I'm an introvert.1
These days, thanks to tests like the Myers-Briggs, extroversion vs introversion is seen as a sliding scale rather than an either/or scenario. Which I mention only so you know that, in calling myself an introvert, I don't mean I'm a little bit I-wards of the centre, or leaning more I than E. I mean introverted in the classic sense. I mean I work and hang with introverts who look positively extroverted by comparison. On that sliding scale, I am the endpoint.
I am what Huck Finn would term a lonesome person.2 I'm happy with my own thoughts, and my own company — that's plenty loud and crowded for me. (Heck, sometimes it's loo loud and crowded for me.) Spending time with other people — even fun, relaxing, enjoyable time — takes energy. Half an hour in the company of others means I need at least half an hour alone to recharge. There are some select few people — soothing, quiet, undemanding types — I can have around while I'm recharging. But even then the process is slower, less efficient. It's like trying to charge your ipod while simultaneously listening to it: the drive's still spinning, sipping juice out of the batteries even as they're trying to fill. So sometimes I need a break even from them.
All of which can be difficult, because society is built around the extroverts.
Now, to be fair, this is because we introverts don't speak up. But what it means is that we have a social system built not only around valuing the traits of the extrovert (self-confidence, speaking up, taking the lead, shining in the limelight, entertaining others), but also around "fixing" those who don't have or display these traits strongly enough.
But you know what? Fuck that.
Introversion is not a disease.
Just because I'm not jumping up and down for attention, or putting my hand up to join another committee that as far as I can see will argue itself to extinction, doesn't mean I'm not contributing.
Know what I'm doing, so quietly you can't hear or even see me at it?
I'm working. While all the limelighters are making noise for change, and rallying the troops to participate in goal-setting, I'm at my desk, getting the job done. Me personally, I'm working fast and thorough and to an exacting quality standard, because I'm a perfectionist. I'm not doing it uninterrupted, either. I'm holding someone's hand while they cry, because they know I'm a good listener. Or I'm nursemaiding someone else through a tricky learning task, because while I hate teaching in a classroom that doesn't mean I can't teach and in fact I'm damn good at tutoring, one on one. And I'm doing all of this with one hand tied behind my back, because apparently being introverted means I'm damaged, or not living up to my potential, and I need fixing.
Because introverts bother extroverts. Confoundingly, we find solitude not the distracting, tiresome burden that extroverts find it, but instead some kind of glorious release. And even though we don't fit into the system, we confusingly never bother to challenge it directly, instead sitting mulishly silent and living beneath and around its rules as best we can, letting it steam-roll on by so we can get on with what we really want to do, which is pursuing a different dream, in peace.
Which — to my mind, by my yardstick (the only yardstick I'm interested in heeding) — takes chutzpah.
Dear extroverts: I LIKE me this way. I don't need fixing, or curing, or saving.
Kindly adjust your perceptions of me, you, and the world, accordingly.
- Right now, even those who don't know me well will be thinking, Um, yeah, that's hardly news, Deb… [↩]
- For those of you who've not read the book, or don't remember it, Huck distinguishes between lonely and lonesome. A lonely person is melancholy at being without company; a lonesome person is a habitual loner because he likes it, and seeks solitude. [The two, I note, are not mutually exclusive. A lonesome person can still be lonely.] [↩]