Friday, December 12, 2014

On Being An Unlikely Introvert

I like to take every opportunity I can to let people know that I am an introvert. I don’t parade around with a megaphone announcing it to passersby or shout it from the tops of skyscrapers, but if the subject comes up in casual conversation, I usually mention it. It’s not like I'm bragging. I don’t have some romantic notion that introverts, with all of their solitude and introspection, have the keys to unlock the mysteries of the universe. There is nothing about my introversion that has made me any more of an intellectual, I assure you (in fact, it’s possible that the opposite is true).

I say that I am introvert because I feel like it is something that needs to be said. I say it because it seems like the kind of thing that people might not otherwise know about me. In reference to the classical introverted “type”, I’m not exactly what one would picture. I’m chatty (oh-so-chatty), gregarious, bubbly with a big, loud laugh that some might call a cackle. At parties, I don’t cling to walls like a magnet or break out into hives. I make jokes. I initiate conversations. I wear magenta. When there is a circumstance that requires dancing, I dance. In fact, at weddings, friends request “The Christy”, a dance I promptly perform which looks like some modified version of a traditional Russian folk dance.

But still, folk dance and all, I am an introvert. And by the way, I’m not some semi or seasonal one. I’m the real deal. Picture, if you will, a line with Introversion on the left side and Extroversion on the right. I am not some meandering dot in the middle of that spectrum. I do not wander back and forth as though it were a sliding scale. I sit, unmoving, on the left. I am the left. The far, far left. I have never met a person from whom I did not want some space.

I'm not doing "The Christy" here, but still, note that I am dancing.
Albeit strangely. But dancing, nonetheless. (Via)

While most people seem to understand that introverts are simply those who gain energy from solitude, there still seems to be a prevailing stereotype that introverts are mostly quiet, withdrawn, Boo Radley-types. We imagine meek, bookish creatures with pocket protectors and nervous dispositions.

But of course, the truth is that introverts are far more intricate than that. They range from the timid to the bombastic, from the friendless to the friendly, from the book-loving to the secretly book-loving (they all love books, by the way. That part is true). There have been several think pieces written in the last few years on this subject, so it surprises me sometimes that this lesson hasn’t completely sunk into our collective cultural conscious.

This prevailing characterization causes a lot of communication breakdown in my life. Because I don’t fit the classical introvert mold, I have had friends who are confused by my desire to be alone. Instead of seeing my withdrawal as a time to recharge, it is instead seen as rejection. They think that certainly they must have done something wrong or that I must not really like them when, in actuality, I just operate on a different social frequency.

It’s this continual misunderstanding that has led me to announce at the drop of a hat that I am introvert. I sort of see it as my responsibility to have that conversation (ME: I’m an introvert. NEW FRIEND: You? An introvert? Me oh my, I never would have dreamed!). It can be frustrating, especially when people try to convince me that I’m wrong, but this talk usually leads to a place of clarification and deeper understanding.

If I may speak on behalf of the introvert community for a moment, allow me to say this: our desire for introspection does not eclipse our desire to laugh or go to themed parties or wear glittery dresses. Being an introvert does not inhibit our capacity to love or to speak boldly about our beliefs or to scream “THIS IS MY JAAAAAAM!” whenever the song “Dancing Queen” comes on at a roller-skating rink. Our love of alone time is just one facet of our multifaceted personalities, and you know what, we’d really like for you to be okay with that.

Too often, human beings try to put each other into boxes. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we are ill intentioned, but rather that we are just attempting to be organized. We want to categorize and separate information in our brains, and this inclination sometimes leads us, however incidentally, to damaging generalizations. I’m certainly guilty of this, too. 

But people can’t be boxed. I mean, they can, but they’ll get real pissed about it and break out and write a blog post. So let’s not let that happen. Let’s approach each other with curiosity and a decisive amnesia for every other “type” of person we’ve ever known.

Also, hug an introvert today. We like that (some of us, anyway. I don’t mean to generalize).  

Do you identify as an introvert or extrovert or some combo of the two?


  1. Yaaassss thank you. I made the realization of my introvertedness this year. And I'm totally cool with it. And this rocks. Well said.

  2. I can totally relate to this! I am definitely an introvert myself, but I spent a couple of years intentionally being an extrovert. Friends who know me from that time can't believe I'm actually an introvert! These days, I find myself coming back to my introvertness (is that a word?) more and more, knowing that I can 'turn on' being extrovert if I need to. I love where I'm at now, but it's taken me all of my 26 years to get really comfortable with all of this intro-extrovert description stuff..

  3. I SO love this and am the same way!! Someone once told me that the difference is that extroverts gain their energy by being around others while introverts gain their energy being alone. I'm such an introvert, but am outgoing (definitely not mutually exclusive!)

  4. I adore this. I'm the stay-at-home-and-never-talk-to-anyone kind of introvert, but I also hate the assumption that introverts are shy, which isn't true. An entirely different concept. I saw a picture of my thoughts earlier, actually, going something like this:

    Other People: You never talk!
    Me: Sure I do. Just not to you.


    I actually had a similar conversation with my dad on the phone last night. I, too, am super bubbly, super chatty (TOO chatty, some might even say), and while working as a cashier I have no problem initiating conversations. I do enjoy hanging out with friends and family, and I will often make the choice to spend time in the common area as opposed to my bedroom...but I do need my alone time, too.

    I hated identifying as an introvert for the longest time, because I thought it meant that I couldn't be the perky, happy-go-lucky, basically-a-giant-5-year-old girl that I am. Life got a WHOLE lot easier once I started embracing both sides of me together. :)

  6. My image of an introvert was shattered years ago when I found out that a woman I worked with - a very outgoing woman - was an introvert. You're right, people do not all fit into a box or a certain mold. I think it's important to truly understand people - at their very core - because you realize how wrong generalizations can be. I am an extrovert - I love being around people, but I also toe the line of introversion at times. This has been a gradual change as I've gotten older {aka turned 30}. Sometimes I need a break. I have always enjoyed my alone time. But I have always enjoyed people. Maybe I'm becoming more a mix of both, though I still claim extrovert on all personality quizzes. Maybe giving personalities this kind of label is the problem, maybe we just are who we are and we just like what we like. I like books, by the way - openly, no secret about that here.

  7. I'm definitely an introvert. People confuse shy and introvert as being the same thing. It's not. People can be both, but they don't have to be. I am shy at times (mostly, I hate being the center of attention), but I'm also super chatty (I will strike up conversation with strangers next to me in a race, at the store, at a concert. etc.). But I need need need time to myself to recharge. It doesn't mean I don't want to hang out with my friends, but I try to help them understand that I will be more fun to be around if they allow me the occasional bout of solitude.

  8. Introverts unite! I would categorize myself as the same kind of introvert! This Ted Talk is sooo good if you haven't seen it already.


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