Some thoughts on being an introvert

introvert problems

The other day I spotted one of those Huff Post links that sometimes pop up on my Facebook timeline. This one was called “22 Things only introverts understand”. Intrigued, I clicked through and found myself nodding along in agreement to many of the points on the list, particularly “we turn into a silent observer when more than three people join in our small group conversation” and “the increasing creep of anxiety when we want to leave a party but our ride wants to stay”.

In a way I wish I’d had this knowledge about myself when I was in my 20s or at any point along the journey really. Self knowledge may not be power, but it is understanding and accepting our own limitations as well as knowing why we have the reactions we do and the amount of energy needed to overcome some of the boundaries that we might otherwise never tackle.

It is also the realisation that it’s OK to enjoy your own company, to prefer staying home reading a good book and having a lovely sleep than going out partying until dawn. That everyone is different and being ‘the life and soul’ is not superior to being quiet, thoughtful or funny and engaging one on one.

I do also agree with the article’s intent to educate those on the other side of the coin about what makes us introverts tick because sometimes in life it has felt like I have been entirely misunderstood even by the people closest to me. Feeling like a fish out of water at a buzzing pub with a friend who was flitting from group to group like a social butterfly and clearly finding my less than enthusiastic presence a bit of a downer; being nicknamed ‘speedbump’ at college gatherings because of my inability to get a foothold in large group social gatherings and inevitably missing out on the nuggets of gossip flying over my (invisible) head; fleeing from a crowded venue on my own birthday, far from home and crying into my pillow because I just couldn’t understand my own impulses – what had made me do that – feel so alone in a crowd?; feeling unable to be by myself for fear of causing offence but at the same time closing down inside – the inversion of an extrovert being forced into solitary confinement.

It’s hard to explain the true nature of who I am and what I want and how I tend to behave to those who would happily party til dawn. I’m a social being just like you and I fear loneliness as much as the next person. I want to be busy and have plans and go places where I will meet new people and learn new things. I want to make friends and retain friends and evolve friendships. I am able to overcome my nature and face my fears in order to do some of those things but it will involve a lot of effort and energy on my part and I may cry off before the end of the event but not because I’m bored of you or your company, but simply because I feel like I’m running on empty.

Interestingly I read part of Caitlin Moran’s (funny but true) political ideology in the Times the other day (she’s about to bring out her new book, Moranifesto, which I’m hoping will expand further) in which she highlights the fact that political leaders – we’re talking those who get to the very top positions – necessarily have to be extroverts: people who are comfortable under the constant spotlight of public attention; people who positively crave the limelight and fulfill the public’s need for newsworthy behaviour; people who are comfortable with public speaking (obviously) and being around large groups of people most of the time.

She then goes on (with humour) to suggest that we have a frontman/woman – a figurehead if you will, the extrovert who’s antics can fill the newspaper columns whilst the real leader is sat in a back room somewhere carefully crunching the numbers and making the decisions without the need to kiss any babies or exude personality every time they pop down to the shop for a pint of milk.

Maybe her actual point is less about introverts and extroverts and more about ego getting in the way of what really matters but ultimately her personality stereotypes, whilst extreme and actually somewhat insulting to both parties, do fall into these two categories.

It’s time that society stops thinking that introversion makes a person inferior, anti-social, boring or incapable of excelling in our own way and to the benefit of others.

 

And then the fun began...

28 thoughts on “Some thoughts on being an introvert

  1. If you’re an introvert, you’ve got to read The Introvert Adavantage by Marti Olsen Laney. We got it for my father-in-law one year for his birthday and he said he’d never understood more about himself in his whole life before. I haven’t personally read that one, but she has another for the parents of introverts called Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child and it helped my understand my oldest SO much better, since she takes after her dad and grandpa! I think I lean introvert but am much closer to the middle of the spectrum.

