Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Introversion, what it isn't

This article popped up in my reader a few weeks ago.  It bothered me.  At first, I couldn't figure out why.  After all, it was just one person describing her experience as an introvert.  But really, it wasn't her experience as an introvert.  It was her experience, and she happens to be an introvert.  Introversion is not a one-size-fits-all explanation for behavioral quirks.  As an introvert myself, I bristled at her words.  Here's why:

Introversion is not social anxiety.

Introversion is not shyness.

Introversion is not the inability to be a good friend.

I am a textbook introvert.  I look forward to and enjoy spending time with friends and family, but I need breaks.  Often.  I need time alone to recharge so I can be my best self.  Being an introvert does not mean that I have trouble making small talk, that I become anxious when I have to meet a new individual, or that I am reclusive my nature.  It means I get my energy from solitude, not from other people.

When I am visiting people for days on end, I know that occasionally I will need to go into another room, stop talking, and be alone.  I go a little crazy otherwise.  Not crazy because I am uncomfortable with people or because it feels like work to socialize, but crazy because I find it mentally and emotionally draining to be "on" all the time.  I need space to just be in my own head before I am ready to rejoin the crowd.  I know these things about myself.  Introversion is not debilitating; it is just another way of being. 

I do not mean to dismiss her post; I think Glennon's post was brave and needed voice in the conversation.  She is honest about challenges in her life in a way that few people are and through her platform, many people think: Hey!  Me too!  I thought I was the only one!  But in this instance, she used introversion as an excuse, which perpetuates the many negative stereotypes and misunderstandings people have about introverts.

On one point though, we both agree--the beauty of Quiet by Susan Cain.  It was one of the best books I read last year (or really, ever).  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

6 comments:

  1. i agree with you. I also consider myself an introvert and I can see why her post rubbed you the wrong way. I can relate to the feelings your describe
    -meghan

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    1. Thanks, Meghan. I know it's not a big problem in the grand scheme of life, but for some reason I couldn't stop thinking about it after I read it.

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  2. Ooo, yeah, I feel the same!

    I really like your reflection on being an introvert. Similarly, I'm an introvert because I recharge by being alone and prefer quiet and calm to rambunctious. At the same time, I'm very social and have many friends and love to create community and help others. While my preference is usually a quiet day at home if I'm out among friends I am at ease and have fun talking and cracking jokes. I always thought these things were at odds and wondered if I'm really an introvert but the way you describe it really resonates with me. I haven't read Quiet, will check the library for it!

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    1. Please let me know what you think of Quiet if you read it! I read it the week before my son was due and just could.not.stop. I kept turning to Neil and saying, "You have to hear this! This is EXACTLY HOW I FEEL ALL THE TIME!" Excuse the all caps, but that's just how much I loved this book.

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  3. Everyone knows I'm an extrovert: but as an extrovert, a lot of the time I'm "not allowed" to speak up about this stuff. If I say, "wait, that's social anxiety, not introversion!" meaning that it's something that can be treated and potentially helped, I'm yelled at for "expecting extroversion from everyone". Woo.

    I'm totally unsurprised that you're the one to set the record straight, m'dear! You may or may not be the example I hold up in my head! :)
    Miss you!

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    1. You are definitely allowed, at least in my book. I miss you, too and am glad to see you back in the blogging game!

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