thoughts on being an introvert

It happens every couple of years. Someone, a new or close friend or regular acquaintance  decides that there is something wrong with me, I need to change or that it is their job to fix me, all because I would much rather stay home.


Here is how it goes down:  It starts with an invitation to a party with a large group of people I don’t know. I will politely decline (or maybe I will go once).  Then, it progresses to more invites, more declines then weirdly into a pushy insistence that I, “get out there more”, or “get out of my shell”.  Even worse is being told that I am “no fun” and “what’s the point?”.  And that is where the relationship ultimately starts to fail miserably.  Please understand, I always very politely try to explain my ways. That big parties are not my thing or that I prefer quiet more intimate situations, or just staying home altogether. But, there is often no comprehension of this and the pushier the person, the chances of me accepting becomes non-existent.

I had a friendship end, a couple of years back, because of a supposed birthday party in my honor.  In my book, the perfect party would be 4-6 of  my closest friends eating great vegetarian food and drinking some wine.  To her, it meant inviting anyone and everyone and the insistence that spouses/significant others come as well. It started feeling less like a party for me and more like a party for her.  When I tried explaining, it ended without resolve and the party was cancelled. There were other issue in the relationship, of course, but this was the final straw that broke the friendship forever. The feeling that your friends don’t get you at all, or refuse to get you is a really crummy feeling.

Currently, I am dealing with my son’s best friend’s mother.  She is truly a very kind and generous person. She is also VERY much an extrovert and I am very clearly not.   She has always invited us to her holiday parties, but we usually have plans (thankfully) and it has not been a big deal. But the more our children hang out together, the more we are feeling the pressure of joining in.  Because we don’t hang in the same circles, we would know no one at her party, besides her (I have never even met her husband). The anxiety and stress prior, during, AND the exhaustion after is just not worth it to us (my husband feels the same way).  It’s not her, it’s us! But, no matter how much I try to explain, it is not getting across. (any words of wisdom are welcome)

One time, while working several years back, one of the day nurses decided to publicly shame me for being so shy and quiet. “Why are you so quiet and shy”, she kept asking.  “Don’t you have anything to say?”.  Those who were my friends, knew me well and knew that I was neither shy nor quiet (I’m actually quite chatty).  When I had finally had enough of her going on, and on, and on about it, I said that I was surprised that anyone could speak around her since she never stopped talking long enough to allow it and that maybe, just maybe I actually had a lot to say, but just didn’t have anything to say to her. I felt horrible afterwards but several other nurses applauded me for standing up for myself and thanked me for shutting her up. It was the first (and last) time I had ever done anything like that.

Here is the thing. There are so many more stories like this in my life. It hurts deeply to be called shy, anti-social, to be told I’m no fun or to treat me as though something is wrong with me. I don’t want or even need to change. I am truly happy with who I am and have a VERY rich inner life.

* I love quiet environments. I am very sensitive to loud noises, smoke, strong scents etc.
* I LOVE the internet. I am able to hide my introversion and get myself out there in the world with much less stress.
* I don’t like small talk, although I am very capable of doing this if necessary. You won’t see me hanging out with the other moms after school (what are they even talking about?). You’ll find me in my car happily reading a book or sketching on a notepad.
* I love deep conversation.
* I hate confrontation and conflict. I will avoid it at all cost.
* I’m slow to warm up with new people.
* I am NOT shy or antisocial. Shyness is the fear of social judgement and the true meaning of antisocial is actually a very serious problem in which a person shuns society and/or is hostile or disruptive of established social order and norms. SO please don’t call me either of these things.
* I am actually very social and do enjoy social situations, just maybe not as frequently and for shorter periods of time.
* I am best one-on-one and in small groups with close friends. And, you will never hear me say, “the more the merrier!”
* I don’t talk just for the sake of talking. It takes time for me to come up with thoughtful answers which is why I am usually observing and listening (or daydreaming), especially when others are fighting for center stage.
* I have no problems with public speaking. I was on TV twice, you know, and taught baby care and breastfeeding classes for over 3 years, in which I was often told that I was enthusiastic, inspiring and funny.
* Don’t ever try to throw me a party (especially not a surprise one), I might not ever speak to you again. 😉
* I love working from home and NO I am not lonely. I truly enjoy my alone time.  It allows me to do my most creative thinking and gives me purpose and flow.
* I actually have a lot of friends and have several coffee dates or early happy hour meet ups per month. Thank goodness, most of my true friends understand how I am.
* My husband is perfectly just like me, so don’t pressure me into getting him out too. I would never do that to him, but he go would if it was very important.