    • True there is a bit of a spectrum. It’s a Myers Briggs thing isn’t it? I wrote a post about this subject before – where people fall into one or more of four different personality types as defined by the colours blue, green, yellow and red. It is not unusual to have a combination of any of those colours though although I definitely seem to fall into blue (the more cerebral, cautious, analytical personality type) and green (the earthy, mothering, empathetic kind of person). I do think that it is a ‘knowledge (and acceptance) is power’ kind of thing because you can waste a lot of time comparing yourself to other people who are just completely different colour combos to you and who you can never really compete with on a level playing field so why not relocate yourself to the right field? 🙂 One of my niece’s is an introvert and I want to really support her and make sure that she is supported to be herself no matter what.

  2. Wouldn’t the world be boring if we were all the same? It takes every type of person to keep everything ticking over. I like the point you make about the world leaders…I guess it is normally the loudest that get all the glory while the quieter types maybe get on with saving everyone else things behind the scenes, like the Alan Turin’s of this world? As we get older I think we start to accept ourselves a lot more, all our quirks, our strengths, our weaknesses and instead of trying to change them, we learnt to accept them and see them as the very essence of who we are. It’s a welcome relief when you reach that point and it sounds like you have. Celebrate being you xx

    • I guess we learn to accept a lot about ourselves as we get older and you’re right – it is a big relief. It’s also worth remembering not to compare yourself to people with different personality types or to undervalue your own abilities or contributions, very different though they may be. Xx

  3. Nail on the head, Sam! I am also an introvert, and it can get so old trying to explain to those around me why I make the choices I do. I won’t pick up the phone and call you because it feels too awkward, but I’ll gladly answer when you give me a ring. I’d rather sit and home and have a nice chat or watch some TV, read a book, etc than go out and deal with a ton of people. However, I *can* bring myself out of my shell, after much preparation, and with a long recovery tacked on to the end. I think a lot of misunderstandings happen because we don’t all understand they way eachother works. Wouldn’t it be lovely if the basics were taught consistently from a young age?

    #thetruthabout
    Brandyn recently posted…Mommy Meetup Mondays Week #62My Profile

    • I hadn’t thought about the phone thing but you’re completely right about that. I know people who spend hours of an evening chatting to friends on the phone and I very rarely do that. I much prefer a written chat on Messenger because it feels a bit easier to pull away and sometimes talking – having a heart to heart can be a bit exhausting. Another blogging friend very sweetly sent me her phone number recently and invited me to give her a call for a chat about what has been going on in my life lately but I was already so knackered thinking about everything I had to politely decline, but I did wonder whether she was taken aback and considered my unwillingness to speak as some kind of rudeness or a sign that I don’t want or need her friendship because that is not the case at all. So, so difficult to be true to yourself sometimes. I think you’re right about being taught to accept different personality types from a young age too – that’s just another part of human diversity, right? X

  4. I remember having a sitar ihhtbulb moment after reading a similar introvert article a while back. I didn’t think I was am introvert but I totally am, and I think I was just hiding it for years! I think self awareness is powerful and can stop you beating yourself up. I know that finally working out that I am an introvert made me feel better about the fact that I need space away from my kids and that doesn’t make me a bad mum xx
    Caroline (Becoming a SAHM) recently posted…Reconnecting as a couple at Y Spa Wyboston LakesMy Profile

    • The whole thing of how introverts experience parenthood differently is so true as well. I definitely felt like there was something wrong with me for finding too much time around my kids exhausting and for wanting to go back to work (if only part time) from an early stage. Such a good point. Xx

  5. I think since having my daughter and being off for so long I am more introverted than I was. I prefer time alone and quiet time sometimes more than the crowd. You are right though; it is nothing to be ashamed of and I reckon there are many quieter people, behind the scenes making the cogs turn and the world go around. Thanks for hosting xx
    Sarah Howe recently posted…Beets Blu Heart Rate Monitor ReviewMy Profile

