Let’s clear one thing up: Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people. We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.
I think I’m a weird combination of deeply introverted and very daring. I can feel both those things working.
Study me as much as you like, you will never know me. For I differ a hundred ways from what you see me to be.
What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it like a secret vice!
-Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I wish, as well as everybody else, to be perfectly happy; but like everybody else, it must be in my own way.
I recently read this post discussing the challenge of finding the balance between accepting your introversion while still remaining friendly and approachable. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about for the last few months. Scratch that, probably for the last few years to be perfectly honest.
When I explain introversion to others (often awkwardly and with strange hand gestures) I like to approach it from the perspective of energy. In her book, The Introvert Advantage, Marti Olsen Laney describes introverts as rechargeable batteries while extroverts are like solar panels. I think it makes a lot of sense. Introverts start with a certain amount of energy at the start of each day. As we interact with people, our energy is drained. When we get the opportunity for alone time, that’s when we recharge. Extroverts on the other hand gain energy from being around people and will seek out socialization.
Introversion is not a negative behaviour that needs to be corrected. It is perfectly normal and comes with many gifts, even if they aren’t evident on the outside. Just think about it, what kind of apartment listing actively seeks out noisy tenants? None that I’ve seen. That’s one area where we can shine. Another misconception is that all introverts are shy, asocial, or have social anxiety. Introverts can definitely struggle with these things but extroverts do too. I love identifying as an introvert because it gives me a place to call home. A place I can grow from. Knowing that others share similar struggles makes me feel less alone.
But I’ve also caught myself over-simplifying things based on personality differences. I’ve thought to myself, “she did that because she’s extroverted” or “I don’t want to go because I’m an introvert”. Too often I’ve used my introversion as an excuse to not do things or to justify myself. But both introversion and extroversion are merely two different points along the same spectrum. No one is 100% introverted or extroverted. We’ve all got differing levels of both.
I’ve also come to the realization that introversion is merely one facet of personality. Yes, introversion affects how we view the world, but we also have our experiences, memories, upbringings, relationships, and passions that make us who we are too. The same goes for every other person in this world. And chances are, they’re dealing with a lot of their own problems and struggles. Theirs may not stem from existing in a society that devalues them for who they are. But they have their own burdens to bear.
So how do you find a balance? I know I need to take care of myself and I’ve been getting better at doing this. But I still feel as if I need to be more social. Is that my need for people kicking in? Or is it society’s view (ingrained in my mind) that being alone is a bad thing? Sometimes its difficult to tell. I really love spending time with people but it’s very easy to become burned out and miserable if I’m not careful.
Scheduling quiet time into my schedule has helped. Giving myself time to think about invitations before making a decision has helped. Explaining introversion to my close friends and family has helped. But I want to do more. I want to become more comfortable with myself while still pushing outside my comfort zone and growing as a person.
Do you have any suggestions or realizations of your own?
Sometimes quiet people really do have a lot to say … they’re just being careful about who they open up to.