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Confessions of an introvert

Hiding_(2984409815)I’m not a snob, I’m an introvert.

Being an introvert doesn’t mean I’m always shy, never speak out, or don’t like people. Or that I won’t talk to you or be friendly. Or that I always want to be left alone.

I’ve gotten pretty good at introducing myself to people I don’t know over the years. But it depends on my mood. For me, social interaction is draining. I can go to a get-together, have fun meeting new people and talking to old friends, and truly enjoy myself. But when I get home, I’m probably going to need a nap.

How social I’m feeling at any given moment has a lot to do with how mentally and physically tired I am. It takes a lot of energy to introduce myself to someone in a room full of strangers, or to carry on witty conversation with a group of friends. Being “on” is exhausting, and if I have no reserves to draw from, I’ll probably end up in a corner just watching everyone else.

During events like conferences and vacations to visit family (especially my husband’s large family), I have to take little “time outs” where I go to my room and chill. Or go for a run alone. Without those moments, I’d never survive.

The extroverts I know are the opposite. They get their energy from being with others. They thrive on group interaction. The longer the party, the better.

When I lived in another State, I was friends with one of my neighbors. Whenever we made plans for lunch, she’d invariably have invited four more people by the time the date rolled around. So, here I’m expecting a quiet chance to get to know her better and it’s suddenly a party where I hardly get to talk to her at all.

Another thing I’ve noticed about myself—and this may have more to do with where I fall on other measures of personality type—is that the more emotional someone gets, the more withdrawn I become.

On the inside, I might be just as excited or upset, but the stronger her outward response, the more I shut down. Strong displays of emotion are energy sinks as much as social interactions are. Maybe more.

I probably appear cold or unfeeling, when really, I’m just hiding out in my protective shell. It’s not a conscious choice, it just is. So, if you’re prone to lots of drama, you’ll likely think I’m a beeyotch. I’m sure I have my bad moments, but generally, I’m just trying to survive the energy-sucking onslaught. 😉

Being an introvert doesn’t mean that you can’t thrive in the public eye. It just means sometimes you have to take a break from the crowds.

Are you an introvert or extrovert? How does it affect you?

Photo credit: By Michal Osmenda from Brussels, Belgium (Hiding  Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

0 Comments

  1. Reply

    Hi Gwen,
    What a great post! Those stereotypes are so common when it comes to people with a preference for introversion. Add to that, that introverted preferences often do not show any facial expression when involved in conversation. It’s easy to see how inaccurate perceptions can be formed.

    I am the opposite. I’m about as high on the Extroversion scale as you can get. I can be a social butterfly at events like you were talking about, but I don’t necessarily like it. I also need less recovery time, like maybe fifteen minutes and a piece of chocolate. Then I’m good. It also all facial expressions all the time with me.

    Here’s some info that I often share with clients on the preferences if any has an interest. http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/

    Thanks again for another valuable post!

    • Reply

      Thanks, Stephanie. Yes, definitely less facial expression, which I think goes along with that emotional shut-withdrawal I was talking about. Thanks for sharing the Myers-Briggs link. I’m also a big fan of The Platinum Rule personality styles laid out by Tony Allessandra: http://www.alessandra.com/abouttony/aboutpr.asp. I used to teach his philosophy in my Human Relations class. 🙂

      • Reply

        Hi Gwen,
        I’ve used the Platinum Rule before in one of my classes as well. I love it. I used to teach MBTI, but you probably already guessed that. Anyway, great post!

    • Reply

      Yes, Jeroen, I want to read that one. I have it on hold at the library, but I’m way down the list. And I’m like you, I prefer to write alone. 😉

  2. Reply

    “Social interaction is draining. Being “on” is exhausting. Strong displays of emotion are energy sinks. “…survive the energy-sucking onslaught.”

    ” They get their energy from being with others.”

    Gwen,

    I appreciate your description of introvert/extrovert in terms of energy.
    Specifically, energy expended (introvert) energy received (extrovert).

    The most telling description “…energy-sucking onslaught.”

    Personally, I’m a recovering extrovert. ” Hi, my name is Farnsworth. I got tired of being the dancing bear on your stage.” 🙂

    The capacity to manage silence,
    the need for the quiet
    and the ability to enjoy solitude really picks up speed after the 40th birthday.

    Once we discover,”in here”, accept it and celebrate it, we notice even more that “out there” is just so much noise. ( You know what I mean. The very sound of her/his voice is like finger nails on a chalkboard.)

    If Norma and I let this get out of hand even further, we will sell the T.V. :-).

  3. Joe

    Reply

    Introvert and extrovert definitely have different energy give and take regarding strangers and groups. Very interesting blog!

  4. Steve Pease

    Reply

    I’m INTJ  “I” meaning Introvert – I think “I” fits the one-person business of fiction writing.  You have to look “I”n to write fiction.   Steve Pease Writer Black Forest, Colorado

    ________________________________

  5. Reply

    100% introvert…very similar experiences. I am most comfortable in one-on-one conversations. More than that and I often feel physically ill or get very fidgety. Frustrating. I, too, can overcome it and have lots of fun meeting new people or hanging out with close friends, but when I return home I often can’t sleep, rehashing and analyzing the entire experience. It used to make me crazy. I now realize that these things that make me seem different or weird to others makes me an excellent thinker/writer.

    • Reply

      Jolyse: I often rehash conversations and actions too, wishing I had said or done something different. The great thing about being a writer is that even if I don’t think of the perfect comeback for my character until hours later, I can just edit. Wouldn’t it be nice if real life were like that sometimes? 😉 I’m glad you’re starting to see the value in being an introvert. All of us have something to offer.

