In books I am drawn to the classics, the human plight and the journey for peace and self-acceptance. I love words and gravitate to John Steinbeck and connect somewhat with Saul Bellow’s, protagonist, Henderson, a middle-aged man trying to figure out what he wants. “I want, I want, I want,” he exclaims and sets out on a journey of discovery. I usually need a dictionary to look up all the words I haven’t ever heard before. I’m weird like that because I like not knowing a word and then knowing.
I generally don’t enjoy quick reads, romance novels or murder mysteries. My choices in books and reading materials speak to my need for quiet and solitude. None of my books can be read amidst the noise of a coffee house—I often see people reading and doing work in Starbucks and it’s unimaginable to me.
No, this isn’t a post about my reading preferences or really a recommendation about a particular book. What’s peaked my interest as of late is the attention being paid to introversion. Susan Cain’s book “Quiet” has been featured everywhere from The New York Times to Oprah magazine. It was my son who turned me on to her fascinating book and alongside my Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment has brought me clarity and some relief. I often suspected I was an introvert hanging out in an extroverts body. Turns out I was right.
It’s incredibly difficult to live authentically as an introvert—it’s traditionally not rewarded. Lately, I’ve tried explaining when I turn down social engagements that I need a lot of quiet time. Few people know that group gatherings are dicey for me. Long days in bustling cities exhaust me. A weekend where I don’t have a day completely free ties my stomach in knots. For a while I was convinced I was lazy, anti-social or just had something terribly wrong with me.
Now that my secret is out (to me) I’m trying to be sensitively honest with others. It’s not going very well— which is a test of how people really feel about people like me. Introversion is misunderstood and somewhat offensive to a lot of people. People have turned their heads in askance, smiled albeit disapprovingly, shook their heads and tried to move on from the conversation. No matter who I share my true nature with, or how hard I try to describe how my systems go into over-drive very quickly and then my gut is just a blender full of stress chemicals. Most people don’t get it.
So, in an effort to help fellow introverts here are some of my tips:
- *Continuously remind yourself that you aren’t lazy OR crazy
- *Nurture your need for quiet
- *Make an effort to get out and be social but be selective
- *Do what you love as often as you can
- *If your need for a lot of solitude hurts someone—this isn’t someone who really wants to know you
- *We all have to be extroverted at times and it’s a positive thing to stretch those social skills
- *Set a time limit on social engagements that are challenging and leave ample time afterwards for recovery time
- *Don’t apologize for being yourself
Most of all, love all your sweet, quiet introverted qualities. Introverts do just fine in the world and get quite a bit done thinking, creating and being incredibly strong and savvy leaders.