I am an introvert. I wondered whether this was true as recently as a couple months ago because I tend to be the one who greets everybody and wanders around — for the first 10 minutes or so of an event — meeting people and learning their names. I’m pretty sure that’s more because of my IFSJ nature than true social enjoyment. I also laugh easily. Interesting, even this behavior only materialized about 5 years ago. I’d started to wonder whether I really was an extrovert as some folks were suggesting.
I’m here today to assure you that I’m not. The behind the scenes view of my “upbeat” personality is very different. Solitude, withdrawing, and lots and lots of downtime. I’d rather spend a beautiful Saturday laying on the couch watching TV or holed up playing a single player computer game. “But it’s so beautiful outside!”, I often hear. Why yes, yes it is. And it’s comforting for me to know that. I’m happy when it’s sunny outside. But I typically prefer the sunniness around me. Being in it without a ball or a bike doesn’t usually excite me.
Downtime, my friend, downtime. That’s what it’s all about. I love being around people, especially small gatherings of friends and family. I get a little recharge out of that in fact, but only for so long. I can tolerate, even have fun, in a crowd. There is, however, always a price. And that price is paid in time alone. Away from the world, alone with my thoughts or complete lack thereof. This is where the personality batteries charge up. I literally require this to function normally. “Cranky” doesn’t come close to describing my Jekyll and Hyde personality change when I’m deprived of this time. The takeaway today is this: it’s who I am.
This next section is devoted mostly to you crazy extroverts.
Millions of folks are just like me. We’re not (always) antisocial, we really do like you, our intensity isn’t something to fear. We love, laugh, and feel. Most of us, I’ll venture, desire to be with you. But inexplicably to you, only sometimes. I screen calls from everyone but my wife, for whom I forsake my nature in the interest of maintaining our loving relationship. Close friends, family and everyone else is rolling the dice. If I’m drained emotionally, I’ll call you back in an hour or a day or a week when I’m ready to be a part of the world again.
Invite me places and I’ll say yes whenever I can. You’ll likely get a lot of no’s too, and it’s not because I think you’re not worth it. I may just be drained at that moment. Of course, it might also be that I’m simply terrified of the kind of place / thing / event you’re inviting me to! Label that however you need to. I like to think of it as me.
Maybe you’re wondering why I’m writing this today. Maybe I am too. But I’ll bet money it’s because of a well meant comment that someone made in a training class yesterday. The topic had drifted toward smartphones in our culture, and how they are separating us more and more from connecting socially. In this particular case, the individual had wandered into a coffee shop and was dismayed to see everyone heads down and playing with their phone. Oh no! Her singular insight was thought provoking at least.
“…this only makes introverts more introverted.”
I don’t believe that introverts have a monopoly on playing with our phones in public. I was a bit insulted, but I didn’t sense any animosity in her words or tone. She was rather describing what she observed much like complaining about the rain, a busy commute, or any number of things that aren’t “as they should be.”
Let me reveal the secret behind my post today: introversion isn’t a mental disorder. There’s nothing wrong with us. We don’t need to come out of our shell. Our shell is our home. We’re not hermits, mostly, but we definitely tend to live inside of our head fairly often. I learned today, in an article I’ll soon link to, that as recently as 2010 some psychological experts were debating whether to classify introversion as a mental disorder. So it’s not surprising that many of you think there’s just something wrong with us.
I get along in life with a beyond wonderful family and a handful of great friends, most of whom I met decades ago. This is satisfying to me. To my exceedingly few friends who are reading this that have only been my friend for 5-10 years, you can rest assured that there’s something awesome about you because you are living in rarefied territory. Thanks for getting along with my otherness.
I’m running short on time now, so let’s stop here. I hope you have a better idea of where people like me are coming from. We love you and are grateful that you’re in our lives. When we’re hiding it’s only temporary; we’ll be back!
Here’s the link to a couple of helpful articles about introversion. I think they’ll open your eyes a little more.
Thanks for dropping by.