Introverted, and Feeling It

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Is it just me, or are there a lot more introverts coming out of the woodwork lately?

I wonder if it’s because of the spate of humorous posts that have popped up on social media? Being an introvert these days almost feels like the popular thing to be. Kind of boggles my mind, to be honest, seeing “introvert” and “popular” in the same sentence, belonging together. Why only now? I could have used this when I was going through puberty.

 

I’ve always been an introvert. When I was a teenager, I took the Myers-Briggs personality type test. And while I don’t think it’s an exact science, and that it’s not supposed to define who you are, finding out I was what others would describe an INFP (introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving) was kind of freeing. And as much as I have accepted the way I am wired—introverted and all—and appreciate it most of the time, it’s not the easiest way to be.

When I was much younger, survival meant socializing. So socializing it was. It was mostly a painful process.

I was visible because I was very much into church and my youth group, but I hated with a passion having to introduce myself as a newcomer, having to greet everyone at the start of the gathering, or even having to go up front to speak. And those icebreaker games at youth gatherings? Don’t get me started!

But it was the norm, and to be different was even scarier.

Back then, homebodies were losers without friends. And being labeled a “bookworm” wasn’t exactly a compliment, and there were no prizes to win for choosing to spend time during the summer break completing a book list.

School was painful. Music class meant singing in public, and we had to all learn how to do public speaking. There were no allowances made for different temperaments. We were all expected to be extroverted. Thus, those who were natural extroverts shone in the spotlight, while those of us who spent more energy agonizing over a speech than the extroverts did preparing for it wilted through every presentation we were forced to do.

Looking back, I realize that because I was forced to measure up to a standard totally against my natural inclinations, I kept losing. And feeling inferior, as a result.

 

Now that I have my own family and home, it’s so much easier to just stay in my loft and do my own thing. Yet I haven’t gone the way of total seclusion. Yet.

I haven’t given up on community. I’ve just gotten wiser about it.

I now have smaller circles.

I enjoy coffee dates.

I prefer small groups.

I still don’t like bigger events like parties. Normally,  from the moment I agree to go up to the second before I show up at wherever, I struggle with the desire to cancel because I really don’t feel like doing small talk.

 

Let me make it clear, however, that I don’t think being an introvert is better than being an extrovert. I think maybe being who you are, whatever that is, is better than anything.

For me, that means admitting I am completely happy with my own company. I’ve given myself permission to say no when I want to. And not feel guilty or see myself as a loser because I’m home on a Friday night. Or because I think being with my family is the best kind of party there is.

I no longer try to be an extrovert. I suck at small talk, so maybe the extroverted person I just met could try to like the silence for a change?

And when it comes to my writing, I force myself to publish my thoughts. See I love to write, but sharing feels a lot like sending my own child into the world. I balk and I cringe, not because I worry about people disagreeing with me, but because it’s a part of me I’m choosing to make public.

 

Growing up means learning to accept yourself, finally giving yourself permission to be who you are. It takes years of juggling forced awkward encounters with truly treasured moments to finally find the courage to say, “The heck with pretending!”

And that’s when life truly begins.

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8 responses »

  1. As a Myers-Briggs type (ISTP or ISTJ) I can relate to a lot of this. The letters on all but the “I” are actually near the center, so I am mostly flexible except being a pedal to the metal introvert.

    When I read the book “The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World” it helped me to understand a few things more clearly about introversion. The biggest is not that I am totally shy, or unable to speak in public. The real thing comes down to what gives the most energy, or conversely what drains me of energy.

    Like you, I prefer not going to big affairs, especially if I expect I will have to “perform”. I can and will do that when needed, but when I get home I am exhausted. If I am at a small group, or am able to stay in a more intimate sized group while at a larger gathering, I generally am more energized. If I present in front of people, it can be fun or a terror depending on the group and what is being presented. Either way, afterward I am more drained, and will need some private time to recover.

    Here’s the book link:
    http://www.amazon.com/Introvert-Advantage-Thrive-Extrovert-World/dp/0761123695/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8

  2. I love this and completely relate to it. Finding out I was introverted was such a huge relief. You’re totally right, accepting who you are is the most important thing 🙂

  3. This is always a discussion that I find extremely interesting. After I took the MBTI type test, which typed me as an INTJ (or jokingly more commonly known as the ‘villain’ type: Hannibal Lecter and Voldemort; just to name a few!), I discovered that the characteristics were scarily accurate for me. Though, like you, I do believe that even this should be, to an extent, questioned and maybe improved.

    In my opinion, one of the main problems that introverts face in today’s society is that there is a great emphasis that the ‘ideal’ human being is an extroverted and outgoing individual. Hence, why some (not all though) introverts feel as though they have to force themselves to ‘fit in’ with the rest of the crowd, by placing themselves in uncomfortable situations.
    I also think that schools are a bad place, bad in a sense that there is always a pressure to conform to the accepted view of ‘normal’/ ‘ideal’, for introverted individuals.

    For example: common rooms, group work, dinner halls, all are designed round the extroverted child, and primarily caters to their needs.
    Taken from personal experience: I asked one of my teachers if I could work by myself, in return I got a lengthy lecture on how that would negatively impact others and my own learning.
    To me, it appears as if the thought of a pupil being introverted is something to be fearful of, or to be treated with suspicion and caution.

    Overall though, regardless of what others think, say and do, one should always be true to who they are. The opinions and judgements of others are irrelevant, for your own should count the most.

  4. “so maybe the extroverted person I just met could try to like the silence for a change?”

    I know. Right?! People dont realize just how much can take place in the silence; a lot of my friends are introvers too, so i’ll come over and hang out at their house, and we’ll all sit around the table for hours and not say hardly a word; it’s just the thing we do.

    The bad part is that i am a guy, and even I felt all of these pulls during my high school days to be extroverted and go to the parties and be the center of attention, class clown, etc. Guess i was the “creepy kid that never talked.” But i always hated those kind of activities. Weird how the things that seem ‘cool’ change. I’ve pretty much learned all the same lessons you mentioned–stop trying to be an extrovert, theres nothing wrong with who I am, small groups, real conversations, hang out one person at a time, avoid situations where i am expected to greet a thousand people in one night and exchange ‘hi, how are you?’ Til the cows come home. It just took me a while to figure it all out. Lol.

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