Memoirs of an Introvert

“Really you are an introvert?”

Yes, I really am.  People who don’t know me well are always surprised by this.  While I do have some extroverted tendencies, I am more of an introvert.  Truth be told I am probably more of an ambivert, which is somewhere in the middle.  But when push comes to shove, I end up on the introvert side.

I use to hate being called an introvert, because I thought that it meant I was shy and boring.  We tend to think of extroverts as the life of the party and introverts as the weird girl in the corner playing with a cat.

I have spent most of my life misunderstanding myself and being misunderstood by others about what it actually means to be an introvert.  Learning that my brothers were introverts helped me a lot.  They are the fun, life of the party, outgoing type of people that you wouldn’t assume to be introverts.  Far from the weird shy girl playing in the corner with a cat.

So what does it mean to be an introvert?  What is life really like for us silent mysterious types?  Let me tell you, and hopefully help you relate a bit better to the introverts in your life.

 If you want to hear what an introvert is thinking, stop talking for two minutes.

One of my favorite things about African culture, is that they cater to introverts.  They value silence in conversation, because they value sometime taking the time to think of the words they want to say.

American culture is quite the opposite.  Conversation is fast paced and silences are awkward.  We haven’t been talking for five seconds quick say something to fill the silence before they think you are a boring person who doesn’t have anything to say.

As an introvert, fast paced conversation is exhausting.  Our brains are not wired to work that way.  We are by nature deep thinkers.  We need time to think of what we want to say.  We need time to process through every possible answer. If you can give us time, you will be rewarded with a well thought out answer.

Please don’t our lack of enthusiasm in a conversation as a cue to just keep talking. 

It is actually more work to listen to someone who has been talking for the last hour straight then it is to be in a conversation with someone.  This past weekend I went camping with my family.  On the drive home, me and my fellow introverted brother maybe said a dozen sentences to each other.  It didn’t mean that we didn’t like each other or want to be around each other, it just meant we need to decompress.

I think a lot of extroverts tend to confuse our silence as a sign to just keep talking.  No, please no.  It means we want silence.  Like I mentioned earlier, we can’t change gears as quickly.  That is even more amplified in a one sided conversation.  We are trying to listen as politely as possible, while silently begging you to stop talking so we can go back to our thinking.

No matter how much we may like you, some days we need to just go hide in our introvert cave.

When I am done with people, I am done with people.  My brain turns to mush and I start to think that I will lose my sanity if I have to listen to one. more. minute. of mindless chit chat.  I am not trying to be rude, but I have no energy to care what happened to your shoe belt buckle.  I am going to go lock myself in a closet for an hour, k bye.

We are not trying to be rude, I promise.  Our brains are just shutting down, and we will get crankier by the minute until you let us decompress.  Let us have a minute to ourselves to breathe, and we will come out refreshed and ready to listen about your shoe belt buckle problems.

We like to think, A LOT.

We need to think a lot.  It is how we are wired.  We are the deep thinkers and the over-analyzers. The best way I can explain it is that extroverts think externally and introverts think internally.  Introverts are always thinking about something, just like extroverts will always be talking about something.  Introverts are constantly analyzing and re-analyzing whatever happens to be on our mind.

I think that is part of the reason large crowds exhaust us so much.  We have so much internal stimuli happening all the time, that the added external stimuli just overheats our brains.  There will be times in crowds when there is so much activity going on that I literally can’t even hear myself think.  I feel like a caged animal that just needs to get out.  It is akin to an extrovert being locked in a closet for a day not able to talk to anyone.

Please don’t try to force us to talk.

I can’t count how many times people have tried to force me to talk in group settings. I know they are just trying to be helpful.  They think that I am not talking because I am shy, or maybe I just haven’t gotten the chance yet.  While those may be true, it is mostly because I am just not ready yet.  (Am I beating a dead horse yet?)  Introverts need time to process and think.  We will talk when we are ready to talk.

The times in group discussion when I was called to share before I was ready, I just spewed words that didn’t make sense and were not at all what I was trying to say.  It left me feeling like I just didn’t get my point across (because I didn’t).  Forcing us to share something that we are still digesting will just leave us feeling resentful.  Be patient with us.  We patiently listen as you never seem to stop talking, you can patiently wait when as our silences never seem to stop.

I don’t want to go is a valid reason.  

It doesn’t matter how much we like you or how much we may even like the event.  Some days we are too peopled out.  So we try to spare your feelings by telling you we have a lot of stuff to do.  “Oh I would love to but you know I really need to give my cat a bath tonight.” Our cat is fine, we just don’t want to go because the thought of being surrounded by strangers for a whole night makes us cringe.

I normally try to force myself to go anyways.  I know as cozy as my favorite chair and book may sound that I want to live a life filled with memories and experiences with other people.  Some times I am glad I went as I ended up having a great time.  Other times I sit and count the seconds until I can return to my introverted ways.

But we still do love people.

I know, it is kind of contradictory.  We don’t quite understand the conundrum ourselves.  The best way I can explain it, is that it is like running a race.  No matter how much you may like running, you are still exhausted after a race.  No one runs a marathon and then turns around wants to run another marathon.

I know some people who like running more than any human should like running.  But even they don’t run all the time.  The body isn’t capable of it.  The same goes for introverts – our brains aren’t capable of running social marathons all the time.  We like people, quite a lot actually, but we can’t be around them all the time.

This is just one introverts perspective, not a one size fits all guide to making introverts happy.  Introverts and extroverts have been mislabeled for quite some time.  If you are outgoing you are told that you are extroverted, and if you are shy you are told that you are introverted.  That may be true for some but not for all.  Some of the most outgoing people I know are introverts.  In short, it all comes down to how you process information.  Introverts process the world internally, and extrovert process the world externally.  Most people are a mixture of both, but it still helps to understand both sides.

There you have it – the not so mysterious thoughts of the mysterious introverts.

Feet

*** Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below, as I always appreciate others thoughts.  Tell me about you experiences as an introvert, or your experiences as an extrovert dealing with introverts.