|This is what introversion looks like? Really?|
So I run a quick Google search to find a couple of pictures or something to go with the post, because I think Blogger posts are just so much nicer when they have some kind of picture involved. I was really struck by how many of the pictures that came up under a search for "introversion" actually feature an image of a person, an animal, or whatever that robot thing above is sitting by itself while looking miserable, sad and dejected.
That says a lot to me about how our extrovert-centric world sees us introverts and I can't say I like it one bit. I can kind of feel this post going away from what I originally wanted it to be about, but that's OK. I can always address other aspects of introversion in future posts. In the meantime, I think I'd rather begin to speak about introversion by talking about some of the stereotypes we as introverts face, so here are a few common misconceptions about introverts along with some simple truths straight from the horse's mouth.
1. Introverts are miserable, sad and dejected individuals like our little robot friend up there.
While it's certainly possible for introverts to be miserable, sad or dejected, it's simply because they're human and those are emotions humans can sometimes feel. However, being an introvert does not go hand in hand with that. Many introverts are very happy people and a great many also live very rich intellectual and creative lives that they find very fulfilling.
As an introvert, it's simply that different things make me happy. I feel happy when I find time to curl up with a good book and a pot of tea or paint a picture. I feel happy when I'm around the teensy handful of people I'm close to, as well as my cat, and can enjoy a delicious meal that I cooked myself. I feel happy when I have a free afternoon that I can spend practicing Tori Amos songs on the piano. Parties, gatherings, and crowds on the other hand -- you know, the things that make extroverts happy? Those things pretty much just make me want to crawl under a rock and die, so I avoid them the same way anyone else avoids activities they don't enjoy or that they consider unpleasant.
Also, introverts aren't naturals at the game of show-and-tell. We don't feel the need to give voice to every thought that floats through our heads like an extrovert does. (I would say I myself actually say maybe 10% of what I'm actually thinking, if that.) We work through our emotions via inward reflection and quiet thought, not "talking it out". You can't always tell what we're thinking or feeling just by looking either. Extroverts mistakenly think that if someone isn't bouncing off the walls at all times or yammering a mile a minute, then they must be unhappy. Maybe it's time for them to think about the fact that not everyone is just like them and that that's perfectly OK.
I would also like to add that most of the misery, sadness and dejection I've experienced had nothing to do with my introversion and everything to do with the fact that other people couldn't seem to accept me as I was for whatever reason and leave me the hell alone. I don't know why the simple sight of someone minding their own business and reading a book instead of yapping and socializing non-stop bothered other people so much, but it really did. Some people even seemed visibly disturbed by the fact that I really wasn't interested in making friends or talking a lot, despite the fact that I wasn't hurting anybody or bothering anyone else. To this day, I still don't get why that had to be such a big deal when my choices affected no one but me.
2. Introverts don't have any kind of social skills or social confidence whatsoever.
Again, not true. Introversion and social ineptitude are not the same thing. Introversion and shyness are not the same thing either. A shy person has trouble with social interaction for any number of reasons. An introvert simply prefers not to socialize very often (if at all) because they find it draining, but said introvert may have excellent social skills. There are shy introverts out there for sure... but there are also shy extroverts as well. I'm actually a perfect example of an introvert with social skills who simply prefers not to use them. I worked in high-end retail sales for many years and I was good at it. I hated it and considered it to be the worst possible job for me, but I had to do something to make money and that was the most lucrative option available to me at the time.
Most people I worked with had no clue how introverted I really was though. Some never picked up on it at all and just saw how charming and popular I was with the customers. They were the ones who thought I must have been the homecoming queen or the head cheerleader in high school instead of the school weirdo, which would be closer to the truth. Then others did pick up on it, but really didn't know what to make of it. They just thought I was a bitch... or a total snob who thought I was better than everybody else. Then again, most salespeople tend to be extroverts, so that's hardly surprising.
My professional life is much better suited to me now. I get to make a living by being creative, which is a strength with many introverts. I also get to work at home on my own computer on my own schedule. I can play whatever music I like and can have as many pots of tea as I can drink. Best of all, I call all my own shots, so I never have to answer a telephone or deal with strangers walking into my office and interrupting me. I make up all the rules in regards to how I do business, as well as how and when people are allowed to contact me, and if other people want to work with me, they follow those rules. It's that simple. As a result, I finally feel the same way about my work life as other people have always said they felt about theirs.
3. Introverts are mentally unhealthy and need to be broken out of their shells. Don't worry if they kick and scream at first. They will be thankful for it once the process is complete.
|Oh, for Pete's sake!|
As for the part about all introverts just waiting for some kind extrovert to come along and force them out of their shell, it is never appreciated. I definitely speak from personal experience here. I've had many past friends, ex-boyfriends, and former acquaintances roll through my life that volunteered to take me on as a little pet project without my knowledge or permission, figuring I'd thank them for it later once I was enjoying my brand new extroverted life.
These include an extroverted ex-boyfriend who thought his relentless attempts to force me to dress up in booty shorts and go clubbing every other night would be good for me and an ex-acquaintance who actually thought I should abandon my copywriting business to punch a cash register at a bottom rung department store because it would force me to socialize on a daily basis. Naturally, it didn't matter that I personally hate booty shorts, clubs and retail jobs. I'm sure it isn't lost on you that my vocabulary also states that these individuals are no longer part of my life and you would be correct in assuming that that's the reason why. I'm nobody's fixer-upper. Anyone who thinks I should want to be needs to GTFO.
No one appreciates being told that they aren't good enough as they are and that they need to change in order to make themselves acceptable to someone else. Would you? Well, neither do we. Most of us like being relatively solitary and keeping to ourselves. It gives us time to record the many ideas we have and to work on the creative projects that make us feel alive. It's what we were made for, after all! We're also happy with the way we don't talk much, party much, or have a tendency to seek out the spotlight at all times.
There are, of course, many more misconceptions about introverts out there, but those are the three that have been the most prevalent in my own life and the lives of other introverted creative types I've known over the years. If you'd like some further recommended reading, try Caring for Your Introvert. It's probably one of the best articles I've ever read on introversion, actually. It even comes complete with a picture of happy, smiling introverts for a change! Also, feel free to share your own experiences as an introvert as well. Clue me in on what I missed and maybe I'll address it in a future post.