I had a different post planned for today. I actually had two or three ideas for posts. But the words weren’t really coming to me for any of them. And yesterday, I found a website that I think might be my new favorite thing; it’s called Introvert, Dear, and its content is targeted at introverts (duh) and highly sensitive people. Everything from career advice to self-care tips to humorous BuzzFeed-esque lists detailing the struggles of being an introvert. It’s my new happy place.
It made me realize that I haven’t shared much about my introversion on this blog. I have mentioned it briefly in a few posts but I’ve never gone into much depth about it. If you know me, though, you know that my tendency towards introversion is very strong. It’s a huge part of my personality. And I’ve always kind of wanted to be more candid about it on my blog, but I never really got around to doing it.
Now’s the time, I think. Here we go!
First, what is an introvert? Introverts are simply people who gain energy by being alone or in small groups with close friends and who spend energy by being social. They are different from extroverts, who gain energy by being around people and who spend it by being alone. Introverts can enjoy being social as much as any extrovert, but at the end of a day of being surrounded by people, they usually need to be alone in order to recharge. Whereas extroverts can usually process things in the moment and out loud, introverts often need more time to think, process, and respond. Introverts tend to dislike small talk that doesn’t lead anywhere deeper because they are careful and selective about how they spend their social energy, and small talk may feel like a waste of that energy and time. Introversion and extroversion is a spectrum; nobody is 100% introvert or extrovert, and it’s not unusual for extroverts to need alone time or for introverts to be highly social. Everybody expresses their preference differently.
Hey Erin, does that explain why you spend a lot of time alone and why you don’t say much? Sure does! My introversion expresses itself in many ways.
- I often prefer to spend my free time alone. After a work day, I usually retreat to my room to surf the web, read, or write. I’m currently in a season of travel for my job and being on the road with five or six other people isn’t exactly introvert-friendly, so during the past few weeks my alone time has become even more rare and therefore even more precious. If I’m feeling up to it, I’m okay with doing something quiet and low-key with others during my free time, like watching TV or a movie together or playing a game.
- Even if I’m in a group of friends, it’s not unusual for me not to say much. I generally won’t talk in group settings unless I have something to say, something meaningful to contribute. And talking in larger groups sometimes feels intimidating to me, because even though I might want to add to a conversation, it usually means the whole group goes quiet and gives me all their attention, and that kind of attention makes me uncomfortable sometimes. If I’m quiet in a group, chances are I’m just taking things in and processing things, or I don’t have much to add to the conversation. If I feel compelled to, I’ll chime in.
- I HATE being put on the spot in games. I’ve tried playing games like Taboo and Quelf that require fast thinking and fast performing in front of a group, and I hate that feeling of everyone’s eyes being on me. I feel pressured to perform well and I get really embarrassed if I don’t. Things like giving talks or performing a skit don’t bother me, because I’ve had time to prepare and rehearse. But activities that require on-the-fly thinking when all eyes are on me? Nooooo thanks.
- It’s not unusual for introverts to want to wait for people to reach out to them first, to make the first move, whether it comes to romantic relationships or just friendships. They like to be invited. It’s easy for them to feel like they’re imposing if they reach out first. I’m the same way. But I’ve been finding that that’s not the best way to operate. It’s worth stepping outside of your comfort zone if it means initiating a new friendship, or maintaining one. That’s one of my goals this year: being more proactive in building community, whether it’s in the friendships I have or in building an online community on my blog and social media. (yes, internet friendships are real and cool, but they need to be cultivated like any other friendship)
- I’m really freaking quiet. Like, I suck at filling silences in conversations, and in making conversation in the first place. It’s because I prefer not to speak unless I’m spoken to first. If you don’t ask, I probably won’t tell. So please don’t be afraid to talk to me. I’m happy to tell you about myself! I just need to be invited first. And I’m finding that, as much as I hate meaningless small talk, I’m not the greatest at cutting deeper in a conversation. I want depth. I crave it. I thrive on vulnerability because it makes me feel like I belong, like I’m valued. But I haven’t figured out the best way to achieve that depth and vulnerability in a conversation without feeling like I’m being weird or diving in too deep too fast. So if you have any pro tips for this awkward introvert, hook a sister up.
- I’m not easy to get to know. Be patient. I’ll open up and let my guard down when I’m ready. If I do open up and show my true personality around you, that means I’m comfortable with you.
- I get anxious in overly-stimulating places. Crowds generally make me nervous. I get stressed in places that are too loud or that are filled with flashing lights. The exception to this are concerts. I love concerts. But other that, I generally don’t like all that stimulation. One of my least-favorite places to hang out? Bars. I don’t understand why people chill in bars. They’re packed and loud and you have to scream in order to have conversations. So if you want to hang out with me, DO NOT pick a bar as our hang-out spot. *Cry.* Similarly, too many conversations happening around me at once makes me anxious. Especially if I’m trying to hold my own conversation or talk on the phone in the midst of it.
- Being forced to talk to people is super nerve-wracking for me. Especially if I’m trying to persuade them or sell them on something. Again, just like with certain kinds of games, performing under pressure makes me nervous.
- Talking on the phone is difficult and awkward for me. Friendly conversations are fine. Ordering food is no problem. But 90% of the phone calls I have to make or take for work purposes give me some degree of anxiety. It’s that dang performance pressure.
In short, I’m quiet. I like my friends and family and I’m happy to spend time with them, but I also need my space after a busy or packed day. I need time to think and process things, and space to add to conversations. I don’t like places that are crowded or loud. I might be hard to get to know, but if you give me the time and space, I’ll open up.
*cue NBC “The more you know” graphic and music*
What about you? Are you an introvert? How does your personality express itself? Feel free to comment!