“You’re full of it!”
That’s how acquaintances usually respond when I tell them I’m an introvert.
But the truth is that although I may greatly enjoy all these things, they still take tremendous energy and effort. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since a dear friend shared Dr. Carmella’s curious infographic:
At first glance I resented it, because it makes introverts sound a little freakish (I don’t live in a hamster ball, nor must I be treated like a terrified wild animal). But I did like the explanation that “[introverts] naturally find most interaction exhausting.”
I can’t tell you how terrible I’ve felt over the years — or how many friendships I’ve given up — because people just don’t get this.
I’ve been introverted my whole life. Here I am, at my own birthday party, picking up trash in the background while my guests enjoy the clown show:
The casual observer might see this photo and think, “What a profoundly maladjusted child!” or maybe, “She must not like her friends,” or “She hates clowns.” The truth, however, is closer to “She’s a bit overstimulated and needs a minute to recharge.”
Over the years, people have labeled me and mocked me because of my inherent introversion — and some have even tried to “reform” me.
Even within my own family, I haven’t always felt understood. A few years ago we threw my mom a surprise birthday party, which involved lots of happy emotion and Mexican music and making small talk with cheerful-if-slightly-lit strangers.
It was a wonderful party — but I felt a bit spent the next day, so I slipped away from the hubbub of my sisters’ conversation for a few quiet minutes in the garage. “Why did she go away?” I heard my then-7-year-old nephew ask. “Ah, just ignore her,” said one of my sisters. “She’s weird.”
And the thing is that, from a purely sociological standpoint, I am weird: Most people love going to concerts, dining in loud restaurants, spending an evening at a party, or talking for hours on end with their friends.
I also enjoy these activities … but I sometimes find them overwhelming or even draining. In other words, I can function in these environments, but they’re not what I prefer.
“So,” you may be wondering, “how the hell am I supposed to interact with one of you introvert types?”
Well, I can’t claim to be a spokesperson for introverts (because that would be an oxymoron, and also unfair). But here’s what works for me:
Give me some space. Please understand that I like you — I really, really like you — but I don’t need to be in touch every day.
Give me some space, part 2. Please understand that I enjoy talking with you … but that it takes energy, so I prefer to keep visits short.
Don’t take my occasional silence personally. Please understand that I’m not ignoring you; I’m probably just recovering from a long week at work.
Don’t force me to interact. Please don’t try to “draw me out of my shell” by coercing me into a social event or activity. (And for the love of all that is holy, please don’t throw a party in my honor!)
Oh, and one more thing: I asked my husband what advice he would give someone who is just getting to know an introvert, and I think he summed it up beautifully.
No sudden moves.”
I guess maybe there is a shade of that terrified wild animal in me, after all. *Grin.*