I recently read a blog post, one of many written on the subject in the last while, that made clear for me that for my whole life I’ve misunderstood a core part of who I am. Of the 23 possible signs you may be an introvert listed in the article, I identify with about 20 of them. Because I am not shy, because I am a joiner, because I am not only unafraid of but actually seek out the spotlight – the bigger the audience the better - I’ve always believed I am an extrovert. In fact, I didn’t just believe it, I celebrated it. I took pride in it. I was grateful to be an extrovert, and truly believed (and still do) that extroverts have an advantage in our culture.
|Singing for 900 - no problem. |
Talking to the girl singing with me, not so much.
Inside of that identity, reinforced and heavily outlined until it became almost a caricature, there was a core ‘me’ that never got to be expressed. Oh, that’s not so accurate – she got expressed, but only ever as a reactionary breakdown. After enough denial and stepping over, the neglected introvert in me would come out swinging, alienate people, and force a retreat to whatever sanctuary was available.
I now recognise that reaction – before getting to the breakdown stage – as something that I refer to as getting ‘peopled out.’ It’s a weird sensation – I can be surrounded by people I love, whose company I enjoy, and just want to run away. I become anxious, and then i become quiet. It seems odd that I got to my fourth decade before I figure this out. I am not an extrovert. I am an introvert with extrovert tendencies. The clues are all there – I’d rather speak or sing to a room of several hundred people than be alone in a room full of strangers with whom I have to make small talk. I can do the latter, but it drains me (put me in front of a crowd, though, and I’ll float home). I hate the phone – those people who prefer contacting me by phone I will move to email as soon as possible. My default setting is to let my written words speak for me – honest, but one step removed.
|Recharging on the Irish coast.|
The favourite trip I’ve ever taken was when I traveled solo for two weeks, starting with a week in a cottage on the edge of a seaside village. I love social media, but even there I keep the elemental me protected, and every once in a while I have to shut it down, stay offline for a while, and (as you may have noticed) stop blogging. I am familiar to a fair number of people, and trust few of them to know me. It’s no accident that I’ve had the same best friend for more than 40 years. I adore my sweetheart and my sons, yet as I write this, I am in a happy place – a hotel room by myself, with the city passing by outside my window. It is one of a series of happy places throughout my life that all share the key features of solitude and quiet - the crook of a tree on our farm, the library at my grandparents' house (or really any library), the garden, secluded rock outcroppings along our nearby ocean.
I suspect that, as with so many human behaviours , the introvert/extrovert tendency is more of a spectrum than a strictly either/or proposition. And, also like so many other elements of life, the secret is likely balance. It’s something that The Man has helped me to recognize – I am better with people when I have time to myself. It’s important for me, with a job that requires putting myself out there, to have at least one day on a weekend where we don’t do anything. During times of higher stress, my response it to need more alone time, not more people around me.
I suppose this is not that earth shattering to most people, but when you’ve spent a few decades thinking you’re some lable, but not being able to integrate your whole self into that idea, it’s pretty liberating to have a new understanding of who you are.