Introverts are not mean, callous, or snotty people. They are not shy, they are selective. They are introspective and always watching and listening to everything you do and say. They draw their energy from themselves, not from you - they don't need you and this is something extroverts find very difficult to understand. They will survive on a deserted island because they don't desire someone else to make them happy. That isn't to say they don't have friends or don't love or don't bond, but they are very choosy. Their choices are meticulous and slow to come about. I have few close friends, and I'm okay with this.
I spent my youth trying to be an extrovert. I was a cheerleader for crying out loud, I should have been social and a "joiner" and all of the things that align with being an extrovert; drawing my energy from crowds of people, bright lights, and big times. To anyone watching, I was. I cheered the games, I went to parties, I danced at the bar, I hung out at the lake. I did all of those things. But when I look back on those moments I realize a few key details that made me different: I was happiest while I was cheering, not interacting. I never mingled at parties, I stood in the corner (unless I'd had too much to drink and then I was fool like everyone else). I had no desire to chat with anyone at a bar, I just wanted to dance and it annoyed me to no end when people wanted to make small talk - it's loud, it's crowded, I can't hear you, and I'm just here to dance. I found solace in basking in the sun at the lake or jumping off the cliff, that long silent ride down to the water. The social events held private moments for me and that is what I enjoyed.
I remember one particular day that this revelation started to come about. I had stayed home sick from school, Junior year I think, for two days. I was exhausted (probably from trying to keep up with the extroverts) and I just needed some time. By the end of the second day I clearly remember helping set the table and my Dad asking my Mom why "Cresta was in such a good mood?" And I remember clearly my mother saying, "She's been alone for two days..." Lightbulb moment!
It would take me many more years to really come to grips with who I was as a person. I spent a lot of time feeling bad about myself, assuming people didn't like me and that this was somehow my fault, and hating myself in so many ways. I felt like something was wrong with me because people were constantly trying to change who I was and I spent a lot of time not being myself. When I look back on my life, those were my darkest and unhappiest years. When I met my husband, I knew he was the one because there was such an easy silence between us. I didn't have to fill the void, and neither did he. We still don't. And it's magical.
In an excellent article in Atlantic Monthly, author Jonathan Rauch took on some of the common myths and misconceptions about introverts. While introverts are often labeled as shy, aloof and arrogant, Rauch explains that these perceptions results from the failure of extraverts to understand how introverts function. "Extr[a]verts have little or no grasp of introversion," Rauch suggests. "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. As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extr[a]verts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood." (Cherry)
But with all of that said, let's clear up a few things about introverts. We aren't quiet. Being an introvert doesn't mean you don't have the ability to talk and interact, we choose not to until we feel drawn to do so and then you might not be able to shut us up. If we are talking your head off, feel confident in the knowledge that we feel comfortable with you. But, if the conversation is forced, know that you are probably making us very uncomfortable. I have sat and listened to people ramble on about nothing I'm remotely interested in and said not a word because I was raised to be polite - they think I'm being a good listener. I'm not - I'm daydreaming about how nice it'll be when they stop talking. Pay attention people! A string of "uh-huhs" and "I knows..." and "that's though..." from a introvert means we tuned out a long time ago. We find small talk extremely tedious. If you just want to say "hi," text me and I'll text you back and we can go about our day.
Introverts have friends. Albeit, a much smaller group of friends than extroverts. We like to see those friends. But we don't have to see them everyday to know they are still our friends. I have a few that I talk to so randomly it'd be difficult to put a time stamp on it, but I love them and they love me. Our conversations pick up as naturally as they would as if I'd just seen them yesterday. We enjoy small dinner parties, wine on the back porch, a day on the beach, a lunch together.
We do participate in social activities - I have a Book Club, and I love it! I'm the host which means I must turn on my extroversion for a bit, but it's worth it for the next part of the night where we talk about the book and that's what makes the conversation easy. Other topics come up, but as a comfortable modality of the conversation already going. They aren't mindless, tedious conversations, but conversations with grit and humor and life. Meaningful. Introverts crave what is meaningful.
We have jobs that require interaction. As you might imagine, jobs that require a great deal of social interaction usually hold little appeal to people high in introversion. On the other hand, careers that involve working independently are often a great choice for introverts. Writers, accountants, programmers, designers, and yes, even teachers. Being a teacher is an autonomous career - we spend all day in our classroom with our students teaching our lessons. Lecture and guidance isn't the same as social interaction. And we make powerful connections with those students because it is NOT social, it is mentorship and that is different. I am an excellent teacher as an introvert. To be honest, I find teachers that are extroverts to have great struggle in the classroom because they draw their energy from their students, they need to be liked, and they struggle when they feel they aren't the most important teacher to a student. Introverted teachers are better guides - we don't share too much of our personal lives and look to keep our students on track to become better human beings, not our friends. I've been blessed to have many friendships naturally develop from my guidance, but it's not a requirement of being a good teacher.
We are funny. I make lots of jokes and I'm extremely sarcastic. I am funny - so I've been told. It still doesn't mean I want to hang out in a crowded room cracking jokes all day - even with my humor, I'm selective.
Introverts only make up about 30% of the population. I spent many years trying to participate in the other 70%, and now that I understand myself better, it's been such a joy being me without apology.
I found this on Buzzfeed and I thought it was hilarious - and so true. Problems only introverts will understand: http://www.buzzfeed.com/erinlarosa/problems-only-introverts-will-understand
And this graphic is great!
Introverts Unite - but separately! :-)
Cherry , K. Web. 23 Feb 2014.