“...it is impossible to fully and fairly understand introversion without looking inside. We aren’t just going away, we’re going toward something.” -Laurie Helgoe
Several weeks ago, I was out in the backyard with my dog Tempe when I heard something that caught my attention. It was the sound of a single cricket making it's lonely song into the night. It was late in the season, we'd already had several hard frosts so I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that at some point the crickets songs would stop. Still - the sound of just one single cricket, sending out it's song unanswered sent my mind wandering. (Admittedly, it doesn't take much for that to happen!)
It made me think of how I often feel being an introvert. Being an introvert surely wasn't my choice. It's just the way I am and have always been. It makes some situations difficult and more often than not I feel like that lone cricket - regardless of how many other voices are sending out their songs around me.
There is something about being an introvert that makes me feel "different" or "not a part of" the things that go on around me. I feel like I'm on the outside, looking through the window. It's not that people seem unfriendly - usually the opposite is true. It just feels like everyone else seems more comfortable in their skin than I am.
Over the years, I've learned to adapt. Most people would never believe for a minute that I really am an introvert. I've actually had people argue with me over the subject. I think that's because I've managed to master the art of "appearing" comfortable. I can carry on conversations with anyone on just about any topic even if we've only just met - but that's all happening on the surface while inside I'm anxious and willing myself not to run away.
This aversion I have to being social is such a paradox for me because I LOVE people. I find them fascinating. I enjoy conversation on a broad variety of topics and love hearing other points of view, and in small groups I completely enjoy the interaction. It's when the size of the group rises above 3 that my skin gets crawly and I find myself wishing to be somewhere else. (Anywhere else actually.)
I admire people who are like fish in perfect water in a crowd and even seek out situations to be around lots of people. My youngest daughter is one of them. She draws energy from engagement. I on the other hand am exhausted just thinking about large scale interaction.
That's the bad news. The good news about being an introvert is that I am happy being in my own company. I don't need a lot of outside interaction to be entertained and I seldom feel actual loneliness. I do miss those I love who I don't see as often as I'd like, but even at that, close is much more of a feeling for me than a location, so as long as my relationships are intact, they always feel close.
Being an introvert also makes me more observant of things around me. I notice all the little things - like a single cricket. I notice social nuance. I'm a keen observer of peoples emotional states. I may never remember who was wearing what but I can tell you for sure who was mad at who and who was having a bad day. I also see - by body language when someone has lost the attention of the group and has gone on about something way too long, and I become uneasy for them - even when they don't notice it of feel uneasy themselves. I find myself constantly monitoring the states of anyone around me. In a restaurant I know what's happening with the people within a four booth radius.
Introversion not only makes me sensitive to other people's feelings - even the ones they don't express, It also makes me want to nurture everything. That's why I beg people not to give me plants - especially poinsettias. I'll still be watering the leggy, mostly leafless things well into August because I can't bear to let anything die or suffer neglect. When I had to have a tree cut down because it was dropping limbs on my roof, I cried and it felt like all of nature was mourning. My husband thinks I'm nuts because I'll catch flies and spiders and put them back outside instead of dispatching them on to another plane of existence.
I've often wondered if its the extreme sensitivity to other people's feelings that is the source of why it's exhausting instead of energizing to be in crowds. All of that unintended motoring and feeling for others wears me out!
My purpose for writing this today is to send a lone song out to other introverts. It's to say we're not "odd." We just feel odd. It takes all kinds of people to make up a world. We all have something to offer and something to overcome. For my fellow introverts I say embrace all that's wonderfully different about you. Be OK with who you are. You add value to the world around you even when you're uncomfortable doing so.
To my extroverted friends - thanks for being the life of the party so we don't have to!
Photo Credit: Sarah Kopp collage