    • I hadn’t really considered the idea of extroverts becoming a bit more introverted over the course of time, only the other way round but I guess it’s obvious really – children wipe you out and all that’s left sometimes is the need to lock yourself away in a darkened room! Xx

  6. Oh Sam. I am an introvert big time. I like being at a party but after a while I will feel exhausted. I really enjoy travelling home on the tube on my own because it is my opportunity to re-group. I feel too exhausted to chat. I often wish I were an extrovert, or at least more extrovert. I do know that as an introvert I have more quality friendships with a small number of really close friends. They are great. They will always be there when I need their support but will not be demanding of my attention the whole time. We can be away for years but then catch up within an hour. They know me and ask interesting questions to get to know me better. They take the time. I am not sure that an extrovert would really take the time to get to know me.

    Don’t beat yourself up though Sam. We are all different. Us introverts are great you know. xx
    Pen recently posted…On compliance and control in a relationship.My Profile

    • I think we are very alike Pen. I feel the same way about social gatherings and the aftermath and I feel like that about my close friends too. It’s funny how we do kind of wish we had more extrovert qualities as well – it does seem like extroverts get the chance to shine more but then again I think there are plenty of quieter, probably more introverted people in the public eye too – whether they be actors, writers or musicians. I guess I assume that being an extrovert means you are self-confident and I definitely wish I had more of that quality. I wonder if that’s true…

  7. You’ve got this absolutely right Sam. If you asked me I wouldn’t say I am an introvert, but essentially I am. I love to get invited to parties, hens, nights out, but I feel the urge to cry off and not go when it comes down to it. But in small groups I am fine. I am more than fine.
    Funnily enough at work I can put on an act and be the in control manager who deals with unknown circumstances in foreign countries with people I have never met before. But among friends of friends, I am lost.
    I like that idea of a behind the scenes person. That would do very well.
    #thetruthabout
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    • Oh yes – I always like to leave before it gets too late – I *love* my sleep and I’m definitely a day person not a night owl, but I think there is more to it than that – the introvert in me craves time away from the crowd too. I would say I’m fine in small groups too but get over say, five other people and I struggle.

  8. It’s funny how extroverts so often consider introverts to be inferior rather than just different – and how it so often takes an introvert to understand an introvert. I know exactly what you mean about the loneliness of being in a crowd.

    Sometimes my extrovert friends read my blog and marvel at how I can be so articulate in writing and yet a stammering mess in conversation, as if I am two different people. Which always amuses me, because they think nothing about the fact that they are confident in social situations but terrified of trying to structure a written report or presentation.

    And yet so many of the world’s greatest scientists and artists have been massive introverts. No one thinks of Albert Einstein as inferior, do they?

    • I think that iconic picture of Einstein with his tongue out makes you think of him as an extrovert but it makes sense that he was the opposite of that. I googled famous introverts and they are wide-ranging – very famous actresses to super successful computer geeks. No shame in that! On the converse I always think great writers must be introverts but I’m sure someone like Caitlin Moran isn’t. Maybe it depends whether you are a comedian as well…

  9. I really enjoyed reading this, especially as I have just been writing about my extrovert daughter (I will share that post next week!). I would most comfortably describe myself as an introvert as I have many of the traits, but I also enjoy being in large groups of people, which is an extrovert trait… Like Jenny, I think I would say I’m somewhere in the middle and it does depend on my mood and the people I’m with! On the flipside, my daughter is so outgoing, and can sometimes be quite overwhelming, and I worry so much that life/mean girls will knock that out of her – so there are downsides to an extrovert personality too…
    Sara | mumturnedmom recently posted…Project 366: Week 10: 066-072My Profile

    • I’m not sure if other people can stop you being an extrovert (or an introvert either for that matter). Surely it’s just our innate default setting? Being a bit of both would be appealing – a nice balance. Sometimes I am the one who yearns to be more of an extrovert because they just look like they’re having so much more fun! 🙂