As you may have guessed, I am an introvert. This is actually a new discovery for me. I’ve had often thought that something was wrong with me, that I wasn’t trying hard enough and would often come up with excuses of not enough money to go out, using my husband as an excuse and eventually my children–too busy being a mom. Really, I just didn’t have the energy. I’ve been to many an outing with friends where after a couple of hours, I secretly wished I was home, quietly re-booting. The only exception to this has been the Artfest retreats. It was the perfect balance of socialization, quiet alone time (whenever you needed you could go to your room or out for a walk) and creative flow (a focus on making art).

This realization, of my introversion, came to me when I saw Susan Cain’s Ted Talk. I loved it, of course and I got her book (still haven’t finished reading it yet), found articles, and started learning more about introversion. I was shocked. It was as though I was reading about myself and my husband. I was relieved to know there is one-third to one-half of us out there struggling to fit into an extroverted world. It felt necessary to post this so that others may understand how introverts work, instead of making them feel bad or trying to fix them.

Here are the books and articles I found to be very helpful:

* Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain
* To Socialize or Not? That is the Questions
* Dr. Carmella’s Guide to Understanding the Introverted (info graphic)
* Introversion is not a Personality Fail
* Five Things Extroverts Should Know About Introverts
* The Power of Introverts: A Manifesto for Quiet Brilliance
* 16 Outrageously Successful Introverts
* 5 Famous Introverts and What it Means to Be an Introvert

Thank you so much for listening and allowing me to open up a bit. Would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.


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30 Responses to thoughts on being an introvert

  1. Thanks for putting yourself and this blog post out into the world. As usual, you rock!

    And as far as your son’s friend’s mom goes, maybe you could invite her and her husband (and kid(s)??) to your house for appetizers/drinks sometime? Rather than bearing a big holiday gathering where you know no one, having her on your territory might meet the desire to be a little social? It’s hard to say how you should approach not going to her party other than being honest that you aren’t into big gatherings. Maybe she’ll accept that as your real answer versus your old friend who wouldn’t?

  2. amy says:

    You just described me.

    Too bad you don’t live next door. We could have tea & let each other be. 🙂

  3. Regina, I love this post. I was just talking about something along these lines this afternoon. A friend asked what I was going to do for the holidays. I said I was going to stay home after church. I am a widow and live alone and I love it. People do not understand and feel “sorry” for me that I like being alone. Sometimes I just get tired of talking if that makes any sense.

    Thank you for putting words to my feelings.

  4. P says:

    Wow. You said SO MUCH. I too am discovering this about myself after decades of being called the same. Unfortunately my husband is an EXTROVERT and while I love him very very much, it takes a lot to re-explain, repeatedly to him why I don’t want to go to parties abut prefer the roosting of home or small gatherings. To others, I tell the truth. I feel better being honest, upfront.

    • Regina Lord says:

      I am giggling. I did have a lot to say didn’t I! I started writing and it just wouldn’t stop! It has been stirring in me for a while, i guess. 🙂 I have many friends & family who are very extroverted. I love them dearly and can’t imagine life without them. It is often my extroverted friends who help me get through parties and large events. I am always upfront right away, “Hi, my name is Regina. I don’t like parties”. Ha ha, just kidding. I’ve never said that. But, sometimes being totally upfront and honest just doesn’t work. Sometimes (rarely, really) they just don’t get it.

  5. Eliane says:

    Hello! I started read your post with a curiosity and at the end, what a pleasure! I’m identified with you in many aspects, but besides introvert, I’m shy too. I was a very, very shy child, only felt confortable with my family. I think that I becomed less shy when I’ve had my children.
    I read the Susan Cain’s book about a year ago, and liked it very much.
    Thank you for sharing something so personal.

    • Regina Lord says:

      Hi Elaine, thank you for your kind words. I was very shy too, as a child, but I somehow got away from that. Probably from being a nurse and having to do a lot of teaching to families and patients. I guess being in that position, people were more likely to trust me and they needed my help, which gave me confidence. Having kids definitely helped too.

  6. Nancy says:

    It’s hard when you feel misunderstood, or made to feel that you are some how in the wrong for feeling the way you do about large crowds. I too cherish my time to myself (and often stay up waaayyy too late to get it.) There is nothing wrong with being an introvert and by recognizing this, you are better able to handle your social calendar so that it “fills your cup” rather than drains you of energy. I agree with the other commenter about inviting your son’s friend’s family over for a bit of holiday cheer, perhaps something short and sweet, or with a focus other than just conversation such as having the kids decorate cookies or a gingerbread house. Just keep in mind that some extroverts don’t like small gatherings because they fear that they will run out of things to talk about and they won’t have the excuse of going to get some more punch as a way of extricating themselves from a tired conversation. Or they fear that conversations will go deeper than just small talk and will require introspection and opinions that they don’t feel comfortable or confident exploring. There are some people who you will never really connect with on a deeper level because they prefer a more light hearted (or dare I say almost superficial) relationship, and that’s okay too.

