Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Introverts: Stand Up And Be Counted!

“Hi. My name is Martha and...”

[pause]

...cough...

...clear throat...

“...I’m an introvert.”

[applause]

“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?

Well...

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.

24 comments:

  1. Great post, Martha! I'm an introvert too and know all too well the pressures on us to be "normal" -- i.e. extroverted. It can be an exhausting battle sometimes.

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    1. Oh yes, the pressure to be 'normal'. As if we are inflicted with some disease and need to be cured!

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    2. hey friends being introverts are not too bad, because they are one of most genius person. they think too much and make world better by his/her thinking. Most of the scientist all around the world are preferentially introvert. i am also a introvert person, and i like it.

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    3. You are right! And I like being one, too :)

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  2. I love this post!!!!!!!!! How could I not? And I love the name "United Introverts Club", count me in! It is exhausting trying to fit in an extroverted world. It's completely against our nature. I recently read an article that stated our brains work differently. We are more sensitive to outside stimuli than our extroverted buddies. I totally relate to that. I also hate the constant association of introverts with social pariahs and misfits, such as murderers, etc. Last time I checked Bundy was the life of the party ;-)

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    1. Ha ha ha...yes, apparently Bundy was the life of the party! I don't bother trying to fit into an extroverted world anymore. I've learned to live around it. :)

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  3. Great post :) I am definitely an introvert. I wonder if a lot of bloggers are? We are deep feelers and blogging is our perfect, safe 'anonymous' way of expressing those thoughts and feelings. My daughter is an extrovert (she's 25) and finds it painful to spend a full 24 hours at home - she must see people and have 'plans' or she wilts. I on the other hand much prefer my own company, avoid the phone like the plague and will cross the street or hide if possible to avoid the dreaded scourge of 'small talk' with neighbors. Sound familiar? Lol!

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    1. Hahaha...yes, very familiar! Oh that dreaded small talk. I go out of my way to avoid it. I'd assume that there are quite a few bloggers that are introverted. It's a safe hobby, and we are in control of the time we're there and what we say. Your daughter sounds exactly like my brother. He also wilts if he doesn't have plans, which doesn't happen because he ALWAYS has plans. I would die with that lifestyle. It would just burn me out!

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  4. I am exactly the same! Although I'm quite chatty when the mood strikes I too love spending time by myself. I almost have a heart attack if there is a knock on the door and I hate speaking to anyone on the phone except my sister and husband. I detest all that social chit chat in shops and the awkwardness of trying to avoid stopping to speak to people when I see them in town. I just don't "need" to do these things that extroverts take for granted. I'd rather read a book than have a conversation with someone. I also hate having people in my home for longer than 5 minutes (plumbers, electricians etc). Brilliant post Martha!

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    1. That's it -- we just don't 'need' to do the things. I can be quite chatty to if I'm in a small group, or with people that are having an interesting conversation. But start talking about status, material items, etc, and I zone out!

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  5. I think wondering if many bloggers are introverts is a valid question. I suspect that many are. I've taken the Myers-Briggs test and know that I am exactly on the border of introversion and extroversion. Which I take to mean I'm never completely happy when I'm alone or in a crowd. (Ha ha) Fascinating post.

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    1. You sound like an ambivert, Francie. That is someone that enjoys being in a group, but also cherishes time alone. My younger daughter is like that. She says she's an introvert, but I don't think so. She can't spend longer periods of time without being with people. And every now and then she takes a little time to be alone. She's right smack in the middle!

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  6. Wow...looks like we've got enough introverts here now to start that club, Martha! :-)

    As I read your post, I kept nodding and saying, "Yes, yes...that's me!" Seriously, it me to a T. It's like you were inside my head! haha

    Great post! We are so much alike...we were surely sisters separated at birth.

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    1. Ha ha...yes, we certainly have enough here to start a club. And it would be quite an interesting club, too. I think there really should be one.

      Yes, we are very similar as I've told you before. I think that's why we can relate to one another so easily. We see the world in the same way.

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  7. I don't know what I am. As a kid I was very much an extrovert, which continued to my mid-twenties. Several bouts of depression have pushed me far into the introvert spectrum, that and being more discriminatory with my free time. I'm really not sure - I can do both pretty well, but not super deeply.

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    1. Perhaps you are an ambivert -- right smack in the middle. You enjoy both worlds, but only for so much time.

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  8. I am one also. There are many places that I can only stay for so long before I feel like I am drained like grocery stores, malls, and ect.

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    1. Yup, definitely an introvert. Noisy, busy places drain me, but I've also learned to tune out over the years. I can be in a loud place sometimes, and barely hear the noise!

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  9. Nice to meet you Ms.Introvert! I totally understand your position and dilemma in this world of extroverts. Not to say I am introverted but I know one very very well and am finally appreciating their situation. You are wonderful,giving people who see the world differently from the 'much heard from' extroverted population.
    I just recently realized that most of us are encouraged quite strongly to become extroverted, even if it is not who we are. This can and will present conflict eventually.Too bad it took an 'injury' for me to realize this.....one that required 'alone' time and no large groups.
    So just maybe Martha, there are more 'intros' than 'extros' out there!
    Great post.

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    1. Sounds like there's a very interesting story behind your comments, Jim. And perhaps a lot of personal growth came from it. You may be right; there may be more of us than we realize. Perhaps we have been silent about it until now as it's never been a favoured personality. It may just be our time to shine :)

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  10. For me, it was such a relief to read more about introverts on a forum last year – I’d known I was one, I’d known I needed alone time to recharge, but I’d had no idea that some of my other “quirks” are also related to being an introvert. Someone had posted something similar to your “How to care for introverts” (maybe even the same), and I just sat there thinking, “Oh, that’s why!” – particularly numbers 3, 6 and 9 on your list. Unexpected changes of plans just make me mad, and I still hate learning new games, because everyone always expects me to join in on the first round, when I’d prefer just to watch first. Though oddly, I don’t have this problem any more when learning a new dance.
    I’ve gotten a lot better at dealing with people through my job – I can even tolerate small talk now – but this is also one of the reasons why the busy spring season is so draining for me. It’s not just the long hours and constant running around, but also that I have to interact with people for 10 hours each day.

    Introverts have nothing to say, haha – just watch me babble on and on!

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    1. I've had jobs in the past where I've had to deal with people throughout the day and didn't mind it; I handled it well and got through the work day without a problem. It was a job that needed to be done, so I did it. But after work, primarily on weekends, I'd need quiet time to recharge my batteries. Then I'd be good to go. But without that quiet time, I'd really begin to feel burnt out.

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  11. Not sure how I missed this post, but glad I found it now. I have known I was an introvert for a long time, even though I pretended I wasn't for many years. It was really hard and stressful to be 'on' around people all the time. I would go home from work and be totally exhausted! Finally I am now at an age where I just don't put myself in those situations anymore. Great post Martha!

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    1. I know exactly what you mean. In my younger years, I tried to work around my introverted personality, and it exhausted me. I'm also at an age now when I can simply live my life the way it suits me. Getting older is sometimes a great thing!

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