Friday, April 2, 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. Okay, so this is weird. I've never even met the man who wrote that article, so how could he know me so well?

    Excellent post. Thank you.

    Happy Easter! He is risen indeed!

  2. Thanks for the kind words...I wrote the article, so I definitely like it. Your friend Cheryl-the-extrovert might need a dose of Despondex.

  3. Hey Jon! How cool that you found my blog and commented! Thanks for stopping by! I'll have to check out that does of Despondex for my friend. :)