  6. Reply

    Thank you, Gwen, for making me feel like it’s ok to be an introvert 🙂 I’ve spent my entire life surviving “energy-sucking onslaughts” and always assumed it was me just being weird. Nice to know I’m normal. Well, sort of. Over the years, my extrovert of a wife has helped me become more comfortable in crowds and with introducing myself to people. It’s still hard, though. I think my “favorite” moments are those where you introduce yourself to someone at a party or gathering and then you just kind of stand there thinking, “Ok, now what do I say?” followed by awkward glances around the room. Ugh.

    • Reply

      Hi, Dave –
      I found out (over a lot of years and exhausting onslaughts) that it’s absolutely okay to shut down this inner “now what to say?” voice –
      and simply say nothing. Anyway most people you meet seem to be more interested in talking about themselves rather than listening to what you eventually have to say. And most of them don’t even notice you don’t say anything (“oh, he’s a nice guy – such a good and sensible listener …!”).

    • Reply

      Dave: You’re definitely not alone! Yes, I hate those awkward moments. Sometimes I’m brilliant at conversation with new people, especially if I know enough about them to ask good questions. Other times, not so much. My husband’s an introvert too, but I admire his ability to engage others in conversation at parties. Of course, it helps if they answer with more than one syllable. It’s a two-way street. 😉

  7. Reply

    Hi, Gwen –
    to quote Meat Loaf: You took the words right out of my mouth.
    Couldn`t have described it better.
    And once again it’s comforting to learn that no one is never as unique as they always believed –
    and that no one is ever alone.
    Thank you.
    Rich

    • Reply

      You’re welcome, Rich! I had no idea so many of us thought we were the only ones who felt this way. The world does seem oriented to extroverts these days, doesn’t it? We’re all unique, but we also share many traits. None of us suffers alone.

      Good to know if others aren’t talking to us, they’re probably introverts too, right? 🙂

  8. Reply

    I notice you’re married to an introvert, Gwen. I’m married to the stereotypical extrovert. It can be wonderful, and it can be depressing. LOL

    • Reply

      Jolyse: I am. Opposites can balance each other out, and I know it works for some couples, but we’re compatible as our quiet selves. 😉 I’m sure there are benefits and challenges to both types of relationships.

  9. Reply

    Gwen, I honestly don’t know what I am anymore… I used to have tons of friends, geeky, nerdy, scientists and artists or the treasures who are both. I’ve been told I’m a city person living in the rural south… So very glad I have to internet to connect and peer in on the rest of the world LOL -what I’d give for lunch with a friend again!

    • Reply

      CristineGzr: It’s hard when you’re out of your element. I’m a suburban girl. A bit overwhelmed after too many days in the big city–though I think it would be fun to try living in one with good mass transit, like DC or SF, for a year or so–but not comfortable living in the middle of nowhere either.

      The Internet definitely helps shrink the world, but virtual lunch isn’t quite the same, is it? Hope you get a chance to hang out with friends soon!

  10. Reply

    Great post Gwen. Well written summary of our ‘condition’. I think I must be your twin, you describe yourself so much like I do. Even the withdrawal in the face of emotional onslaught. That’s me too. Sometimes my son comes home or makes a discovery and tells me something, and he wants me to squee and jump up and down, and my response is never “enough” for him; even though I’m quite excited on the inside it just doesn’t show. I also have a friend that tends to turn a quiet get together into a full on party by inviting everyone in town. sigh. Fortunately I have good introverted friends too, and an introverted husband that’s so tired of talking all day for business that he comes home and just wants to cuddle the cat and sit quietly. It’s funny how the internet gets us all out there talking to each other more often than we would in person. All of my local ‘live’ friends think I’m a recluse they see me so infrequently.

  11. Reply

    Thanks, macswriter! I know many people denigrate the Internet for making us antisocial recluses, but really for introverts, I think it’s been a boon. We were already like that, but now it means we can make friends all over the world while still hiding out in our houses.

    Not that I advocate hiding out. I love to travel, and even hang out with live humans on occasion. 😉

    I’ve met so many neat people–mostly in the writing world–on the Internet. And now when I attend conference, I run into people I “know” all over the place. Less stress, more fun. Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Alyce C

    Reply

    I’m 22 and am constantly being hounded to hang out with my friends/family. They have nicknamed me stick-in-the-mud because of it. Its never really bothered me- for a long time I would feel bad and make up excuses as to why i couldn’t attend functions etc but for the last few years I’ve simply said no sorry I don’t feel like it. Last week I discovered the word INTROVERT and I cannot believe how many traits I can tick! I’m now trying to find a way to introduce the word/concept to my friends and family without making a big deal about it. But its good to be able to understand myself a bit better. Although regardless of this wee revelation, I’ve always been completely comfortable with how I am- my confidence is subtle but I know its definitely there.

      • Alyce C

        Reply

        Thanks for that but i have a feeling they would just laugh- I want them to take it seriously because its important they understand… I’m getting a bit sick of the jokes. I’ll figure it out 🙂

  13. Reply

    I love this article. I never thought of myself as an introvert, because I love being around people most of the time. Did you catch that last part? 🙂 Yes, when I get home, I love to sit and decompress. Your article makes perfect sense. Thank you so much!

    • Reply

      Stacey: Thanks, Stacey. I’m sure all of us are at varying degrees on the spectrum. Plus, I think it depends a lot on the situation. Thanks for commenting!

  14. Reply

    Nice blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?

    A theme like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog shine.

    Please let me know where you got your design. Many thanks

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