    • Regina Lord says:

      Yes, thank you! Those are all great ideas. I truly hadn’t thought about their fear of deep conversation (etc) and it is good think of their challenges as well. I try mostly not to go into deep conversation unless I know the person very well. Thank you for your insight, it is very much appreciated.

  7. Imelda says:

    Understanding should be mutual and work both ways though don’t you think? Introverts seem to have very little understanding of what an extrovert is. They are not as shallow as a puddle, loud and shouty types. They are frequently shy and can be quiet in social situations. Their motivations are different though.

    I find the post rather smug and the responses to it rather clichéd and unhelpful not to mention that they show a selfish reaction to others around them. A little understanding from all might go a long way. The compromise often seems to be expected to be from the extrovert while the introvert can be as selfish as they want. Extroverts do engage in meaningful conversations away from groups, with many preferring it. If you expect understanding then it can be helpful to try and have it too. Being unkind and putting a bunch of supposed negative attributes onto a group of people is not the best thing to do when looking for common ground.

    • Regina Lord says:

      Dear Imelda,
      I am sorry that you misunderstood the entire point of my (very personal-as in pertaining only to me) post and somehow took it personally. I had, in no way, intended to insult you (whomever you are) or any other extrovert, for that matter. In fact, there is no such thing as a true extrovert or true introvert, only a million variations of the two mixtures, therefore, I would never go so far as to say that all extroverts are the same, or as you would put it, “shallow as a puddle, loud and shouty types”. They are not. The same is true for introverts.

      I find it very interesting that you call me smug, selfish and unkind, when your words are exactly that. And to insult those who commented by calling them clichéd and unhelpful, seems completely uncalled for.

    • WOW, Imelda. Harsh and misdirected. Regina was simply sharing her feelings, and you pretty much hit her upside the head for it. Unnecessary.

  8. Deborah Boschert says:

    Lovely. I wasn’t necessarily going to comment, until I read Imelda’s comment. Wow. She did a great job of providing another example of how easily you can be misunderstood. I really didn’t think you said a single thing in your post that implied the things you enjoy must be the opposite of what extroverts enjoy. Nor did you use any negative words to describe them (other than “pushy,” maybe). And yet Imeda felt ok saying you were smug, selfish and unkind. And she implied that you need to work harder to understand extroverts when the purpose of this post was simply to share a bit about yourself. I’m sure some creative , thoughtful extrovert has written a similar blog post about her thoughts and struggles, but… Gosh, I don’t know, I just want you to know I appreciate your thoughts and I did not appreciate Imeda’s comment.

  9. lucia says:

    Hi there!

    I liked you post this week and I can relate to some of it. I have issues with anxiety, and I find that sometimes being alone away from people and external stimuli is the only way to properly unwind from a stressful day.

    A while back my therapist had me read “the highly sensitive person” which I found helpful to understand some things about myself. I seem to remember that the author speaks about how “shyness” is perceived in different cultures, it was an interesting angle that I had never thought about, and I was surprised to learn that some societies hold shyness in high regard as a positive character trait. Link in case you’re interested.

    • Regina Lord says:

      Hi Lucia, thank you so much for sharing. I completely agree about the cultural differences. I spent a lot of time with my Mexican grandmother who was quite reserved. She very much valued quietness and shyness. Not actually sure if it was a cultural or just personal preference though.

      I actually have that book on my reading list. Thank you for reminding me. 🙂

  10. What a beautiful post my friend! I loved it – and it gave me great insight on my husband, who is an introvert. I am most definitely an extrovert and at times it is still so hard to understand introverts – even though I’ve lived with one for 20 years:) Love you!!

    • Regina Lord says:

      Thank you sweet Reasha! I just want to hug you for trying! My husband is even more introverted than myself making me feel like the extrovert at times, as funny as that may seem. But there is always common ground, don’t you think? Or you wouldn’t still be together after 20 years, right?

  11. katy says:

    Way to write it out…nodding along(you know i can relate to it all:) and loving the photos with quotes…..going to watch the ted talk not sure if i have seen this one yet, keep writing your truth!
    xoxo katy

  12. Koliti says:

    Hey Regina! How about for your son’s best friend and his mom – invite them over for a holiday craft session? Paint an ornament, craft a teacher gift, stamp on some paper to make gift wrap, etc. Oh! And you can have treats – YUM!

