Friday, May 20, 2016
#DealWithIt Presents the Life of a Shy Introvert
Growing up I knew that I preferred to live a bit differently than most of my friends. I have no way of knowing how many of my friends were playing the same game, pretending to be something they knew they really were not just so they could fit in.
This, I think, is the most positive result of all the recent press about introversion. Allowing those who think there is something wrong with themselves to understand that not only isn't there anything wrong with them, but there are thousands out there going to exactly the same things. It seems you can't swing a digital dead cat without seeing a new article, book, or talk about introversion these days. Don't get me wrong I think this is a good thing: I just heard the term for the first time a few years ago. In the years since I discovered there was something called "being an introvert" and my understanding of myself and why I felt the way I did increased so much I can't believe I was able to function at all before.
I have not sought any assistance with this enlightenment, not been tested for the level of introversion, not created a movement for introversion. (the million introvert shut in?) I am not even sure there are such things available to newly discovered introverts. Really though, speaking as an introvert, I didn't really need to discover I was an introvert, only that there was a name for it.
There is still some confusion about introversion. Some say that it is another word for being shy. This couldn't be more wrong. Now, I happen to be both shy and introverted (thanks for that by the way...) but I also know shy extroverts and outgoing introverts. Introversion is not about being shy or confident, it is about energy. When an introvert is in a very stimulating environment (even a comfortable one) they expend energy just being there. An extrovert on the other hand feels energized in the exact same environment.
Shyness can be defeated, confidence can be built, but where you sit on the introversion/extroversion scale is what it is. I am not saying this as an excuse to not try, to not succeed, it certainly is not. There are a great many introverted people who accomplish whatever they set their minds to. Introverts have led nations, run companies… created greatness. Where you sit on the scale does not limit what you can accomplish it only changes how you go about it.
I can give you an example from my own life to demonstrate what I mean. This past weekend was the Motor City Comic Convention and I took one of my sons to it because he had never been and wanted to see what it was all about. If it had been just me, I would not have gotten within 10 miles of the convention. I love comics, pop culture, art, cosplay (anybody else's...), celebrities, and memorabilia but the thought of being in a huge room with 10,000 other people, lights, noise, banners, posters, food, 5,000 separate conversations, etc. gives me the screaming hebejebe's. It shouldn't since I share interests with almost everyone in the place, heck, I would expect a vast number of those in attendance to be introverted to some level as well. None of that matters though because it isn't about any of that. It is about energy.
The shy in me doesn't want to be there because... people. The introvert in me wants to be there but is simply exhausted by the experience of it all. We were there about 3 hours total and by the time we got home I needed a sensory deprivation chamber and about 18 hours sleep. My son who has a little bit of shy in him but is much further up the extroverted side of the scale went on the play a travel soccer game and help move someone and was still ready to go.
I attended the convention and was able to share my love of all things geek with my son, an experience I would not trade for anything. Understanding my introversion simply allowed me to make allowances for the effects of such an outing. The day before and the morning of I made sure I stored as much energy as I could by spending my time reading and resting. Afterwards I did what I could to allow myself time to recover as much as possible and making sure I have a couple of days of relative quiet before I need to be 'on' or expend that much energy again.
Though the introverts reading this probably know instinctively what I mean about being “on” I would be willing to bet that most extroverts have no idea at all what I am talking about. As an introvert you naturally seek peace and quiet in any environment. To be 'on' though is to move away from that natural instinct and, for lack of a better word, pretend to be extroverted. Being more sociable, more outgoing, more visibly connected. Not because you don't want to be but because if left alone you wouldn't normally behave this way. When you attend a friend or family member’s birthday party, for example, you don't sit in a chair in the corner hoping no one engages you in conversation but instead you mingle, talk with your friends, family, and other guests. You enjoy it, it's fun, but very draining. This is what being 'on' is. It isn't a bad thing nor a good thing. It's just the way you are.
Knowing your body and what you need is important to so many facets of our lives and introversion is just another of those facets. Making sure you balance your time being 'on' as well as being 'off' is as important as eating right and getting enough exercise. Once you know how to spend your energy wisely you can accomplish anything.
There is a lot of information available now about introversion and how to manage your energy levels. I have listed a few below and a quick google search will return many more.
Quiet - Susan Cain
The Introvert Advantage - Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.
T.E.D. Talk - Susan Cain - The Power of Introverts