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Be true to yourself. Define yourself.
Pretty straightforward advice from common, simple phrases that suggest how to live a satisfying life. But they’re not so simple to follow. You have to first know yourself, and pretty well, and accept yourself, and appreciate yourself before you can be true to yourself and not give others the authority to tell you you’re OK.
So what does all that have to do with being an introvert? In my experience, plenty.
We tend to define ourselves by our stories. We’re members of a family who are all musicians. We’re a member of a community in which we always go to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning. We socialize at a certain bar or church. Our experiences throughout our lives make up our stories. But sometimes the stories are confusing because our experiences growing up are uninformed. A child who is active may have the experience that tells him he is bad or he is likable. A child who doesn’t contribute much to a classroom discussion may have the experience that her quietness is appreciated or wrong. These are uninformed messages.
In our society, if you are born an extrovert your story will likely involve fitting the ideal. You are naturally how a person is “supposed” to be. You personify the attributes our society values: active in the outer world and interacting in groups. You get praised for your gregariousness. It may be an outright positive message that you’re fun, the person others want to be around. But it’s also simply prevalent in popular culture that being outgoing is the way to be happy.
Among the traits that differentiate extroversion from introversion is one that usually resonates with both types, and that is how each is energized. An extrovert gets energy by being out and about and is drained from solitude. An introvert gets drained from social activities and refuels with solitary pursuits.
Many people take the Myers and Briggs Type Indicator, a well-known personality type instrument based on concepts of Carl Jung, to help them gain understanding about themselves. The Myers and Briggs Foundation gives an example of ways an extrovert would describe him or herself.
“I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.”
On the same website, the statements given as examples of how an introvert might describe him or herself are interesting.
“I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.”
Whether the statements are fully reflective of the personality type, they do offer a look at beliefs, at least, and of course, this type of person is possibly more difficult to get to know and does not necessarily fit comfortably in the various activities that are group oriented. They’re not dancing on tables at parties or drawing attention at a dinner party entertaining with a colorful story. So it’s understandable that if you are an introvert, your story is different from that of a typical extrovert. So different, in fact, that you may not feel like a person of value. It’s not an uncommon feeling for introverts, writes Dr. Marti Olsen Laney in her illuminating book, The Introvert Advantage.
“It’s no wonder people are defensive about introversion. We live in a culture that has a negative attitude about reflection and solitude. ‘Getting out there’ and ‘just doing it’ are the ideals.”
Like many introverts, I learned on my own, completely by happenstance, that not only am I an introvert, there is nothing wrong with me. I don’t need to try to be an extrovert in order to thrive in the world. That revelation did not come in one grand “Aha!” moment. After living a life of trying to do all the things “everyone” does and “enjoys” doing – going out and mingling with crowds of loud, happy people; participating in networking activities; going to parties – and not succeeding at it in a natural, organic way, it took time to unlearn beliefs that did me no good. But I had input from helpful reading and helpful people on my way to understanding and acceptance of who I am.
The Quiet Minority
If you’ve ever felt like you’re too quiet, people are expecting you to do things you can’t do without a lot of effort and no one understand your reluctance to go out in to the world, you are not the sole person to feel so. If upon reflection and sharing something that truly interests you, you are once again told to get over yourself, you are my people. It is reported that we, the introverted ones, make up from 25% to 40 % of the population (which seems very unspecific. In article for The Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch wrote, “How many people are introverts? I performed exhaustive research on this question, in the form of a quick Google search. The answer: About 25 percent. Or: Just under half. Or—my favorite—”a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population.” Maybe some days people feel introverted and some days they don’t??) We contribute much to society and we like people, extroverts included. We must like ourselves, as we are, and make choices that support our nature. Be true to yourself. Define yourself.
I started this post with the question in the title, Why Blog About Being an Introvert? Well, I’m an introvert and I like to reflect on almost anything. One day recently I had the desire to be out in the world, but I sort of cringed at the idea of participating in conversation that would turn out to be boring and getting overloaded with sounds. I had the thought; I should start a networking group for introverts. I chuckled. No one would come. Introverts don’t want to gather. We do, though, when we can be comfortable, and no one wants to be uncomfortable. We have a lot to say and we’re interested in sharing. Hence the blog. Let’s share.
I’m not a doctor, a psychiatrist, psychologist or doctor…in fact I’m not a professional expert of any sort. But I am an expert on my personal experience of “discovering” I’m an introvert and then learning how to go on from there. That sounds dramatic, but it was.
No matter if you’re an extrovert, an introvert or in the well-balanced middle, we’re all people who are going through life in our own way. Let’s share our experiences. Maybe in doing so we’ll help make the world a better place, or at least richer for you and me.