Introverts Are People Too

Type “introvert meme” into a search engine and you’ll find a million and one results. This is good for those of us of the internal variety not only to realise we’re not in there alone but they provide some handy resources to circulate in an effort to help the extrovert world understand our weirdness.

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There’s a common misconception that introverts are anti-social. We’re not. It’s just that being social can be exhausting for an introvert. Some people (extroverts) are energised by being around lots of people and talking. Introverts get their energy from spending time in their own heads.

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Does this mean we don’t enjoy being with other people? Of course not. Admittedly, we’re not always good conversationalists. We don’t do small talk. And for those of us with the double whammy of introversion and shyness, maintaining a conversation, especially with someone we don’t know well, can be agony. On the plus side, we make great listeners.

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Introverts can do social. We can even like it. It’s just that we prefer meaningful conversation with one or two people we know well. In a large social gathering, you’re more likely to find us clearing the table or in the kitchen doing the dishes. We like a large gathering if we have the option of moving in and out of social interaction with a job to do.

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Unfortunately, introverts – along with those ubiquitous memes about us – can sometimes be our own worst enemies. A plethora of memes about how we’d rather stay home or how social occasions cause us anxiety can have unintended consequences. Often it means that other people hesitate to invite introverts out for a social date. Let’s face it, an introvert will never be the life of the party (although personally I kill it with the Under 5 crowd) and rarely tops an invitation list. People think we’d prefer not to go, that we’re happiest at home alone.

Okay, yes, we are.

Just not all the time.

Introverts are people too and people need people (cue Barbara Streisand…). We can do alone but we also do lonely.

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So, if you’re not an introvert yourself but you’re lucky enough to be friends with one, don’t forget your homebody friend may be getting too much of a good thing. Ask them out for dinner or a drink or to see a movie. They’ll welcome it. Just don’t bring ten people with you.

This has been a Public Service Announcement.

Actually, given it’s from an introvert, this has been a Privately Expressed Suggestion.

 

In Pursuit Of The Other

Pursuit of the Other

I’ve been pushing the boundaries lately. Mine. The ones that surround my comfort zone. It’s…uncomfortable.

Participating in activities that are not usually the realm of introverts and certainly not shy introverts, my main fear is attracting attention.

Whenever I say that to other people, I can just hear the comment in their head: “But you act on stage! How is that not attracting attention?”

Yes, well, I can’t really explain that. It occurs to me, though, that I know a lot of actors who are shy or introverted or both; who are not natural centre-of-attention types. (I know plenty that are, too, but they’re often just in it for the fame and glory, rather than the craft.)

What is it about us as human beings that we feel compelled to pursue ‘the other’?

Like the sad comedian or the speech-impaired public speaker, what makes us push ourselves beyond our natural inclinations and voluntarily engage in activities that frighten us? What makes us want to do things that belong to a personality type the complete opposite to our own?

Of course, I only see it from an introvert’s perspective. I wonder if outgoing, extroverted people do the same, but in reverse? Are meditation classes full of highly active and talkative people? Are solitary retreats attended by people-loving extroverts? Do they find them just as frightening?

That’s a lot of questions. I don’t have a lot of answers. Perhaps it’s a pursuit of growth, an urge to know if we can do more or be more than the narrow view we may hold of ourselves.

Or maybe I’m just a little bit nuts.

 

 

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Running Scared – From Myself

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I’m an introvert. I believe I’ve mentioned that before.  Lots of people I know think I’m an extrovert. Some of the reasons for that is explored in my previous post about being an introvert. (See The Girl Who Wore Hats – From Introvert to Extrovert) But it’s also because I have developed a habit of signing up for things that are not the natural domain of the introvert, often against my inner cravings to just shut myself in the house and watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer DVDs all day.

Recently, however, I think this habit may have gotten out of hand. I have found myself committed to several activities that have me positively running scared. It’s a given that so many minutes of the day find me repeating the phrase “WHAT WAS I THINKING???”

“So, don’t do it, then,” I hear you say. Well, yes, that could be an option if it were not for the fact that I am fastidious in following through on commitments. If I say I will do a thing, I will do it, come hell, high water or cold feet.

Admittedly, these activities are all things I want to do. In my head. The rest of my body is not so sure. They require a certain level of courage for an introvert to participate – courage I can, on occasion, summon or, when that fails, fake it until it happens. Just not when there are several events requiring that level of bravado at around the same time. There’s just not enough courage – fake, dutch or otherwise – to go around.

Sometimes the scariest person in my life is me.

Of course, the point about doing the things that scare you is that when you succeed, you feel FANTASTIC! That is the thought I hold on to. It will be great…. when it is over.

So I will squash down the fear, put on my various hats as they are required, and leap off that scary edge.

And maybe go and watch some Buffy.

 

 

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The Girl Who Wore Hats – From Introvert To Extrovert

The young girl stared at the book clutched in her hands on the desk in front of her. “Don’t pick me. Don’t pick me. Don’t pick me.” The litany went around and around in her head. “Don’t pick me. Don’t pick me. Don’t…”

She heard the teacher say her name. Hands shaking, a new litany began in her head. “Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.”

She stood, almost unsteadily, locking her knees stiff to stop them from shaking, staring down at the book. She risked a look and seeing the teacher staring at her, quickly looked away, embarrassed.

She began to read, her voice barely a whisper, conscious of the tremor but unable to prevent it. She reached the end of the assigned passage and sat down, relief and mortification intermingled. Even as the teacher thanked her and congratulated her on her expression, she continued to stare at the book on the desk before her, wishing she were somewhere else.

That was me, before my current incarnation. Those who know me personally but have only ever known the Current Me, would be surprised, perhaps even bewildered, to believe that public display was such torture to me once.

I am an introvert, with the added bonus of genetically inherited shyness. Ask anyone from my Earlier Life and this concept of Me will be confirmed. Ask anyone from my Latest Life and they will laugh and tell you, “She’s no introvert!”

People tend to think of introverts as shy and retiring, socially awkward, even anti-social. This is often not the case. My Fellow-Introverted-Friend recently shared an article listing the attributes of introverts (see Related Articles below). It is me to a T. Or an I, rather. (Thank you, Myers-Briggs.)

So, if I am a Tick All The Boxes Introvert, how is it that I am now mistaken for an extrovert?

Hats.

I wear hats. Imaginary ones. If I am invited to a party, I put on my Party Hat before I leave the house. If I need to stand up in front of an audience and make a speech, I wear my Speaker’s Hat. Teacher Hat, Actor Hat, Traveller Hat, Protester Hat… I’ve got an invisible wardrobe full of them, for all occasions.

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Party Hat

Wearing my hat, I can be whatever I need to be, do whatever I need to do, say whatever I need to say.

I actually have quite a collection of real hats too and sometimes they can serve the same purpose as my invisible ones, helping me believe I am someone else.

There are places I go hatless. Places where I feel safe, like home, or places where I know in my heart that to gain all I can from the experience, I need to be the Real Me. Going hatless in public places can be risky. As long as I am left to be the Real Me, in all my introverted glory, I can cope. However, throw me unexpectedly into another role – ask me to announce something without warning, for example – with no opportunity to find and put on the appropriate hat, and I am left tongue-tied and embarrassed.

So next time you’re at a party, take a look around. There may be introverts among you. Try looking for their Party Hats. No, not those ones. The invisible ones. (Did I just tell you to ignore the real party hats and look for the imaginary ones? Boy, we must be at soooome party.)

 

 

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