard- Groceries/Cook
Suddenly, I felt panicked because I had no idea what to do with all my time. My youngest and I hang out and do things together a lot. Now she will be an hour away living her own life. Not that we would never see each other, but it was a change. I felt as if I needed to fill that time. Should I join group stuff? Make a bunch of new friends? Start a side business? Volunteer? Save the world? Become famous? What?????? I didn’t want to be a weird loser who sits at home and reads, isolated.
Then I picked up the book The Secret Lives of Introverts by Jenn Granneman and read it. The more I got into the book, the more I realized that I was not accepting myself and was trying to force myself into a more extroverted existence. I realized my tendencies to want to be alone and do things alone wasn’t ‘weird’, it’s just how I am made. When I stepped back out of my panic cloud and looked at my life, I realized I was being silly and worrying about nothing. I really recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand introverts and how we operate.
Recently, I’ve had a few nights at home alone all night and here’s what I did: Picked up Taco Bell for dinner and read a new book all night, took a bubble bath (fought my cat who likes to attack me in the tub), had a glass of wine, listening to the Ella Fitzgerald channel on Pandora. OMG, not that. Not all that enjoyment and decadence. The next night was a big more the same, except I started a new book, had leftovers at the dining room table, and curled up on the couch with more wine. Last night I took the dog for a 3 mile walk and got some great pics of the country landscape as the sun prepared to set. My daughters messaged me off and on during the evening, a few of my friends did too. My husband texted me in between work crises. My loyal pets were at my feet at all times keeping me company as well. I didn’t even need to save the world. I could relax. Enjoy myself. Recharge. I’ve been struggling with thyroid issues lately that make me exhausted anyway, so resting probably is a very good thing. I don’t have to push myself every waking hour.
After forty-odd years of feeling like I have to be different, more extroverted even though I’m not shy or socially inept or fearful, is over. It’s time I accept myself as ‘normal’ as ‘normal’ can encompass many different qualities. And who cares about being normal anyway? We don’t have to cure introverts, just accept them as they are. You want us to accept you right?