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.