3.21.2011

Introvert, Know Thyself

Those of you who have spent much time around this blog—or me, for that matter—know me for an introvert. Since extroverts make up about seventy to eighty percent of society, bringing their priorities into their majority rule, I enjoy any work that speaks to the inner questions we quiet ones carry around with us:
  • Why can't I keep up with the rest of the world?
  • Am I boring?
  • Am I a bad person for lacking the energy to be publicly involved in important causes?
  • What keeps me out of the inner circles—and why do I suspect that if I got in, I'd be forever exhausted?
  • Is my need for silence, books, and process time an unhealthy thing?
  • Why does anyone like loud music?
  • Am I the only one who couldn't shut their eyes and describe what everybody in the room is wearing?
  • Why won't the person sitting by me in this airplane stop talking?
  • Why do people bother with the telephone for non-urgent concerns when there's email?
  • etc.
For those reasons and many more, I enjoy the blog Shrinking Violet Promotions, which celebrated this gray and sleepy Monday with a post entitled Dispelling Ten Myths About Introverts. It made me want to cheer, especially this part:
8. We are not broken extroverts.
Really. We’re not. Stop trying to fix us already.
But I also strongly appreciated number 10, which pointed out that being lost in our own thoughts does not amount to being self-absorbed:
"We are self aware, which is an entirely different thing. The thing is, when we are alone, we’re not just thinking of ourselves and our feelings, we’re thinking of you and your feelings, the human condition, society, spiritual matters, in general, pondering deep thoughts."
Self-absorption happens to all humans, including me. But—amen. Usually, my silence means I'm overtired, writing a book in my head, and/or trying to solve the problems of the universe.

All of the ten myths and responses interested me. Some time ago, I gave up worrying about the fact that it takes me a long time to think through things, that I don't have a lot of physical or emotional energy, that I'll never really be popular or much sought after. Introversion and its attendant limitations and difficulties give me nearly every strength I have in areas of focus, depth, compassion, perseverance. It also makes me who I am as a writer. It's not a problem; it's simply a set of boundaries that I must live by or abide the consequences.

Those consequences are real and serious. I once ran them all the way up to severe depression. That isn't something I care to try again.

With the ten myths adequately dispelled, commenter Carin Bramsen corrected another big misunderstanding: introverts are not milquetoasts. No, we are not. Extroverts may fight like tigers, but introverts fight like a stone wall. We won't move to stop your free rambles, but we protect our sacred ground.

Of course, there are a few other myths to be handled, such as introverts lead a boring life (that's entirely a matter of personal preference—I haven't been bored outside the Department of Licensing in a number of years), or, simply, introverts are boring (if you've made it this far down my blog-post, I hope you'll disagree.) There's also the idea that introverts are uncommunicative (Blogs and email are God's gift to introverts—a way to communicate at leisure), and I'm sure there are more.

Are you an introvert? Do you know one well enough to understand them? What do you wish the outgoing three-quarters of the populace knew about the quiet sector?

6 comments:

  1. All we introverts really need is a really good book, a comfy chair, one or five cats on your lap, & a good husband, or in my case wife, to make it complete.

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  2. I so identified with this post. In fact, my (introvert) mother and I laughed our way through all ten myths.

    I'm so glad there are other people who prefer email to the telephone. I was beginning to think that there really *was* something wrong with me. :-)

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  3. Neither my husband and I ever use the phone for non-family, non-urgent concerns if we can get away with email, Kiernan! I'm always afraid I'll interrupt something important, maybe because I don't love being interrupted. :P

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  4. Most people see me as an extrovert, but I will say I have my moments (weekly, almost daily) of extreme introversy (I just coined a word!). I find that it even shocks me sometimes when I come home to a large group of people and get physically uncomfortable and have to leave.

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  5. I can understand that, Jonathan. Some introverts aren't shy and can socialize relatively easily, and most extroverts still need occasional moments of alone time. Thanks for your thoughts!

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