“Hi. My name is Martha and...”
“...I’m an introvert.”
“Welcome, Martha, to the United Introverts Club.”
Okay, so there isn’t such a club, but perhaps there should be. Because there certainly are enough of us out there. But then, how many of us would attend, since we don’t like to be in crowds very often, and when we do, we want it happening at a time that works for us?
What is an introvert, you ask?
It is a person who relates to the inner world of ideas rather than to the outer world of things and people. Someone who likes – and needs – quiet time for concentration, and for introspection of their thoughts and feelings. Someone who often limits their contact with social situations because being with people for extended lengths of time, especially in large gatherings such as at a party, drains them of energy, and they then require time alone to ‘recharge’. Someone who doesn’t need to constantly be around other people, or interact with them to the extent that extroverts do. Someone whose energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction.
I am such a person. I draw my power from within. And don’t rely on social contact with others to fill the energy reserves when they’re depleted. I have a brother who is on the opposite end of the socializing spectrum. He is an extreme extrovert; his very being relies on social contact with others. I don’t think a day goes by that he doesn’t spend an ‘x’ amount of time on the phone (my nemesis), or an ‘x’ amount of time interacting with others. I don’t think a day goes by that he doesn’t need to go somewhere, doesn’t need to see someone. He visits. He travels. He zips around from place to place and person to person. His gregarious lifestyle would kill me. My reclusive one would probably kill him. Thankfully, he married an extrovert that he can live it up with. Thankfully, I married an introvert that I can live my life with – quietly.
Was I born an introvert? I believe I was since I’ve been this way since I was a young child. My mother has told me numerous times about how I was able – and perfectly happy – to keep busy on my own, and how I thoroughly enjoyed spending long stretches of time alone without it bothering me in the least. I was socially adept and had a lot of friends, but I just didn’t feel the need to be around them all the time. I needed to withdraw from the social aspects of life and reenergize through my thoughts, art, poetry, writing, photography, reading, and whatever else helped me regain my mental and emotional balance.
There isn’t a census to determine what percentage of individuals fall on the introverted side of the introvert-extrovert spectrum, but it is estimated that about 25 percent of all people are introverts. That’s a pretty big chunk, so it’s not a bad place to be, provided your introverted lifestyle doesn’t hinder your happiness. In other words, a bona fide introvert is not the same as someone suffering from a social anxiety. Individuals inflicted with the latter may prefer to be out and about enjoying themselves (they may be extroverts at heart), but actively avoid social situations due to the anxiety that they suffer from. Introverts purposely choose to limit their social interactions and don’t want to be out and about all the time; too much socializing is exhausting to them, and they would prefer to be alone every so often, or in the company of a select few people.
But despite the fact that a relatively large portion of the population is made up of introverts, it is still an extrovert’s world, and because of that, there are a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions about ‘my type’. Here are a few that I’ve discovered along my life’s path:
- Introverts Do Not Like People -
Baloney. They actually value the individuals in their lives tremendously. But they require very few of them. Introverts don’t need a lot of people in their lives just to have a large social circle; they desire genuinely good, solid people. People with substance. When you have gained the respect and affection of an introvert, you’re in. They will add you to their circle of friends, and you will have a loyal and dependable ally for life.
- Introverts Are Anti-Social And Unfriendly -
Hogwash. Introverts enjoy socializing and interacting, and they are just as friendly and loving as extroverts. They just don’t need to socialize all the time, nor do they feel the need to be ‘liked’ by everyone. Spending too much time with other people, particularly with large groups, drains their energy. If given a choice, they prefer a heartfelt connection with one ‘real’ person at a time, or getting together with a small and beloved group of people.
- Introverts Don’t Know How To Have Fun -
Horsefeathers. Introverts have just as much fun as extroverts, but in a quieter setting. They find joy in more earthly or solitary activities such as reading, writing, using computers, hiking, fishing, gardening, blogging, photography, etc. They prefer a home or nature-type environment instead of a busy and loud public place. This doesn’t mean they never venture into the latter. They just don’t do it as often.
- Introverts Have Nothing To Say -
Bollocks. Introverts have a lot to say. But they don’t speak just for the sake of speaking; they speak when they have something important to say, or when the conversation is interesting. They are not fans of small talk, and they will not participate in conversations that include bragging about status or material items. And they absolutely detest small-minded gossip. But engage them in a fun and stimulating conversation and they’ll ramble on for hours.
- Introverts Are Strange -
Ridiculous. Introverts often march to the beat of their own drum, stepping to the music that they hear within rather than the music that is playing around them. They do not follow crowds or take an interest in trends or care about what’s popular. They live their lives as free-spirited individuals, and barely, if ever, pay attention to what other people say or think about them. As such, they can be labeled as ‘weird’ because they don’t fit in with “the norm”, and often pay the price with disapproval, scorn and even harsh criticism. This is perhaps the hardest trait for an introvert to accept, and many of them may try to pretend otherwise for awhile. After all, it takes guts to be different and stand apart from the masses. Most people do their best to follow conventional wisdom and fit into a group mold, so they can be accepted and liked. But eventually, an introvert will grow to understand and appreciate this side of them, and celebrate their uniqueness.
Okay, maybe we are a bit strange. But we like it that way.
- Introverts Are Cold People -
Poppycock. Introverts think deeply, feel things more intensely, and can be extremely sensitive. They observe the world with their minds and explore their feelings often. They value their privacy, and don’t share personal information with just anyone. So if they come off as being a little reserved, well, they are. This doesn’t mean that they’re cold. Just quiet. And fiercely private.
In my younger years, being an introvert proved to be quite a challenge. And at times, emotionally trying. The world is dominated primarily by extroverts, and social norms favour them. But as I got older, I began to embrace and value this part of me, and the introspective moments that come with it. I am a quiet observer. I stroll rather than run through life. I think deeply. And feel things intensely. I am an introvert. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.