on being an introvert

If you had known me in middle school and high school – especially if you didn’t spend any time with me outside of school – you would’ve assumed I was incredibly shy. That wouldn’t really be an incorrect assumption. I was quiet, had a lot of social anxiety, and certainly didn’t speak up in class – ever.

Then I grew up a little. It was a gradual transition, but from college onward, I began to open up more. I began to let me supertalkative self come out, and now I can’t point to a single person who would label me shy or quiet. So you can imagine how they react when I say I’m an introvert.

“But you never stop talking,” they say. “You don’t seem shy!”

That’s just it: I’m not (necessarily) all that shy. Sure, sometimes I clam up when I’m surrounded by strangers, and I still don’t know how to begin a conversation with someone I don’t know. I still have a touch of the social anxiety mixed in with all of my other crazy. But I’m not shy. I’m introverted. There’s a difference.

I’m an introvert who loves people. I have a lot of friends and I get along with most people. At work, I’m known as one of the loudest in my department (my voice carries, what can I say?!) and even though cold-calling makes me feel nervous, it doesn’t make me actually come across nervous.

But at the end of the day? All I want to do is go home, sit on my couch, and not talk to anyone. I puzzled over this for awhile, wondering why most people get excited about after-work happy hours, dinner plans, having a friend over to watch a favorite TV show – and why it feels so much like work to me. Why would I have to mentally prepare myself and build myself up to meet a friend for dinner or a glass of wine? I figured that visiting with friends is something I do for fun, so it should be relaxing after a long day at work… right?

And then somebody said something that made a lot of sense: you know if you are an introvert or an extrovert based on the way you recharge. Do you relax and recharge by spending time with people… or alone? I didn’t hesitate before saying “Alone.” Getting together with friends after work feels like an extension of the work day because, for me, it is. I thrive on time to myself, even if it’s time doing nothing of substance. Give me a few hours to sit down, read some blogs, catch up on my DVR, or read a book, and I’m happy as a clam.

The introverted part of me would probably prefer every night to be full of “me time,” but that’s not realistic for my life – or the part of my personality that likes having a social life. I’m still working on finding the exact balance. It’s hard to explain to people who love social interaction that you need time alone to recharge; I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard “You’re okay with staying in on a Friday/Saturday/traditional drinking holiday/etc.? You need to get a life!” I’ve heard it for years, and it’s only in my old age that more people are starting to understand – but more because they’ve outgrown the party scene and prefer dinner parties at home.

We extroverted-introverts are a misunderstood bunch. I’m kind of like your favorite electronics: I can be a ton of fun, but only after I’ve spent time in “OFF” mode, recharging the batteries. (And, apparently, thinking up stupid-yet-kind-of-effective metaphors.)

What about you? Are you an introvert or an extrovert – or some sort of mix of the two?

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3 thoughts on “on being an introvert

  1. I feel like maybe I wrote this and didn’t realize it. Except for that whole having a job bit. I’m the same way, many people find it hard to believe I’m ever reserved while others (that group of strangers you mentioned) find it hard to believe I’m ever outgoing unless they think it means I don’t like them. it can be tough, ESP when you move somewhere you don’t know anyone & you’re still struggling to figure out that first talking to people thing.

    This was really great, I’m glad I followed a random twitter link. 🙂

  2. This is ME, better than I have ever been able to explain it. Well, I don’t have the social anxiety part of it, but I am highly observational, analytical, and I truly just enjoy watching people. My struggle has been making people understand that it is because I want to really get to know them personally, not because I am judging them or being standoffish. Best of luck to you in the battle!

  3. Pingback: more thoughts on going public « either eat this soup or jump out of this window

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