Sunday, August 19, 2012

Me. Introvert. Happy.

So, one of the HUGE revelations I had this year that really hit me upside the head this summer was something I should have realized about myself years ago:

I'm an introvert.


I've actually been taking those personality tests for years and I always come out overwhelmingly as an introvert and I thought those tests were all crap because I assumed introverts were shy wall flowers who hide behind their hair. Only when I researched what an introvert actually is did I get it.

I know, I know, I'm not really shy. I do pretty darn decent with a crowd and public speaking doesn't phase me. But here is the thing: I have spent my entire life FIGHTING my overwhelming urge to go hide under a rock every single day, not because I'm scared of people or I hate people (okay, sometimes people can get on my nerves, but who doesn't have those days?) but because being around people makes me TIRED. So tired. I like people, but I like them a lot more when I get them in smaller doses and I get some quiet time.

For years I have had these quirks that totally boggled me. I used to perform in plays and musicals and I loved the performing part. I enjoy memorizing things, getting into the mind of another person... I love the energy of bouncing off an actor and going through the creative process. But, you know at the end of a show when everyone likes to go out and do the "meet and greet" and hear all the praise? I loathed that part. I used to find ANYTHING I could so I wouldn't have to go through that part. On the rare occasion I was dragged into a meet and greet I was cranky the rest of the week. I never got that, but now I realize it is because I was tired from all the performing, the people the audience and at that moment it wasn't whoever I was playing who was getting attention, it was me and frankly, I don't like that much attention. I now realize I do that even now. I can play a role, like "Kimber the class instructor" or "Kimber the volunteer" or whatever I'm doing and it is all fine and wonderful but when things shift to attention being on just plain Kimber I get squirmy.

Another thing I looked back on is how I have to ration my social activities or I completely melt down and can't do anything for a long time. I couldn't figure out what my malfunction was but now I get it. Being around people exhausts me. Even when it is fun, it is tiring. When it is a negative situation is makes it worse. I've realized more and more that while I can do conflict when I need to (and I'm okay at getting through a situation when I must) eventually I get too tired to keep up the patience and I just say whatever I think will end the conflict and that never ends well. The truth is, when I know things could be awkward with a person or there could even be a potential conflict I just avoid the situation whenever I can. I'm a master avoider. I know that is horrible, but I just hate awkwardness. The idea of any social situation, good or bad, just makes me tired and I now see that I have protected myself for years from crashing and burning by limiting my social stuff whenever I can or at least rationing my energy so I can get through things better.

One last thing (though I have so many that I can point out) that I realized is that I'm in my own head a lot. I think you know that because I write it out. You see, I don't mind writing something and letting others read it. I find it easier to write how I feel and I have loved social networking sites because it is easy to make friends and visit without being around a person. But, when someone approaches me in real life about something I've written I am always really uncomfortable. In my head we're all so separate and I understand people will read what I've written, and I actually really appreciate it when people reply to me in writing to what I say, but when they come up to me and talk to me I get a little tongue tied and I can't think fast enough to reply gracefully so I stumble over it then I spend the next 15 hours thinking of what I could have said if I'd just thought it over. I say lots of great stuff in my head and when I am put together when I talk to you, odds are I've actually rehearsed it in my head a few hundred times.

I found a great article that speaks more about Introverts and some common misconceptions about us. Here is a link to the full article but here is a list I wanted to share:

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.

“You cannot escape us, and to change us would lead to your demise.” <-- I made that up. I'm a screenwriter.

It can be terribly destructive for an Introvert to deny themselves in order to get along in an Extrovert-Dominant World. Like other minorities, Introverts can end up hating themselves and others because of the differences. If you think you are an Introvert, I recommend you research the topic and seek out other Introverts to compare notes. The burden is not entirely on Introverts to try and become "normal." Extroverts need to recognize and respect us, and we also need to respect ourselves.

See that last part? On  Introverts trying to fix themselves? 


I have spent too long trying to figure out what is wrong with me and how to fix it instead of valuing my strengths as an individual. Yes, I go to a social place where everyone is ON (side eye to all family parties on my and Sam's side of the family) the entire time and my head explodes and I'm too stressed to function plus most of the time the conversation doesn't make a ton of sense to me and I have to power down. But, give me a small group of friends who are doing something mellow and hanging out and I'm in heaven. Let me go to bed early to boot and I'm the happiest girl ever.

 I have spent years making myself stressed, tired and surly by forcing myself to be that square peg when I'm really a heart shape. I've spent too much time beating myself up because the phone rang forty times today and I let the machine pick it up every single time because I didn't want to get caught in a long conversation when I could sew something or hang with the kids or read a book.

I've beaten myself up too much for not being able to do social marathons and being the crappy hostess who actually excuses herself from a group at 10pm on the nose and goes to bed no matter what or I'm that person who sets a social call by saying exactly when it will begin and when it will end and then holding firm to it ending. Thank goodness for my body's overwhelming need to go into self preservation mode and doing that in spite of guilty feelings! I NEED breaks! I need quiet time! Not only do I need it, but it is a good thing! It makes me a better person who is more able to be a happy mom, wife and Kimber.

Now, don't think this is an excuse for me to never leave my house again. It isn't. I plan to still do what I do now because somehow I've been able to find a way to ration my energy and limit my social time enough in spite of not understanding why I had to do that. Just know when you want to do something that requires a lot of attention on me in person (think parties thrown in my honor... I avoid these situations like the plague which is why they never happen anymore, hallelujah) or you want me for a marathon social event or even something that may be awkward for me and could cause conflict that I'm not going to be able to play sometimes. I'm going to have to march to my more introverted drum and now that I understand who I am and how to make that a strength, I'm very excited to do it.

So, tell me, are you an extrovert or an introvert?

1 comment:

  1. I am an extrovert, but suddenly I understand my husband and my sister a whole lot more! I used to think my husband was shy because he didn't like big groups or people he doesn't know, but then I saw how he cannot shut up when we are with a small group of friends and I was completely confused. Thanks for clearing it up!