Caring for your Introvert

I’ve always considered myself classically introverted. I enjoy being alone, spending time by myself relaxing, reading, recharging. I have no problem with my own company. I rarely feel lonely. I’m pretty sure I could hack living alone, as long as my friends lived reasonably close and so did BF.

I can only ever remember feeling really down and alone once – I was flatting with a friend, who’s very social and has a big group of friends who she often sees and calls up. I sort of stopped talking on the phone sometime after the age of 14 or 15 and almost NEVER call my friends.

Anyway, one evening she had a long phone convo with someone, then her BF came over and stayed the night. Mine didn’t. And just for some reason I felt really, really isolated, and had a bit of a cry and felt sorry for myself. Why wasn’t I a social butterfly? Why didn’t I have three hour conversations on the phone? And why wasn’t BF there with me that particular night?

I rang up an old friend – one who was my three-hour conversation buddy back in school. She listened, patiently to all my silly emo angst….and I don’t know how she put up with it…my back and forth over analysis of my crushes, and what did that one fleeting moment of eye contact mean, and why didn’t he smile back, etc…..She’s great. The kind of friend you want to have – you can go weeks, months without seeing each other, and then catch up like you’ve never been apart, no awkwardness. Since finishing school and going our separate ways the intervals in between have got longer and longer, but it hasn’t changed a thing. That I think is a great friendship, and I hope we’ll always be friends.

Getting off topic. That aside, around friends – true friends, that I’m comfortable around and show my true colours with, because I don’t feel self conscious or try to impress them – I sort of come alive. I’m more sparky, energetic, funny. With everyone else, I’m shy (which comes across as stand offish). After maybe talking to someone at uni once, I won’t usually approach them next time I see them.

The Atlantic has a great article on ‘caring for your introvert’.

“Do you tell this person he is “too serious,” or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out?” – SO very me.

I can’t yet tell if I’m introverted or just shy. Do I  grunt or wince when “accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?” Sure, sometimes. I’m very ruled by my heart. If I’m having a shitty day, well I’m sorry, I can’t hide it. Do I need to be dragged to parties and then take forever to recuperate? Hell yeah, and it’s not because of the hangover. I am useless at small talk (working on it, and improving, but still not that great). “Introverts are people who find other people tiring.” Well, yes, sometimes. Is that…bad?

“after an hour or two of being socially “on,” we introverts need to turn off and recharge.” Um, sometimes.

“For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: “I’m okay, you’re okay—in small doses.” Totally. Most people are used to have friends in and out all the time, coming over to watch Grey‘s together, make popcorn, do facials on each other, whatever. Not me. Hate unaccustomed visitors! Most nights I come home and have a quiet evening with BF before bed. I know, sounds boring, but on the whole it suits me, with the odd night out.

I am not, however, “dynamite” at presentations. In fact, the exact opposite – I would rather eat feet than give a presentation. My voice goes small and tinny, my entire body flushes red, I try to speak slowly but end up going at double speed.

Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not.” Okay. Maybe just shy, then.

How many people are introverts?

About 25 percent. Or: Just under half. Or—my favorite—”a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population.”

Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Haha, interesting. They apparently have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion.

BF is an extrovert to the core. He’s a storyteller, a performer, a lover of the spotlight. He usually hogs attention wherever we go, which suits me just fine. He doesn’t really spend time alone. When we lived alone, just us, on nights I worked late I’d come home and be really annoyed that he hadn’t even started dinner. In fact, he’d usually be out with friends. He didn’t like being home without me, by himself. The whole ‘coming alive around others’? Yeah. Not really enjoying his company, always needing something to do? Yeah.

He really needs some hobbies.

The only thing a true introvert dislikes more than talking about himself is repeating himself. Oh. MY. LORD. Starting a new year at uni means incessantly repeating yourself. Where I work. How old I am. What school I went to. ETC. Can’t stand the repetition! It’s also a pet peeve of mine (alongside bad spelling) when people tell and retell old stories (BF, looking atcha!)

Unfortunately it’s an extroverts’ world. They make impressions. They exude charisma. They get ahead. They’re seen as normal, what we should aspire to.

We tend to think before talking, whereas extroverts tend to think by talking. Hence, why people call us quiet. I often think over what I’m going to say two or three times. Not always, of course. But in serious situations.

How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice? First, recognize that it’s not a choice. It’s not a lifestyle. It’s an orientation.

And, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don’t say “What’s the matter?” or “Are you all right?”

Thank you. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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