Not too long ago, I read something that opened a window onto my own inner life. I’m not sure if this is the exact wording, but it went something like this: “Being an introvert doesn’t mean you don’t like people; it just means you respond to people differently. Extroverts get recharged by being around people. Introverts get recharged by being alone.”
That had such a ring of truth for me. I had always considered my introversion (introvertedness? introversy? anyways…) as a fault to be overcome. But this new definition opened up the possibility that it was no more a handicap than my left-handedness or my freaky second toe that’s longer than my big toe (both of which actually are kind of handicaps, especially where shoe-buying and scissor-using are concerned). It is an incredibly liberating thought, the possibility that this is just my character, rather than a character flaw.
Even more recently, I found this list of 10 myths about introverts, and whoever wrote it knows me better than the best telephone psychic ever. Sister Cleo, is that you?
Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk. This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days. [I’ll let the previous 200-some-odd posts on this blog speak to whether that applies to me.]
Myth #3 – Introverts are rude. Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting. [Exhausting is exactly the right word.]
Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public. Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.
Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone. Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.
[Yes and yes. Except I will say that I’m comfortable socializing with more than just one person at a time, as long as it’s a small group of people with whom I’m already comfortable, or people who just think I’m awesome. And yes, that is rare.]
Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them. [This is the only one that’s wrong–I am in fact an aloof nerd.]
Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up. [I don’t know what Dopamine is, but if it’s what makes me enjoy sitting around in my underwear watching Cartoon Network, then yeah, go Dopamine!]
Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ. [I’ve known plenty of Extroverts that needed to get “fixed” themselves. Having an extroverted personality doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve got all your crap together, and really, it probably wouldn’t kill you to tone it down just a little.]
So I find myself now torn: should I continue to try to fight my inherent introvertedness, or should I embrace it and try to become the best introvert I can be?
What I want to say–what would be easiest to say–is, forget about being extroverted; I am introvert, lean in really close so you can hear me roar! But if this is new perspective on introverts is wrong, then I’m just justifying the things that make me comfortable and living a life that’s less than it could be.
Plus, as a Christian, I’m called on to be an influence in the world for Christ. I think it goes without saying that an extrovert is typically going to be more of an influence than an introvert. So if I’m satisfied with remaining an introvert, am I abandoning my Christian mission?
Well, apparently that’s something that other people have been thinking about too, because we have this book: Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. Here’s part of the summary: “Introverts are called and gifted by God. But many churches tend to be extroverted places where introverts are marginalized. Some Christians end up feeling like it’s not as faithful to be an introvert. Adam McHugh shows how introverts can live and minister in ways consistent with their personalities.”
I’ve been uncomfortable with this aspect of my personality for so long that it seems almost too good to be true that I could, all of a sudden, just decide that it’s okay after all. But I’m definitely going to be considering the possibility, and giving that book a look-see.