Being an introvert in an extrovert world… yes, that’s a problem… Not knowing you are an introvert in an extrovert world… well, that’s an even bigger problem. No matter how unlikely, many people don’t have a clue they are introverts and even less of a clue that they are living in a world where the extrovert is the norm everyone is encouraged to strive for.
When I’m writing “everyone” here I mean the western world!
Introvert? Me? Naaaaw…? Or?
During the summer of 2018 I read a Swedish book ”Introvert, the quiet revolution” by the Swedish author Linus Jonkman. The book would change my life completely. A friend and colleague of mine had recommended the book; she was a fellow introvert. She was aware of her introversion and suspected me of being an introvert soulmate.
Today I’m proud to call myself an introvert, even if it’s taken me many decades to actually understand who I am and accepting that person!
The western world favourises extroversion. That is not an exaggeration, it’s just pure fact. Thus there’s no room for us introverts. I don’t know when this madness started, because as long as I can remember the western world has been extroverted.
When I was a kid it wasn’t really ok to prefer sitting inside playing on my own in my room. I enjoyed being alone after school, not having other people around me. I got fed up with people in school. When I came back home I wanted to clear my brain from all the impressions, and preferably not go out and play at once. Charge my batteries…
Wanting time for yourself, to be alone, no, that could not be healthy!
During my childhood I viewed myself as shy, and maybe a little bit weird. There was something wrong with me, that’s for sure, but I had no idea what. I just could see I wasn’t like everyone else. I didn’t know there was a thing called “introvert”, I thought it was all about being “shy/inhibited” vs “bold/uninhibited”.
Oh, what if someone had just explained this to me when I was a child.
What if someone had explained the difference between introvert and extrovert, and really emphasized that neither was wrong. They are just different personality types.
Sometimes I ponder if they are getting introversion mixed with random diagnoses. The public seems to think (just as I did before I understood) that it’s something wrong with you if you’re an introvert. Something needs to be “cured”… or “worked on”…
At least it needs medication, right…
In school, like the rest of society, extroversion is favoured. Thus introversion needs to be worked on. Methodically. You are encouraged to show you are active, put your hand up (insanely difficult simply doing that), and to really show off – THAT is a positive trait.
Not wanting attention, not wanting to talk in front of others is something negative. You’re seen as inactive, ignorant even, and/or uncommitted. Which is not true at all, but so wrong as it can be.
You can be active without having verbal diarrhea, and you can learn just by listening to others.
In my head my thoughts are always very clear, but when I open my mouth it’s usually just rubbish coming out. Even the times I actually have a clue what I’m talking about. It’s hard for me to put words on my thoughts… I need to really prepare! This is not the case for all introverts, however. We are not one homogeneous mass.
When it was time for 7th grade I started to “get out of my shell”, as it’s so nicely put. That was what was expected… I didn’t really get out of anything, though, but started on the journey which would take me straight down to hell, where I after many years of constantly having to “bite the bullet” woke up totally exhausted.
Even though I learned how to play an extrovert in life, quite perfectly, I was still an introvert deep inside…
“Fake it ’til you make it!” Isn’t that what they say? So I spent most of my teenage years (and the rest of my life!) with playing a part, and constantly feeling misunderstood. Not a single soul truly understood me, and that was in part due to the fact I was never really myself.
There wasn’t a single person who actually knew me, but so many who thought they did…
When I took the Myers-Briggs test a while back I found out this was typical for my type – an INFJ.
So the school ended, and I wrongly believed I could now be who I really was. Just one problem… who was I now again? I had completely forgotten my soul. I got a job – a service profession, where I was forced to play the extrovert part again. Since I was also living at work I had constantly other people around me.
When after a few years I advanced at work I was forced into a part that was even more extroverted.
I never gave it much thought, though, that my true personality didn’t really fit with my work personality. Wasn’t this the case for everyone? You hear all the time about people being completely different privately compared to work. It was probably the way it was, and the way it should be.
More and more I started to feel completely drained while off work. Instead of having fun and seeing friends on my week off the norm became I lacked the energy to see anyone during the whole week. I just pulled the covers over my head watching movies all week long.
Unexpectedly the day had also arrived when I had no problems with my shy side. It had been tossed away since long. I could now stand in front of people talking about anything and nothing without throwing up, express my opinion to anyone who wanted to listen (and even to those who didn’t want to hear it), question anyone in front of everyone, but still… I just felt worse and worse.
And I could not figure out what was wrong.
At that point in time I had scaled down my private life – to have the energy for my extroverted job! I had no energy for either hobbies, friends or family, but still I didn’t get it.
My theory today is that it’s usually introverts getting caught up in burn outs. No idea if there actually is research on this. If you know, please leave a comment. The reason behind my belief is it’s completely draining for an introvert to be forced to clothe themselves in an extroverted part for work. Add to it the fact that most introverts don’t really function properly in an environment where they need to focus on several tasks at once, or in office landscapes for that matter…
It’s simply not enough to have a stressful job with a high workload to get burned out, this unpleasant condition. It needs something more in the equation. And this something more I believe is introversion.
The introvert is with all probability the one running straight into the wall in a horrid speed!
Today I have accepted my introversion and I love being an introvert. That is me! My true self! I just wish other people around me had the same understanding of how introversion works and they realised it’s neither dangerous nor negative.
“Coming out” with my introversion I was met by so much ignorance and idiotic comments, so I understood most people around me still didn’t know me. The real me.
Today I’m actively removing the social life that is just draining. Today I understand that I need my solitude, it is my me-time, to survive. Regardless of how long it takes I give myself that time.
Unfortunately many find this offensive and take it personal. Even though I try not to care about how other people are feeling about things I need to do to feel well, it still stresses me out to know the closest people around don’t understand me. They might get offended that I opt them out – or at least that’s how they see it.
Often people are wrongly thinking that the person opting out on social life is not “normal”. Alternatively they don’t like the people they’re opting out on.
But it’s not about being normal/abnormal, or social/antisocial. As well as it’s not about not loving the one closest to you just because you don’t want to see them constantly, or even regularly.
For me it’s all about me having a limited amount of energy for social activities! As an introvert I get drained by too much social interaction, and especially if the people are plural. So what works best is one-on-one, or in small doses. Just like a regular Swede – lagom – not too much, not too little… just enough!
Finishing off with a quote…
”Introverts are word economists in a society suffering from verbal diarrhea.”Michaela Chung
Are you an introvert? How did you make the discovery? Have you always known? Tell us about your journey…