Friday, February 5, 2010

Don't Hate Me Because I'm an Introvert

Don't you just love it when your friends, who know your issues, take an opportunity to remind you of those issues?

I mean, it's not like I don't know my issues, right? I know I wear holey socks and that my husband hates it when I do that. (I actually think that when I wear holey socks it makes him feel like he can't provide socks without holes for our family. Trust me, he can. It's just that I hate to throw anything away, especially socks, because I know that once they're in my shoes nobody can see the holes.)

I know that I tend to ask my teenage daughters too many questions--what mom of teenagers doesn't? (And just for the record, too many questions would be exactly one. One question is too many for them.)

I know that I have an irrational dislike of people who make loud, repetative noises in public and that nervous tics make me, well, nervous.

I have issues. What can I say?

But one of my "issues," if you can even call it that, has become even bigger and more glaring the older I get and the longer I'm a stay-at-home mom. Because my issue is that I've become an introvert.

Oh sure, you could probably argue that a person is born that way, and maybe I was. Looking back now I realize that I spent lots of hours alone as a child, wandering through the cornfields with a book in my hand. I mean, when you grow up on a farm, there really aren't that many people to be social with. Maybe I just didn't get enough practice being social, I don't know. I guess the difference is that when you're an introvert you don't really mind that there's nobody around to bug you.

Anyway, back to my issues and to my friend who pointed one out to me. Recently Amy sent me a quick email that said, "This is perfect for you. You'll love it." And there was a link to an article titled, "Caring for Your Introvert" by Jonathan Rauch.

Well, I'm here to tell you that love it I did. It's one of those articles that you wish you were reading with someone else in the room so you could go, "Oh, listen to this! Isn't that just like me?" That article (go click on the title above to read the full text), written by a self-described introvert, pretty much sums up yours truly to a tee.

The author describes introverts as misunderstood people who don't really hate other people, they just don't like or need to be around them that much. He says every introvert's motto is "I'm O.K., you're O.K.--in small doses."

Bwahahah. Get it? If so, you, too, might be an introvert.

I'm kind of a slow learner, though, and not all that self-aware, because I really didn't come to a full realization of the level of my introversion until a few years ago, when I was driving home from a writer's conference with my friend, Cheryl. Cheryl-the-extrovert.

She was driving (thank goodness!) and chattering on and on about how great the weekend was and about all the great people she had met and all the great conversations she had had. Everything was GREAT! And there I sat in the passenger's seat, quietly listening to Cheryl recount her absolutely fabulously great weekend.

It's not that I didn't also have a great weekend--I had. I loved every minute of it, but I realized as we drove and she talked that my tank was empty. I had had enough of talking and listening and conversing and schmoozing. I was completely depleted and had nothing left. I desperately needed to get alone for a while to recharge my batteries.

As I made this observation to my friend, she just laughed and admitted that she was completely opposite from me in that way. After being with people all weekend she was charged up, ready to go. She could have taken many more days just like that weekend and have been perfectly happy.

So, of course I had to laugh when I read this in the article Amy sent to me: "After an hour or two of being socially 'on,' we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing."

I like that formula: two hours "off" for every hour "on."

Rauch is quick to add that introverts aren't trying to be rude or arrogant, although that's how we can come across sometimes; it's just that we're playing things out in our head instead of through our mouths.

Which brings me to my current conundrum. I'm going away this weekend. On a retreat. A women's retreat. Do you know what that does to an introvert like me? It makes me want to run the other way. It makes me want to hide. It makes me want to slather myself in lotion and slide right out of the picture for a while.

Because you know women. Women like to talk (so do some men I know, but that's another post for another day). Most women, I would venture to say, are extroverts. And introverts like me make extroverts like most women kind of nervous.

I think they think we're weird. Or worse, as Rauch points out, aloof or arrogant.

But we're not. We just need a little more time alone so that we can actually muster up enough energy to spend time with the rest of you. Talking. And listening. And socializing.

But here's the thing. I am excited about going on this retreat because of some of the great women I'm going to be able to spend time with. I'm going to suck it up, that need to be alone, and I am going to socialize. I'm going to talk. And I'm going to listen. And I'm going to try with everything that is in my to NOT come across as aloof.

Even though I'll be counting down the hours until I can be home again. Safe in my little haven. With people who understand my need to just be quiet. And alone. Blessedly alone.

Come Monday.



