Friday, December 7, 2012

The nature of being introverted

I'm an introvert.

I love people. Seeing my friends makes me happy; knowing they're there to talk to is reassuring. I'm pleasant to talk to, and a good coworker, and great at team projects. I get things done, and can be quite decisive when I need to be. Socializing is fun, and I'll stand around gossiping with people I sort-of-know at parties, sipping soda and munching on snacks and swapping jokes and stories. Late-running D&D marathons are always a blast, with a group of 5-6 close friends, and going over to a friend's house to write is a fantastic way to make progress on my WIP. Going to conventions and spending an entire three-day weekend sharing a hotel room with four other people is the epitome of awesome. And shoulder-to-shoulder fair traffic is a must-see every year I can find time to go. I frequently end up being the leader in small groups (usually by default), and I'm not afraid of speaking in front of groups, even if I'm not great at it. Talking to strangers isn't a problem, and traveling the world is a dream come true.

But I'm still an introvert.

This means, for me, that all these things I enjoy make me tired. Instead of rejuvenating me, they're an energy expenditure. I can only do so many of them each week, and must absolutely have a little time just to myself if I don't want to collapse face-first in the dirt.

Those of you who are deep introverts get this. You understand how being around the people you care about can be exhausting, even though it's something you love. But there's a lot of stereotypes against introverts out there, because, frankly, it's not an easy concept for people who don't feel it to understand. Some of them complain that you don't love them enough, or feel like you're pushing them away when you turn down an opportunity to spend time with them. So instead you wear yourself to the bone, because you don't want to hurt them, and then they're upset at you for being always irritable because you're exhausted.

Being an introvert is not the same thing as liking to read. It's not the same thing as being antisocial. It's not the same thing as enjoying a quiet walk in the woods to get away from the chaos of daily life. Because while all of things are appreciated by introverts, it's not what makes them introverts. In fact, most extroverts like these things, too.

I just can't rest around people. Even going over to a close friend's place and hanging out one-on-one for a while, doing nothing but reading, isn't really resting. To me, that's the base of being an introvert.

Everything else I consider to be side effects. That I can go a week without seeing people and not go nuts, if the situation arises? Side effect. That I enjoy single-person hobbies, such as reading, writing, and playing video games? Great way to rest up without getting bored. Going outside for a hike by myself, spending 1-2 hours out in a state park without listening to music or stopping to talk to the other hikers? It's relaxing. Sitting around thinking in a quiet room, with nothing but a lapcat for company? Everyone should take time for self-reflection.

And if I don't do these things every once in a while, I start to fall apart. So I schedule quiet time for myself. It's not free time. It's sanity time.

It would be a lot harder to be a writer if I weren't an introvert. I would appreciate myself less, and be less resilient to setbacks because I wouldn't have taken the time to understand that a setback isn't a failure. When I am tired, getting myself back together is cheap, easy, and actually fairly quick: a few hours of peace and quiet, and I'm ready to go again. I know when I'm stressing out, and I know how to unwind. I never worry about being bored, and I'm great at learning new things quickly.

Being introverted doesn't make me less talented, or shy, or a bad leader. It doesn't make me incapable of socializing, and it doesn't make me less ambitious; it doesn't stop me from taking vacations to exotic places when the opportunity arises, or keep me from making new friends and expanding my horizons. What it does mean is that I give myself a little space each day to breathe, and don't regret spending time at home instead of going out every single night, and don't get bored easily. Which, I might add, is much healthier for the wallet.

Everyone who's an introvert has a different experience, because hey, we're not all the same. But I thought I would share what being an introvert means to me.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does this affect you?


  1. Well said.
    For me, it means I have to force myself to socialize. I go to the dept.'s favored bar most Fridays to hang out even though I don't drink. I avoided doing so much as that at first because the "no smoking in bars" law hadn't been passed. It also means I get left out because I happened to be put in an office two floors up from the grad office complex where most people are and the thought of going down to say hi just feels awkward, especially when I could be interrupting work.

    1. Thank goodness they passed the non-smoking law. I avoided bars in school like the plague because I couldn't stand the smoke. At least now, when my friends want to go to one, I hang out inside with them without feeling sick.

      Getting tucked out of the way is a real social killer. When it happens to me, I just disappear right off the map... and sometimes, I don't even realize it until someone else asks me where I've been. Will you be able to switch later? Or is it too much hassle and generally frowned upon?

    2. I tried to be put there this year (I was told I would be moved regardless), but I waited too long to request it and they had filled the spots with new students by the time I asked.

  2. You're speaking to my heart, Juturna. :P

    I'm a very deep introvert, often to my social detriment. I've had friendships dissolve and collapse because I just don't always have it in me to be the one who reaches out and performs the necessary maintenance to keep the gears in the relationship turning. Not because I don't like my friends, or don't like spending time, etc, but because it takes a effort just to remind myself that those things need to be done. I'm perfectly fine spending long periods of time holed up to myself. Also, small talk drives me absolutely bonkers, which makes long distance familial relationships tough.

    I could go on all day about being an introvert. It's probably my most defining characteristic, and something I'm going to end up having to adjust a little when it's time to get out there and start schmoozing. I haven't had any conference/convention experiences yet, though it's something I'm both looking forward to and dreading. :D

    1. I once had someone tell me that anyone who went more than six months without talking to her, she didn't consider a friend anymore, because clearly they didn't care enough. *sigh* Hate it when that happens, because I'm exactly the same way as you in that regards--my best friends are the ones I can go months or even years without talking to, and then just pick up right where we left off. They're also the ones that understand this about me.

      Come to think of it, I think you did a post on that not too long ago... See, you're not the only one.

      Cons aren't as bad as you might think for an introvert. When I need space, I go to a workshop nobody else I know is going to for some alone-in-a-crowd time (movie presentations or lectures work best), or find a relatively uncrowded corner (there's always one somewhere, even at DragonCon) and read some of the swag I've picked up. Since it's a defined period of time, I know that I can rest up afterwards at home, which helps me not stress out when I'm tired. It's sort of like a 3-day all-nighter with more sleep, minus the essays and with an extra dollop of awesome.