  10. As a shy person (particularly when young – or perhaps more naive than shy…) I can definitely relate to being more introvert than extrovert. However, as a non-drinker, I do think that self-confidence goes a long way in those social situations you’d rather be driving away from (because there are some social situations that I look forward to). Thanks for hosting #truthabout
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    • Does self-confidence go hand in hand with extroversion? Interesting question. I’ve always wanted to be more of an extrovert and also be more self-confident. Maybe that’s just me. I definitely look forward to some parties too but it’s nice to know you’ve arrived and can leave under your own steam when you’re ready! X

    • I have always wanted to be more of an extrovert and more self-confident – do those two things go hand in hand? I definitely look forward to some parties as well but its nice to know that you’ve arrived under your own steam and can leave whenever suits you! X

  11. What a very insightful post Sam. I honestly think that Introverts are often so misunderstood and consequently misunderstand themselves. My eldest is naturally an introvert and sometimes I forget that. I think that i might have inadvertently caused her to question herself in younger years. I know I certainly couldn’t understand why she didn’t always want to be part of the gang at school or be bothered about parties. It takes all sorts to make the world go round and I often tired of extreme extroverts. They can be highly entertaining but equally exhausting at times! I think I tip slightly into the ‘extrovert’ category but not overly so. Great post. x
    Suzanne recently posted…Photo of the Week 11 / FriendshipMy Profile

    • I agree we do misunderstand ourselves and can spend a lot of our lives feeling pretty wretched because we seem to have such trouble fitting in to big social circles or friendship groups when actually, that’s not really what we want or need at all and we do tend to just fade into invisibility under those circumstances. I think this is why I’m so conflicted about the blogging community and meeting up as part of a large group of people – probably many of whom I’ve chatted easily with online in writing but knowing that I might just become over-whelmed by the crowd and begin to feel insignificant in person. I don’t want to be the person who no one wants to get stuck next to at the table in the restaurant because the gang down the other end seem to be having so much more fun.

  12. I love being an introvert – what a relief to be happy in my own company and not require constant input! But a lot of the happiness I now feel is because I’ve reached a stage in life where I accept myself (good points and limitations) and have kind of moulded, as much a possible, a life that fits with that. So no one wants me to go out raving with them now (thank god), most of my friends, like me, want to meet for a natter at the pub and then head home before it gets too late! Being in my late 30’s suits me SO much more than late teens and 20’s. I remember finding those years exhausting because I just didn’t want to party like everyone else. I used to count down the hours, even the minutes before I could leave a party. Of course there are times when I wish I could find social situations easier, but mostly I see being introvert as a plus both in myself and definitely in others. Extroverts are lovely in the way they draw you to them but introverts are lovely because getting to know one is like unwrapping an awesome gift. The world needs both.
    Maddy@writingbubble recently posted…do I want to make money from my blog?My Profile

    • I love your description of introversion Maddy – a natter down the pub pre-10.30pm sounds pretty good to me! I think I know what you mean about how being older is forgiving on us introverts – there is so much less of a weight of expectation to be out living it up. In fact having children is pertinent too – I do actually believe that part of my thought process on why I was OK with starting a family was because it would give me a great excuse to drop the pretence of pursuing an exciting social life. Needless to say as soon as you have children an exciting social life seems like the unrealisable dream all of a sudden – I have to keep reminding myself of who I am!

  13. I can relate to so much of this and I’m sorry I didn’t come and read it sooner. I never know how to explain the telephone thing and I always have an excuse in the back of my head to leave a party or whatever early.

    The not drinking so that I can drive myself home whenever I need to has only backfired a couple of times. Of course it’s right of people to assume I’ll be a designated driver but I’m then stuck from escaping to safety for longer!

    There’s another of those e-cards about being the person sitting in the corner talking to a dog at a party and that’s me too!
    Lisa from Lisa’s Life recently posted…House Of Fraser: Fashionable and Functional Handbag ReviewMy Profile

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