Monday, May 20, 2013

And Then One Day I Realized, "I'm Not Crazy, I'm An Introvert."


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Being around people can be so exhausting. 

I went to a baseball game last week as a team building activity with some new coworkers. The first thing I did upon entering the stadium was grab a drink.  The idea of having to be conversant and interactive for the next few hours was extremely daunting.  I really just wanted to go sit at my desk and work with my headphones on.

I wondered what we'd talk about.  Would I have anything remotely in common with anyone?  Would I put my foot in my mouth or offend anyone?  Would there be any other black people there or would I be the only one?  Would I be the only woman?  I don't even like baseball. Would I feel weird and displaced the whole time?  Uggghh.

I got another drink. 

You see, I feel much more comfortable interacting with people intimately -- one on one.  I'm friendly but quiet. Probably have been perceived as standoffish from time to time.  It's not that I'm anti-social or don't like people, but I have to observe my environment to see what part I want to play in it.  I may choose to open up or I may choose to stay on the outskirts looking in. 

At the risk of putting myself in a box, I'm going to go ahead and say that I'm an introvert.  But who knows really?  I identify with many of the traits of introverts, so I use the term to provide a frame of reference -- not an all-encompassing definition of who I am.  We don't live and die by definitions around here, but if you're familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality test, I'm an INFP/INFJ

Psychiatrist Carl Jung introduced the concept of the introvert in his book "Psychological Types." Jung's definition of an introvert is “wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one's own mental life,” while the extrovert is “predominantly concerned with obtaining gratification from what is outside the self.”

If ever a girl craved a self-definition, this was it for me.  So many times I've doubted my sanity or thought something was wrong with me for being so socially awkward. I could be surrounded by talking heads and I'd be the quiet one wishing everyone would stop being so vocal and be more perceptive.  It explains so much.

I used to think that I was shy, but now I know that's not the case. I'm just reflective.  I instinctively take measures to preserve myself in social environments.  According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet, "Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating.  Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not."

I've been told that I appear confident and outgoing and many are shocked that I've ever been known as a shy person.  But I've just learned how to manage it so I can get out there and do what I need to do.  When I have time to prepare for it, I'm actually quite social.  But I need limits and buffers and escapes. 

I struggle with giving access to people when it's not on my terms.  I'd rather schedule a call than have someone call me unexpectedly.  Confrontations put me at a disadvantage because I'm not able to take my time and process what's happening.  I prefer writing to talking because it gives me the space and time to find the right words.  When I talk too much I always end up feeling like I'm depleting my life force.  That will either sound overdramatic to you or it will sound like the words of a woman after your own heart.

After a period of heavy socializing, I feel worn down. Spent.  Energy drained.  Then I have to go be quiet for a long time.  When I don't take this time to recharge, I get cranky, impatient, and eventually sad and even depressed.  I existed that way for years, constantly surrounded by people, constantly on the go -- totally neglecting my need for solitude.  The whole time wondering why I was so miserable. 

And then one day I realized that much of my anxiety came from not knowing how to take care of myself -- not only as an introvert, but as a soulful person who needed to find meaning in things to feel content.  When I wrote this post   --  "You will always be torn between your inner and outer world.   You will always be slightly off the grid.  Seeing things differently, experiencing things differently.  Stars in your eyes and fire in your bones."  -- that was the moment when I truly started feeling free to be more vocal about my needs and boundaries as a woman with such an active inner world.

Instead of fighting against my nature, I started thinking about how to nurture it.  How do I design my life around my tendencies and preferences?  That's what I love to talk about most around here, right?  That's what I try to get you all to think about.  How to be more intentional and authentic about how you live your life.

Update 4/14/2014:

My spidey sense tells me that many of  you are like me.  You have an active inner world and you're most happy when you take time to tend to it.  And when you don't, you feel out of sorts or lost or inexplicably sad.  I wrote a book of essays to inspire you to find confidence in being different.  Find out about WALLFLOWER here.  





If you enjoyed this post, please share with a friend.  And if you dig the soulful beauties that we've featured so far, then you're definitely in for a treat tomorrow.  I'll see you then!  xo






31 comments:

  1. As a fellow introvert, I love this post. Another good resource is The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron.

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  2. I too, identify as an introvert. :) Lovely article.

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  3. Like Marsha said as a fellow introvert I love this post!
    I've been confusing my introversion with shyness
    Thanks for helping me see the light
    I'm not crazy I'm an introvert!!

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  4. Love it. I identify in a different way. This point hit it on the dot: "When I talk too much I always end up feeling like I'm depleting my life force"

    I used to be extremely talkative and social when forced to be. The older I got, the more I realized that it's okay to just be quiet...to think without having a conversation or two going.

    Despite how talkative I once was, I was always socially awkward (still am) and accepted early on that people would either love me or hate me for it. But I never allowed it to be held against me. In social settings, I'm the one that wants to include every one, because I know how it feels to feel left out. I think it has very little to do with being outgoing.

    I respect your philosophy...great post!

    -Chymere A.

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  5. I identify with this, as well. But I realized that I"m not just an introvert, I'm a highly sensitive person (most of whom are introverts, but you can be an HSP and an extrovert as well) after reading "The Highly Sensitive Person" by Elaine Aron. Honestly, that book completely changed my life. I was friends with a lot of people who were introverts, but seemed to do much better socially than me. They had no problem with parties and clubbing, so long as it wasn't every night and they had a few close friends to hang out with while they were there. On the other hand, being in a dark, crowded room with people jostling me and the music vibrating in my chest just made me feel bombarded and cranky. Check out the link below for more info.
    http://www.hsperson.com/index.html

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  6. Toccara L BarrettMay 21, 2013 at 8:54 AM

    "After a period of heaving socializing, I feel worn down. Spent. Energy drained. Then I have to go be quiet for a long time. When I don't take this time to recharge, I get cranky, impatient, and eventually sad and even depressed. I existed that way for years, constantly surrounded by people, constantly on the go -- totally neglecting my need for solitude. The whole time wondering why I was so miserable."

