What is an introvert?

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My college background is in the natural sciences and mathmatics, but we never took personality tests during that time and I never took a psych class that dealt with introverts and extroverts. So as well educated as I am in science, I lived the first several decades of my life not knowing why I’d do the following things:

1. If dear friends would come to visit me from a nearby city, I would have a blast during their visit that day, but by nightfall would be secretly glad if they declared they could not spend the night. Then l’d wake up the next morning and wish they could come right back! What was wrong with me? Could I not make up my mind?

2. I would go to family gatherings or weddings and truly enjoy reconnecting with people I don’t see much anymore, but after a few hours my face would feel exhausted to the point that I’d feel an urgent need to leave. Was I wearing an expression I don’t usually wear when alone?

3. While working in a customer support position for a couple of years, I would rather type a full page email of how-tos for a person and send it than to “just pick up the phone” and call them. Was I just wasting time doing all that typing?

4. If I have errands to run or shopping to do, it usually would not cross my mind to invite a friend to go with me. Is something wrong with me?

Sometimes ignorant people would tell me I was “antisocial” if I didn’t want to go out to lunch with them every day. That seems like quite a heavy diagnosis, considering I got along well with everyone and had a lot of friendly acquaintances at the office. One day a coworker who really knew me said to me, “Seems to me you like being with people and you have plenty of friends. But after being with people a long time, you are drained. Is that correct?” YES! What does that mean? It means I am an introvert. I may enjoy some social activities, but they drain my energy. I recharge and energize myself by reading, caring for animals or walking around looking at nature, NOT by talking to others. Extroverts recharge by being with other people, and most of them can not comprehend what is “wrong” with introverts.

Learning that has set me free from wondering what is wrong and trying to do things the way everyone else does them. I know myself now and now I know how to have a happy family life and a great career and still not let those things drain me. I am an introvert and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Photo credit:fazen

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28 Comments

  1. I truly recognise myself by reading what you write.
    I grew up with being told I’m strange, shy and all that is considered to be anti-socialising.

    Sadly, I still have to “fight” for my introversion being told I need to get out of my shell and stop blaming my introversion. Which always come from extroverts.

    • It’s a matter of their ignorance, and I definitely hope a lot of people will learn something about what introversion is – and that as much as they may *wish* we had their same personality traits, we do not!

    • This was pretty insight, really hit close to home, i mean this was me back in the day in say elementary shcool, back in the 90′s, i mean back then i had no idea why i felt the need to just leave crowded areas after awhile, or how’d i’d a headache if say theres a party in the room and everyones talking at the same time, or how i loved story time :D
      i’m now in my 20′s and it just seems like everything comes together the more i know what it means to be introverted, very good to know

  2. Amen. Thanks for this post. Many of us “introverts” tend to get hounded by our extrovert friends about the very issues you wrote about.

    • Hi Adam, yes “hounded” is a great word for it! I guess the reason they nag us about being “strange” or “aloof” instead of us making them feel bad about being “annoying” or “pushy” :D is that we don’t like confrontation, so we withdraw rather than make things unpleasant. And of course there are a lot more extroverts than introverts, so I guess it would be impossible for us to make them feel “odd.”

  3. theshyintrovert on

    Lunch with coworkers everyday? Outrageous! I am an introvert as well. I enjoy an occassional lunch out with coworkers, but if forced to do so everyday I would feel like a ferocious corned animal.

    • Oh yes! That is a great analogy because I think a lot of times people push and push and push an introvert then are SHOCKED when the cornered animal finally lashes out at them! And yes, a lot of coworkers insist on lunch out together every single day. I like to go about once a week, but every day?! I have escaped from that now, pleading saving money, but it sets me apart from the others, who relish their time to be “together” away from the office for an hour (as opposed to “together” AT the office for the rest of the day). :)

  4. you just named me. that is ME!! i lived years and years and years thinking something was wrong with me. i even take an antidepressant for my introvert-ness. but we introverts are good people. i finally realized that, but i still fight it. i have finally realized after 30 years as a sales rep that i should have done something different – with my hands, with my mind, designing, music, writing….. our world glorifies people who do do do be be be…………sorry. im worn out with this rant. gotta go be alone for awhile…..:-)

    • Oh I am so sorry – society definitely does that to introverts. Heck, every time a guy goes and shoots up a place, I am just WAITING for the inevitable interview with his neighbor, who says he kept to himself and was quiet. You know what Sean – I’ll bet a lot of your customers love you. There’s nothing I hate more than a pushy sales rep who “upsells” constantly and won’t take no for an answer. But someone with some sensitivity about him who can tell when it’s not a good time to talk – I’ll bet you are well liked. Hey – you can do those other things in the evenings and weekends though, and it’s not only healing, it may be your retirement plan! :) In other words, if one of those other fields starts producing a little income, then when you’re old enough to think about retiring, you can still do this thing that you love and have some $ coming in too.

