I recently learned something about myself that took me by surprise. I found out that I am an introvert!
I had always been under the impression that introverts were shy, antisocial people with poor social skills. That description does not match my personality at all. I just enjoy being alone.
Shy people suffer from social anxiety. Inhibited by fear and apprehensiveness they will avoid social situations whenever possible. That was never the case with me. In my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood I was a social person, though I always preferred the company of a few over a group.
Carl Jung, one of the founders of modern psychology, introduced the word “introvert” to our language. He described introversion as a preference for one’s internal world of thoughts, feelings, fantasies, and dreams. That describes the particularities of my personality perfectly.
I know many people, have a wide circle of acquaintances, and by all appearances excel in social situations. But being around a lot of people, even when I am having a good time, emotionally exhausts me. I look forward to going home and back to my solitude where I can recharge my energy bank. That is typical of introverts; by nature they are energized when alone and emotionally drained when around other people.
Introverts prefer environments that are not over stimulating. They dislike crowded places and noise. That does not mean that they sequester themselves from society. They are perfectly able to function well in social situations as long as they can find restorative alone time afterwards.
Even though I have always been perfectly content alone I sometimes wondered if something was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I maintain an active social life like other people I knew could? But even as I questioned my behavior, I could not force myself to be a social butterfly. It is just not a comfortable existence for me.
Surface friendships are challenging for me to maintain. They take too much from my energy reserve. I am happy having my family and a few close friends in my life—people with whom I have deep relationships, people who know me, love me, and accept me for who I am.
There seems to be a negative connotation associated with introversion but there should not be—it is certainly not an undesirable trait and definitely not a disorder. In fact it has been estimated that thirty to fifty percent of the population have this temperament. That statistic increases to sixty percent with those who are especially endowed with great talent or aptitude. Mark Zuckerberg, Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Dr. Seuss, and Eleanor Roosevelt are some well known examples of brilliant introverts.
Introverts are highly attuned to their thoughts, perceptions, and feelings. They are deep thinkers who enjoy reading, learning, and quiet contemplation.
With my self-reflective nature I require a great deal of alone time. When people are in my space too long I feel deprived of the quiet introspection that keeps me emotionally balanced.
Now that my children are grown and my house is quiet I spend my weekdays alone at home doing what I love—writing and crafting jewelry. Introverts focus best in tranquil environments. I work in complete silence—no television, no music playing. When concentrating on something, reading, or working on a project, I do not like to be interrupted. Being disturbed while in my “zone” unnerves me.
We often work from home or prefer to, but we are also great team players and leaders when out in the work force. Introverts have a way of guiding others with their soft-spoken but self-assured approach. When they speak, their words are thoughtful and meaningful.
Many introverts are creative people—writers or artists just as I am. It is much easier for me to share myself and inspire others through writings and artistic expression than it is through personal contact. But as a published author with the mission of helping others I have learned to push past that discomfort. I must be in the public eye to reach people and pass on my messages.
Introverts do not typically enjoy being the center of attention, though that preference does not necessarily keep them reclusive. Many famous, high profile people have this personality type. Actresses such as Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep, actors such as Tom Hanks and Steve Martin, and show hosts such as Diane Sawyer and David Letterman have very visible careers that require a great deal of social interaction. Johnny Carson’s professional life was entirely in the limelight yet he was notoriously introverted.
Introverts are largely intolerant of small talk and superficial conversation. They enjoy conversations that are reflective and analytical. Those who talk loud or talk too much but have little to say agitate us. When I am exposed to someone like that I need to balance out the noisy mindless chatter with quiet solitude to regain my inner composure. When the topic of conversation really matters to me I am a supportive, tireless listener.
I find it necessary at least once a week to get out of my own head and connect with others in a meaningful way, preferably one on one. I fulfill that need through the volunteering I do for hospice, whether visiting and keeping someone company or sitting vigil by the bedside of someone whose death is imminent. It is a privilege and honor to be in the presence of those who are making the most profound transition of their lives.
For many years my life was chaotic. Now I have great appreciation of the simplicity and serenity of life. I am never lonely and I am never bored. Life and faith give me much to contemplate.
The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said it best …
“Knowing others is wisdom. Knowing oneself is enlightenment.”