    I totally hear where you are coming from. When I was little, people told me I was shy. Today when I say “hi” to a kid and they don’t reply, sometimes their parent will say something to the child that they should say something – I just like to smile and say “They’re ok – they don’t have to say anything to every weirdo”. Then I like to ask the kid a question that relates to them (school, sports, what activity do they enjoy, etc) to let them know I ‘see’ them – it’s ok that they don’t answer right away – it may take them awhile to realize “hey this person may actually ‘see’ me and may actually want to ‘get’ who I am”.

    As an adult, I quite enjoy quiet, alone time. I am quite comfortable being alone with the voices in my head – they’re all friendly and they give me great ideas – ha! I also enjoy small scale get-togethers. The other day I met 3 friends for lunch – perfect! Great company and good conversation 🙂 I also enjoy one-on-one scenarios – there is something so special when another person appreciates you for who you are, who is on the same page, who “gets” you, and who gives as much as they take – a nice balance. I like to say that I am a “drama-free zone”. Maya Angelou quote: ‘There is an intimate laughter to be found only among friends’.

    I have a friend who LOVES to host large get-togethers of 18-50 people. Yeah, not always my thing. She’s invited me to her Thanksgiving gathering of 18 people this year. I’ve attended for the last 2 years and last year I offered & decorated the three dining tables. She invited me the last week of October – I told her that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do the next week, much less a month from now – I needed some breathing space since I just finished a month-long stint of extra time at the clinic. She didn’t get it – she didn’t understand what I was saying because it’s just Thanksgiving dinner and why didn’t I know. I am going to decline this year – I’ll be calling her tomorrow to let her know. I wanted to be sure if it was something more than breathing space – I’m now sure it would make my soul happy NOT to attend – my mind is filled with cozy comfy me-at-home thoughts.

    Always be true to yourself. Watch out for the turkeys!

  13. Deborah says:

    Thank you so much for this article, Regina. It’s actually nice to know that not all bloggers are super social butterflies because I just can’t relate to that. I can TOTALLY relate to you and your life and the various circumstances that have come up. I’m an introvert and the list you created is EXACTLY how I feel all the time. I’ve lost friends, too. It sucks. Then again, I cherish the ones that stick around even more. As for your son’s best friend’s mom…it’s not a requirement you be besties with her.

  14. ANGELLA says:

    I can totally relate Regina. It’s not easy, my one son is an extrovert and because of that he doesnt spend much time with his boring ol mom – which hurts a lot at times. lots of love to you. Introverts ROCK!!!!!

  15. Holy cow I could of totally written much of that. I feel the SAME!!!! It must be our shared birthday. 🙂 My husband is the same too. I remember someone saying back in high school that they thought I was stuck up because I was quiet. Yikes. That was hurtful and not true at all. Thank you for sharing sweetie. xoxo

  16. Sara Gonzalez says:

    I want to thank you for this article. Reading this helped me understand my introvert husband a little better. As an extrovert I don’t often understand all of his quiet needs. I can see he needs “flow” time as much as I need “people” time and you have beautifully expressed how important these needs can be. I don’t believe that you were being smug (call me biased, but I don’t think I have ever seen you be smug!). In fact, I felt that this took a lot of emotion and courage that may be hard to address or put into hwords for most people. I think true understanding IS hearing from both sides so that you are able to compromise and for extroverts that can be easy. To really hear from the heart of an introvert seems to be more rare.
    As a side note, my husband can be quite chatty too and, if he wasn’t quietly and peacefully puttering around the house, I am sure he would thank you too!

    • Jeanne Landin says:

      I read your post last night and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it! I think you articulated so well what it’s like to be an introvert, and it takes courage to do that. I send you big hugs!

      I find that as I get older, I have become more of an introvert. In some ways it is easier now because people who know me are used to my seemingly quirky need to avoid crowds and find some solitude! When my children were younger, it was definitely more challenging to find the right words and balance for social occasions that would come up.

      You did a lovely painting this year that had the quote, “To thine own self be true.” You are a kind, wonderful, creative woman, who is special because of your own unique characteristics and gifts. I’m glad to know you.

  17. lindsay says:

    Love this post. Susan Cain’s book is so liberating. I’ve always known myself to be an introvert, but she connects the dots in ways I’d never thought of before. I, like you, have had painful interactions with people who don’t get me. In fact, most of my close relationships with both friends and family have been affected by this lack of understanding. People tend to take my need for alone time very personally, and when I try to explain, they think I’m just making excuses. It’s really hard.

    I still haven’t figured out how to strike a balance, but I’m learning. I think introverts are finding their voice (and more self-awareness, too).

  18. Karen says:

    Such a well written post. Recent articles and the book Quiet have been so revealing to me as well as to how my introversion works. It has been so freeing to realize why I am the way I am. Thanks for taking a risk and sharing!

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