  1. Oh my, can so relate! Thanks for this Shelly. My pet peeve is that extroverts always feel like there's something wrong with introverts. I've realized recently that so much of my trouble relating to my mother growing up was because she was a RAVING extrovert to the nth degree, and I just wanted to be alone. Curiously, I've become more extroverted in my old age - I think it's my husband's influence. ;-)

  2. Shelly, Shelly, Shelly, you are so my friend! I too am an introvert, just like you described. Now I love some good woman times, especially with my best friends or my mom, but I do have to regroup too.

    One of my biggest conundrums is that I have to force myself to get out of my house during the week. I LOVE BEING AT HOME! I could stay in my home office and write and read all day long and too often that is exactly what I do.

    Next time you're in Arizona visiting your parents (do I have that right?), we'll have to get together for lunch or something! But just an hour, right? Well, maybe we can add on an extra 30 minutes since we're new friends!

    Have a great weekend!

    PS - I'm glad to know that someone else's daughter thinks one question is too many too! And I do like to ask me some questions!

  3. Shelly, I just read the article by Jonathan and I loved it so I had to leave another comment. Indeed I did have the urge to call someone up and say "listen to this" but when I called my friend, she was busy. So I'm posting another comment instead! That is so me. And the thing is, my best friend is such an extrovert and indeed I get her, but she doesn't get me. She thinks she does, because she is after all a certified Christian Counselor and all. But, in the words of Jonathan, she says she gets me and then she just goes right back to yipping and barking! What a hoot!

    You find such good articles. Keep passing them on girl!

  4. SOR, I think I've become much more introverted in my old age. In college I probably would have considered myself an extrovert, so something's really changed.

    Kay, Kay, Kay. I love your comments! We will definitely have to get together next time I'm in AZ--might be awhile, I'm afraid. Glad you liked the article! :)

  5. Thanks for this, Shelly. I have discovered that, for me, part of being an introvert is processing internally (introverted in the classic Myers-Briggs sense). So, I need mental processing time. How many times have I said to my children or a friend or my mother: "Just give me a moment of silence." Providentially, Hal gets that. He's an introvert too!

  6. Based on your other comments I must be an introvert although no one would believe me I'm sure.

    I SO need a break from "otherness" on a consistent basis.

    Recently, my 17 year old told me that the reason she didn't get involved in so much is because she is an introvert. I wonder if she read that article? But I've learned through her to give her the space she needs to function. I need that too. In fact, I would much rather do the dishes alone in quietness than to have a helper.

    And if wanting to be home all the time is introverted then I am the queen!

  7. I am totally an extrovert. But I think extroverts also need quiet time (especially moms of multiple children)! I get energized by people but also feel very drained after women's retreats. I am also not an extrovert who feels like every silence must be filled with talk. I think silence is golden :)

  8. Haha. I love this post. So much. Not because I am like that. But because I am the EXACT opposite. :) Teehee. I can talk and talk and talk and talk for hours and hours. I'm always the one to stay up latest at sleep overs, and love to stay late talking with friends at various activities. But at the same time, I feel like I do need alone time too, but if I could choose, I'd rather be with people.
    Love it!

  9. Well, well, well. I read every word of the article because I'm married to an introvert. Great insights in the article. I won't talk anymore since you're just getting back. Oh, but since you're reading this in the quiet it's okay. LOL. Hope you had a terrific weekend. I went to a One Day retreat yesterday. It was amazing.

  10. Shelly, thank you I so needed this post on "the introvert". I was not understanding myself and feeling guilty for going about retreat on my own. I spent most of my time interacting with people but the bottom line was I was alone. Alone felt comfy except when I looked around and every one else was with a close friend or in a gaggle. Then I would think there must be something wrong with me.
    Funny, people never notice that 99%of what I say is about my daughter or some other topic on the table not about myself or what I am thinking.
    Many thanks for all the info on blogging and for giving me so many leads to good sites to read.

  11. Nancy, first of all, hooray that you found me! Thanks so much for finding me and for commenting (you DID learn something!). :)

    Second, I know exactly what you mean about feeling alone in a crowd. I was right there with you. Feels strange, yet right somehow. I drove by myself (which was fine with me) and spent most of the ride home in silence--no radio, no music. Just silence. It was great!

  12. How did it go? I hope you had a chance to enjoy people but still get recharged by yourself. After four days at Blissdom, I am close to shutting down - even for someone who's half extrovert and half introvert like me has her limits!

  13. LOL. This cracks me up. I am not an introvert, but I am not exactly an extrovert either. I love people and then BAM. I'm done. I want to be ALONE. I am very happy when I'm alone. But sometimes being around people is just too much. I'm not sure what that makes me, but I can relate to this post!

  14. thanks for this! I just saw your comment on steadymom. Can't wait until my Pie goes down for a nap so I can read the entire article.