    THIS.GAVE.ME.LIFE!!!! Can't even sum up the words... JUST.GAVE.ME.LIFE!

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  7. This particular entry really speaks to me. I am a true introvert and my Myer Briggs type is INFP/J and what you wrote I can relate to totally. I'm embracing the fact that I'm an introvert and I wish I would have done so when I was in my 20s. I realize that I've been very misunderstood.

    I prefer one to one interactions as opposed to groups. I listen and watch the unspoken and assess everything before I speak at times, after I spend a good chunk of time with people I prefer to be alone if possible. I live in my thoughts and in my head.

    Ohh --- you touched on a point that is soo me lol, funny that someone else prefers this. I prefer to schedule in a phone call. I hate talking on the phone. I could go a veryyyyy long time without phone calls and I honestly prefer to spend a little time the person and enjoy their company than to hear constant chatter in my ears.

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  8. This pretty much sums me up too. I feel like I'm having an anxiety attack when I see a room full of people let alone having to talk to a lot of people.

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  9. I loved this post because it really describes me perfectly. I like being social, but I'd much rather be by myself.

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  10. OMG! You are my twin!!!!!!!!!!! I always knew I wasn't shy, but unfortunately this is the label that many people put on introverts, but there is a difference. You have written my thoughts!!! Thanks for this piece!

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  11. I am an extrovert, I love crowds, concerts and stimulating spontaneous conversations. I come home energized after a party where I met random interesting people. But even I need some solo time to recharge, I just can't do it for long periods of time, otherwise I get cranky and depressed. As I have gotten older, I have begun to appreciate and relish solitude. God tells me "secrets" I was unable to hear before in all the "noise". As you said, we tend to lean one way or another, but we all need to find the balance between the internal and external. Great article!

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  12. I'm an introvert. I love reading and people watching at the mall. My introspective nature can sometimes be cofused with being a b...ch. I'm not. There's nothing wrong with taking things in before taking action. Thanks for this article. I couldn't have said it better myself!

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  13. I really appreciate this post - it came right on time for me. In my 28 years, I've just come to accept that I am truly an introvert. According to Myers-Briggs, I am an INFJ, also known as "The Counselor." Due to this, I have often been misinterpreted as an extrovert, as people find it easy to confide in me. What they fail to realize, is that I rarely, if ever, confide in them in return. I not only like, but I NEED my alone time, to recharge.

    It's so nice to have this in common with you and the others who have posted. Thank you!

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  14. My fellow introverts! It's so good to know i'm not alone.

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  15. I am also very introverted. I could of written this word for word.

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  16. This post definitely spoke to me! I am an INFJ and it's good to see that there are so many others (even though they say it's the most rare personality type). Thank you for this! I'm wondering how many INFJs have found a fulfilling career path. If so, what are you doing? I am struggling with finding a career path that is fulfilling. I fell into a career in HR (which is supposedly a good fit for INFJs), but I don't find it fulfilling. It could be the industries I've worked in (healthcare, hospitality), but I am not sure. I am feeling stuck.

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  17. I am so glad I came across this blog. I now know that I am not the only one. I always felt so misunderstood by coworkers and family and now I know why.

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  18. Thank You so much for writing this piece. I know I juts have to accept myself and not think I am crazy or the only one who feels this way. Just a huge relief knowing that there is someone today who has the same personality like me.

    Starting today, I will just accept myself and thank God I found your blog.

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  19. I completely identify with this post I am glad you shared this.

    Thank you

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  20. I'm an INFP/INFJ too! Yay! I knew there was a reason that I loved your blog!

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  21. This. I am also an introvert, INTJ to be exact. I LOVE thinking, reflecting, analyzing and QUIET. There is just too much noise in this world and not nearly enough quiet. Thank you for writing this post.

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  22. Wow! This entire post describes me! I am an introvert and that is okay! I have a lot to think about during my quiet time tonight. -Nia

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  23. Yes! And this is why we are kindred spirits!

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  24. I can definitely relate to what you've written! However, have you ever considered the idea that you may be a hypersensitive person? HSP is a personality trait that is often mistaken for introversion. Here is a link to the self-test http://www.hsperson.com/pages/test.htm . Understanding what it means to be a hypersensitive person really clarified a lot of mysteries for me.

    All the Best,
    Court

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  25. beautifully written... i too am an introvert. this post was expressed everything i've felt and thought but yet couldn't put into words. thank you.

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  26. Wow, I'm not alone...and..I'm not crazy too! I love people but my space is very important to me also. I feel like I wrote this post of yours. For a long time I have been misunderstood. Thank You for writing this.

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  27. I cryed when I read this post I thought for years something was wrong with me.I have been called crazy for wanting to be alone.I am a writer and am going to write a book.I have a story that makes since now I can't wait to share this with people that think I'm avoiding them.this is how I am as I cry I'm not alone Thank God we are different..

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  28. Agree with every word. I'm a fellow ISTP.

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  29. Did I accidently leave one of my journal entries on this blog??? I had to check to see if I wrote this. I see you have a whole lot of sisters over here. Late to the party but I had to post. Thanks for finding the words. Great read.

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  30. Thank you so much for this post, I literally just found out 4 minutes ago that I'm not crazy. I do love people but I love my time with me immensely more. *kisses*

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  31. I, too, love this post. It let's me know that I'm not crazy nor alone. It's giving me a lil nug to be more confident in my life and with dealing with people. Thank you so much! !!

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