“You will find her outside sitting on a large rock looking out over the water or inside looking out the window with a pensive appearance….. Yes, I like this person very much. She is me.” ‘Donna’ from “Introvert Power” by Laurie Helgoe
It is not news that I am an introvert. What is a revelation, what is empowering, is that for the first time in my entire life I am totally comfortable being that introverted person, happy with how I feel, and glad that I am now able to live the way that is right for me.
Society tells us that to be successful and happy is to be daring, adventurous, decisive and sociable. To be ‘sociable’ you need to belong to some sort of group of friends, family, community, or work group. To be accepted within that group you need to interact with the group as a group, be prepared to speak up, and enjoy engaging in large social gatherings or attending ‘parties’. Organizations encourage teamwork and networking. Schools encourage children to participate in teams. Parents urge them to socialize. Social-media platforms enhance this concept.
This is the world of the extrovert. Extroverts are people who obtain gratification from outside themselves and are energized by human interactions, large social gatherings and parties. Coming from the loudest voice – the extrovert voice – it is often taken as being the normal way to think, live, act. In reality it is simply the best way to think, live, and act for half the population. This is not the way for the other half of the population – my half.
Some 50% of us are introverts. Introverts are more reserved, less outspoken in groups and take pleasure in solitary pastimes. They become energized through reflection and feel overwhelmed by too much stimulation and time spent with large groups of people.
Some of the people who have been closest to me have been extroverts; my sister, my two childhood friends, my best friend as an adult, and my husband. Extroverts and I have been drawn to each other. They talk. I listen. They react with emotional highs and lows to the ups downs of life. I smile and carry on. They pursue exciting pastimes and draw me in. I radiate calmness and pass it on.
In my commitment to our marriage it was easier for me to understand my extrovert husband’s need for constant stimulation and requirement to socialise than for him to understand my need for being alone. This is because he talked. I listened. I understood. I adapted to his world. I lived and shared with him the exciting world of fast-paced activities and constant socialising. When at the end of a busy week, I did not want to go ‘out’, I thought there was someone wrong with me. When I did go out and exhaustion overcame me, I battled on. In time, I forgot, and did not understand my own needs. I lost myself without even knowing that I had.
When I have felt overwhelmed since our separation, some of my closest people have made suggestions to me of what I should do in order for me to thrive again – engaging in some exciting activity, travelling and being surrounded by people. I have slowly discovered that what is actually best for me is exactly the opposite – I require quietness, no stimulation, and time to myself for reflecting. Slowly I am discovering me.
I am not shy, anti-social or depressed. I am simply an introvert. I enjoy time to myself. I enjoy solitude. I have a preference for surroundings that are not over-stimulating. I work best alone on focused projects. I do not like loud noise or a lot of confusing activities. I like time to think before making considered well-planned decisions, before taking action. I like time to think before I speak. I prefer to relax or ‘wind-down’ after a day’s work by reading or writing or going for a walk rather than going ‘out’. I prefer holidays doing quiet activities rather than engaging in frenetic pastimes. When I do engage, I enjoy myself but I need to recharge afterwards by having quiet time. I like to engage one-on-one with people and share ideas on topics that interest me, rather than small-talk with many people at the same time. I listen well and I empathize well with another person’s position. I prefer small social activities with one or two close people rather than large social functions. I enjoy best weekends with no commitments so I have plenty of time to think, write, reflect, plan.
I have much left to contribute to this world in my quiet, slow, methodical fashion. I am not enticed by being the centre of attention, a desire for accolades or wealth. I am dedicated to a larger goal of finding a purpose to my life.
“I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.
I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.”