Humans are a varied species. We all like different things, we all derive energy from different places, we all have our own ideas about the world we live in and how we want to live in the world. Individuality for many of us is one of the most cherished things. It is our ability to exist as we want to exist and to guide our lives as we feel most comfortable. Individuality of others should be respected and acknowledged. Well, at least that’s the way I see it, but I’m an introvert.
There are these pesky little creatures in this world called extroverts. They’re not all alike but there is a whole lot of them who the introverts in the world do our best to avoid. Unfortunately they’ve been everywhere since we came into this world and if you’re an introvert too, you know exactly what I mean.
Being an introvert, I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me. Why? Because the extroverts told me so. I needed to get out more, I needed more friends, more acquaintances, I needed to like adventure and spontaneity, I needed to spend less time alone, I needed to like teams more, I needed to like solidarity less, I needed to enjoy being the centre of attention, I needed to be less quiet around new people, go to more parties, etc. And, if you said you didn’t want these things, you were defective.
I realize now, in my 30’s that these words came from the die-hard extroverts. A curious sub-species of human beings who think that extroversion is the only way to exist in the world and that anything less than that is equal to not really ‘living’. Extroverts view introverts as somehow defective and as individuals who need to be ‘fixed’ and shown how to really live properly. I’m comfortable now telling them that they are, in fact, wrong. But as a child and young adult you believe the extroverts. You’re somehow not ‘normal’ and you have to force yourself to be ‘normal’. In doing so, you become miserable only further reinforcing how not normal you really are.
Growing up the extroverts were everywhere and as an introverted child you learn to despise them. They were the gym teachers that didn’t understand why you didn’t like being up at bat with your two dozen fellow students eyes on you. They are the popular kids that tease and taunt you because you’re quiet and studious and prefer not to say too much. They are unfortunately also sometimes your parents who push you into a million group activities and chastise you when you don’t want to be in them and prefer instead to quietly play with your toys, read, or just hang out with one or two friends.
If you haven’t read Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t Stop Talking” you really should, especially if you’re an extrovert. Introverts will of course enjoy reading any book that lends credence to the fact that we’re not some alien species and research into a ‘cure’ for our ailment need not continue. We’re fine just the way we are.
I’m not antisocial, far from it. I enjoy the company of my friends but I do not have an extensive group of friends/acquaintances and the thought of having that exhausts me. I have a core group of very close friends, most of whom I have known for more than half my life. I would do anything for these people and I don’t ever for a second question the depth of our friendships. I like meeting new people sometimes and I’ve learned to be pretty good at small talk through the years but I prefer relationships with depth and meaning. I am not a go-go-go person and I’ve learned that my mental health relies on having ample quiet time to reflect, relax and recharge. That’s right extroverts, us introverts recharge from quiet time and get very quickly drained by large social gatherings.
At the end of the day I wish everyone could respect what makes others feel happy in life. Fact is, I’m happy being alone a lot of the time. I’m happy with a good afternoon nap. Someone once told me that I was wasting my life by napping. How is it that if I’m very content and it makes me feel happy that having a nap somehow makes me less of a truly ‘living’ human being?
I truly believe introverts know themselves better as we’ve been forced by extroverted criticism to really analyze who we really are in order to come to a place we feel happy. Unfortunately that usually doesn’t happen until well into adulthood after we’ve been damaged by years of criticism for the way we like to live.
Recently I did one of the Myers-Briggs type personality tests in one of my introverted moments of self-exploration. It told me I was an INFJ personality (apparently the rarest of all of the personality types). Reading the description made me relax, because it fits me perfectly almost to an eerie extent. So extraverts read below and know it is okay to have these aspects of your personality and introverts – read and know that you’re not alone:
- I don’t like spontaneity. I thrive on routine and I find it very calming and reassuring. As an extrovert you may want to hit the road on a moment’s notice and go backpacking spontaneously around Europe. This is my version of hell.
- I have a hard time verbally expressing myself but I can do so in writing very well. Given the choice I prefer to communicate in writing and avoid having to have important conversations out loud. In writing I can consider, read and re-write if necessary. Words out loud are harder to calculate.
- I do not need, nor do I want dozens and dozens of ‘friends’. I love my dear (yet few) close friends.
- I enjoy being alone but I don’t enjoy being lonely. They are two different things. Being lonely means lacking a connection with others where a connection is needed. Being alone and knowing you have that connection there – well that’s all I need.
- I will always be critical of myself for not being perfect.
- I may not say a whole lot if you first meet me, but please don’t interpret this as bitchiness or aloofness. I will do anything to make others feel happy. I’m very sensitive to the feelings of people around me.
- I will avoid conflict in every single way possible. I find it extremely upsetting. I will however stand my ground on things that are very important to me (i.e. my close friends and family). I’m not a pushover. I just pick my battles.
So what’s the point of everything I’ve said? Think carefully before you criticize others’ ideas of enjoyment in life. What is the best day of your life may be another person’s version of a nightmare. This goes for both extroverts and introverts. We’re all unique and that’s what makes the world interesting and wonderful. The world would be even more wonderful if we respected other people’s lifestyles and loves. If their lifestyles are not hurting anyone else – then who are we to judge? Just be happy that they are happy.
That all being said, I draw the limit at endorsing lifestyles of people whose love in life means the suffering of others. Making another person feel like less of a person is never okay and it is not your place to make those judgements, ever. I don’t care what book you read, what religion you follow or don’t – belittling and labeling others who are different than you as somehow defective is never, ever, ever okay.