      • itornverts are more intellegent. He didn’t say we have much better sex too, though that is obvious, isn’t it. We don’t waste time babbling like the extroverts. :D

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  6. Oh-My-God! I was surfing the net today with no goal in mind when I found this page. I couldn’t believe how every-single-word described me! People like being around me and, when they are, we all have a blast, but when a couple of hours have passed I begin feeling uneasy, wanting to go home, needing to be by myself. I didn’t know I could be an introvert. I love people, talking, having a good time… only not for hours on end!

    Feeling drained is an awful feeling, and I do feel drained afterwards… every single time. My husband is used to it, but not those around me… so they wonder…

    Thank you. Great eye opener. I wish I’d known this a while back ‘cuz it would have given me an ‘excuse’, right? :)

    • So glad you found us! Well, others don’t understand, even if we give our “excuse,” but at least you know why you feel the way you do so you can plan a little when you have lots of social activities coming up.

  7. Sometimes I also feel like that. Like it’s physically and emotionally draining to interact with a lot of people. And there are also times that I would prefer to just sending a text or an email instead of calling. I would prefer to stay at home than go out. Maybe I am an introvert as well.

  8. I am so glad I found this site. I work as a teacher and I am always being hounded to sit with co-workers or mingle during my preps. I spend about 6 hours with kids and as much as I love them, I need my breaks for me. I have tried to explain but people are people and they judge pretty quick. I have even had other teachers tell me that I have so much to offer and I should share at lunch time. I want to ask them where they found the rule book saying I have to go and do these things, but I just smile and nod, and then seethe in private. Any ideas on how to satisfy them? I eat lunch once in a while but only stay 10 minutes if that. It just becomes too much sometimes and then I am made to feel like I did wrong.

    • It’s a shame isn’t it, that even when you’re nice and smile you still get judged for not spending all your break time interacting with others! And these people are supposed to understand kids, so it would have been nice if they actually learned something about various personality types along the way but it looks like they didn’t. One thing a nice introvert I know does is to set a certain day of the week he’ll eat with everyone else. He uses Monday-Thursday lunches to “pay bills” or whatever he really is doing :) and tells the office he’ll go out with everyone every Friday. Of course I know that will not be ENOUGH – nothing less than every day will satisfy these folks – but the hope is that you can be yourself and have the breaks you need while still having cordial relationships with the others.

  9. Pingback: The quiet ones ;o) | The Trick is to Keep Breathing

  10. It sounds like you finally have it figured out. I know many people who would give their left hand to know themselves that well. It’s hard to find the balance in one’s life but it seems this has really set you free.

  11. Wow….It’s truly amazing that people, in a sad attempt to put a label on themselves, use words incorrectly. First of all, stop with the need to try to make yourself unique or special with labels. Second, if you’re going to ignore the first, at least use words correctly. You are not even close to the true definition of introvert. For that matter, you’re not even unique. Everyone enjoys times alone sometimes. Using your intellect, every person in the world would be an introvert.

  12. I love this article. I use to wonder what the h@ll was wrong with me through out my teens. I was like other teens. I didn’t feel like an average person. I got and still get the labels of being “anti,”freak,” and I even get I have psychological problems. In addition, I added to the misunderstanding misery by labeling myself also as a “loner” and oddball. My friends, peers, family, and even myself made me feel like a loser although out my teens. It took sometime to accept myself for the way I am. I am getting so much better with the self-love, self-acceptance, and understanding Christ made me this way for a reason.

  13. @Robert Obviously there are varying degrees of an introvert and yes ALL people do like to spend time alone but by the sound of her article I don’t think she is trying make out that she is special. No. What she is describing is real and the fact of putting a label on it has given her some sort comfort so whether she is an introvert in the sense of what you are thinking is irrelevant.

  14. After reading this I saw that I really need lots of time all to myself without other people around. I’ve tried explaining this to my boyfriend but he doesn’t understand that i really need to be alone without anyone. And because i havent been getting this kind of alone time for a long time since i have to go to school and talk to people almost everyday and have to do homework I never get any real time to myself. I really need to manage mytime better cause it feels like I’m going to rip my hair out getting so frustrated.

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