For the many years I didn’t know what an introvert was, I told people close to me that I guessed I was a “loner.” It was the only way I could describe the fact that although I might chitchat and joke around with others when we were all together, when it came time to run errands I enjoyed just taking off alone. It usually did not occur to me to ask someone if they wanted to come and look at [clothes, sofas, books, plants, cat food] with me. After all, I was the one who needed whatever it was, and I can definitely think better and make better decisions when no one is talking to me. As I’ve said before, I have a lot of great friends I’ve made over the years, and I really enjoy their company. But it’s just in my nature to head out on my own when I need to do something. For lack of a better term, I used the term “loner” to label myself quickly when people would express hurt at being left out of all the fun I was having. (Sadly, the news media and people who just don’t know any better often use that term to mean someone who’s actually antisocial: one who hates society and may even do active harm like mass shootings).
Although I need to be alone a certain percent of my time, and I have a blast when reading or doing other things on my own, I’m also capable of being really lonely. Once in a while I have found myself in a situation where I was alone for a weekend and wanted to do something with a friend but for some reason the ones I’d try to contact were unavailable. Maybe it was a holiday weekend or just a coincidence, but I have found myself alone on a weekend with no plans at all and realized I was terribly lonely. By late on a Saturday afternoon of such a weekend, I have actually been the one who’s raking or weeding in the front yard, talking to any and every neighbor who walks by, or walking a few miles, hoping I’ll run into someone I know as I go. When that happened, I wondered – am I not a loner like I thought? What happened to the woman who loves to run out alone to do her own thing? It just didn’t add up! The answer is, it’s not that I want to be alone all the time. I like people and enjoy them very much. I just can’t be with people all of the time. I am an introvert.
As an introvert, my battery has to be charged, just like the battery of a laptop. When the battery is fully charged, a laptop runs great and is quite valuable. No one would say a laptop is weird or bad because it has to be recharged. We simply learn that that is how laptops are designed so we make sure we charge them before we need them. Extroverts are more like basketballs. As long as someone is there doing something with them, basketballs have plenty of energy, which they get by being bounced by a person. When they are left alone, they aren’t bouncing anymore. No one would say that a basketball is useless just because it doesn’t jump off the shelf and bounce by itself. We understand that basketballs need people to give them the energy to go.
If you love to run errands alone or love to eat lunch at your desk at work or anything else like that, don’t let anyone make you feel as if you are “odd” or “aloof” or worse still, “antisocial.” If you recharge your batteries best when you get some time alone, you are most likely an introvert, and just knowing that is so awesome and explains so much. Now you know why you start feeling anxious in a long meeting or when house guests won’t leave. That feeling is totally expected for introverts, and now you’ll know that you need to break away – alone – in order to feel and function at your best. Likewise now you can understand why you may feel lonely today, when it was just yesterday you were craving some time alone. Introverts are normal human beings (despite what you may have heard) and of course we need others. In fact we form very strong and deep connections, when we find people we really like and like to be with. Once we understand our needs for companionship vs. solitude, we can come closer to the right balance where we get plenty of blissful and refreshing alone time, yet we never get all the way to lonely.
Photo credit: paulotavio