“…because I rant not, neither rave of what I feel, can you be
so shallow as to dream that I feel nothing? ”
― R.D. Blackmore, Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor
I have included this as one of my passions, as part of the Passions Profile Challenge, because it is such an important aspect of me that I can’t ignore. As my family will tell you, I need my space and if I don’t get it… well, it’s not worth knowing me. That said, I can be as extroverted as the next… extrovert, but it’s an act. It’s not really me.
What is an introvert? My understanding is that an introvert draws their strength and energy from themselves whereas extroverts draw it from being with other people. An introvert needs time to themselves to think, to process, just to be; whereas an extrovert needs time with other people,perhaps to discuss and process with others.
There is a tendency to think that extroverts are the life and soul of a party, while the introverts are the boring, quiet ones in the corner. Some think that introverts are shy, and so are difficult to communicate with but I don’t accept that. Some introverts might be shy but by no means are we all.
I spent at least the first half (possibly more) of my life trying to be an extrovert. They seemed more exciting, more popular. My best friend at high school was a loud extrovert, and while we may have seemed like an odd match, I think we were a good balance for each other. That said, I could see that she was the life of the party, she had more boyfriends, and she was just more popular. I wanted to be like her… but I wasn’t, and I never was going to be.
From school I continued on in an unstated, but firmly believed idea that it was better to be an extrovert, so I did my best to be one. I had jobs that were normally done by extroverts. The career I was heading into (quite successfully too) was as a corporate trainer. It involved lots of public speaking and just “being out there”. I loved it, and as I said, I was good at it. But while I was able to put on a mask and be that person at work, I needed to withdraw from that and recharge myself on my own. Unlike some of my colleagues I did not get recharged by the job, and perhaps that meant I would end up more exhausted.
During that first half of my life and more, I lived with other people. First with my family and then from the age of 18 I shared flats with various people. In all of that time, I always had my own bedroom to retreat to, to get my own space. This was crucially important to me especially when I was trying to do an extrovert job in the workplace. Interestingly of the number of people I shared flats with, the one’s I struggled with were the ‘life and soul of the party’ extroverts. I found them difficult to understand, just as they found me difficult to understand. Sharing a house with people who just don’t get you is hard, even when you have no more commitment to them than sharing the rent.
Where I really came undone is when I got married. I had not lived with anyone in a relationship before marriage (because of my then religious beliefs) and then after 29 years of always having my own space, I suddenly had to share – everything. I’m sure many people love this, but I hated it. It didn’t help that we lived in a shoebox of an apartment and there was nowhere to get away from each other. I’ve been thinking about whether my (now ex) husband was an introvert or an extrovert, and what his needs were too. Actually I can see both in him and I suspect he was a half and half (an ambivert). I think a scale exists for this introversion/extraversion debate, and what I can see is my ex had elements of introversion but had stronger elements of extraversion than I did. So he didn’t need the space to himself, quite to the degree I did. What he needed was to be with me. Unfortunately what I needed was to be alone.
There were lots of problems with out marriage and it wasn’t helped by me being very unwell at the time, but I think my need for my own space was perhaps the biggest stumbling block for us. Since I left the marriage, I have lived on my own and I really can’t imagine going back to living with other people. Last year, after our Christchurch earthquakes, I had my parents living with me (until my Dad died suddenly). It was a hugely stressful time anyway, and it was a situation borne out of necessity but I found it very difficult. Maybe one day there will be someone I want to choose to live with, but certainly not at the moment. I like being alone. I like to be able to choose when, and if, I am with others.
So do I sound boring, withdrawn and completely unable to contribute to a conversation? Regardless of how I, or any other introvert sounds, I am none of these things. There are a lot of myths surrounding introverts, like that we all wish we were extroverts. Actually nowdays I don’t. I love that I can get my energy from myself, I love that being by myself doesn’t phase me, I love being able to be part of a conversation but I am able to walk away and be okay with that. I would hate to need other people to that extent.
I spent far too long trying to be something I wasn’t. Now I don’t want to be the life and soul of the party. I don’t need that. I’m sure that my denial of who I really was contributed to my mental illness. I was spending most of my life pretending to be someone I wasn’t, because I thought that it was the way to be liked, to be part of the crowd. I still have it in me to ‘pretend’ to be an extrovert when the need arises, but it’s not because I think I have to in order to be an acceptable human being.
I’m fine just as I am.
“This above all: To thine own self be true, And it must follow,
as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
- The Passions Profile Challenge (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Thoughts on “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain (allthstrangehrs.wordpress.com)
- Living as an Introvert in an Extrovert Church Culture: Confessions (paradeofinsanity.blogspot.com)
- The Power of Introverts (twogirlsandaroad.com)
- The Power of Introverts (catsandchocolate.wordpress.com)
- Extrovert or Introvert – What’s Your Tag? (living-above-the-line.com)
- Introverts Anonymous (truthletsandthoughtbits.wordpress.com)
- Between Introvert and Extrovert – Ambivert (stephencherry.wordpress.com)