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English: Morning mist on Lake Mapourika, New Z...

English: Morning mist on Lake Mapourika, New Zealand. Français : Brume du matin sur le lac Mapourika, en Nouvelle-Zélande. Deutsch: Nebel bei Lake Mapourika in Neuseeland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, I’m in introvert. So what? Is that a big deal?To me it’s not a bid deal that I’m an introvert. It has felt like it’s a big deal to our society, the society that claims to value individuality and yet seeks to define normal for us all.

Different but Wrong

Just take a look at the subheading of a book about being an introvert, “How to Thrive in an Extrovert Society.” The implication is that it takes a handbook for an introvert to “thrive” in our society. (The main title, by the way, is “The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy. D.) So, as I said, to be in an introvert is not in itself remarkable. But in our society, it’s important, a Big Deal, to first know if you’re an introvert and then to know that you are not a freak – but you may be one of only a few to appreciate your innate attributes. A society where being an extrovert is considered the norm will not necessarily understand that introverts have attributes, much less appreciate them and seek them out as valuable.

That has been my experience, as I wrote in a previous post. But life is a trip, and it’s been interesting to go through the process of learning about myself from a standpoint of, “Hey, I have qualities yet to be appreciated?” and then learning how to let them out into the world. As a Psychology Today article by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D, points out, it’s very typical to internalize beliefs about introversion, but those beliefs are often damaging and not fact-based.

“Unfortunately, most of what you read about in the popular press portrays the negative qualities of introversion. Some people incorrectly compare introversion to social anxiety disorder (social phobia). They are not the same.”

Letting Me Out

One common belief about introverts is that we don’t like to socialize. Well, I do. But it took some self-discovery reflection to appreciate that just because I don’t want to walk into a crowd of strangers and be expected to be gregarious doesn’t mean I want to sit home alone all the time. There are ways in which I prefer to be in the world. There’s no getting around it, the self-discover step was key to being able to feel good about letting “me” out, the real me, and refraining from presenting what I believed others wanted to see. In other words, to express those positive attributes in the world in a comfortable and fun way I had to learn a few things and try on things to see how they fit. Here’s a list of some things I learned:

-Not every day and not every encounter is the same. I have to stay in touch with what’s going on inside me to see what I’m up for.

-Overall, I prefer small groups of people or one-on-one get-togethers over large groups of people milling around.

-I can do large groups, I can even speak in front of large groups, but I need prepping and comfortable clothes. I have to acknowledge that the experience is going to be a tiring one from which I need to factor in recuperation with some solitude later.

-I may not find it enjoyable to cliff dive or ride rollercoasters, but that’s OK. In the same Psychology Today article, the author addresses the different needs for excitement in introverts.

“Psychologists have long known that people vary in the need to be stimulated as well as the desire to take risks. If you’re low on the excitement seeking facet, you’ll probably never go bungee jumping or become a race car driver. You seek peace and quiet and are perfectly happy with keeping to your daily routines.”

I’m still developing my list of pleasure-seeking activities, but it includes lovely things I can immerse my senses in and savor with intensity. That’s this introvert’s way of feeling alive, and it’s delicious.

Self-Acceptance

For me, it hasn’t been nearly as important, if it’s important at all, to convince the world that some commonly held, negative beliefs about introverts aren’t true. It’s ecstatically important that I understand that I’m not boring, I’m not too difficult to be around and I’m not inept. These are just misconceptions and they are among the misconceptions many introverts have internalized. Author Brian Kim lists a few misconceptions on his website and suggests that introverts, and extroverts, take a look at personality through a different lens.

“The qualities and characteristics of introverts are often held in a negative light in today’s world, so it’s only natural that the majority of people seem to think that there’s something wrong with them. The reason why the majority of people think that there’s something wrong with introverts is because the majority of people aren’t very knowledgeable when it comes to introverts, in terms of why they are the way they are and why they do the things they do.”

It’s natural to care what people think, but for living as an introvert who is mostly content and not tortured, the challenge is self-acceptance first. That’s a big deal.