Tuesday, March 24, 2009

OuterBliss: Calling All Introverts to Come Out!

I'd rather stay at home and make
something from scratch than go out.

Listening to: From when he was so much younger.

Bliss: Going to the library yesterday just to see some people and coming home with one, excellent and helpful book.

When I was young, I loved to read. I didn't read books so much as I ate them. One after another. And there was nothing better in my eyes than a summer day accompanied by a fresh stack to work my way through with no interruptions.

But if my mother were around, she had different ideas.

"Go outside and play -- like a normal kid!"

But I was happy with my alone time. I was happy with reading, sitting by a window and sketching or painting, or just day dreaming.

As I got a little older, my chosen physical activities reflected this. I enjoyed tennis -- but never doubles. I danced, and though you may be in a line of dancers, it is just you and the steps and the music and the mirror.

I went to college as a theatre major, but quickly realized that I was uncomfortable with other theatre majors -- they were too invasive of my personal space and seemed to have no boundaries of their own. Finally, I became a literature major and I could get back to my reading where I belonged.

But all those years of being told -- in various ways by various sources -- that I was not "normal" because I liked my alone time took their toll.

By the time I was in my 20's, I was confused about my very nature, and talk about creative blocks! Not knowing who you really are -- that is the block of all blocks.

Little by little, I've been figuring it out. When I talk about bliss being a path, this is what I mean: making a concerted effort every day to live your truth.

Yoga, journaling, good friends, an amazing partner -- all of these things have helped, and then just yesterday, I picked up a book that was another piece of my puzzle.

For a while now, I have felt like one of the main things "wrong" with me is how tired people make me feel. It's confusing to go out with some friends and have a good time and then feel just exhausted by it. That's not normal, right?

It is if you're an introvert. Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength by Laurie A. Helgoe is teaching me so much and I am only a short way into the book.

We have many misperceptions of what it is to be an introvert, and segments of the medical population have managed to pathologize personality traits that we don't deem social enough in this very extroverted culture.

But here's the thing: Helgoe asserts that just over 50% of us are introverts who have worked their whole lives to pass as extroverts.

The anti-anxiety medications lining so many people's bags and cupboards start to make more sense, don't they?

Being an introvert has nothing to do with your social skills. An extrovert can be a loud mouthed ass, for example.

Being an introvert has to do with where you get your energy. Introverts get their energy sucked not by people but by the interactions with people. Extroverts receive energy from interactions.

Introverts have serious internal lives, are interested in ideas and imagination, and they need time alone to be able to process.

With the help of this book, I will now embrace what I call my "hermit" self and stop castigating myself for not being something else. I'll keep you posted on what I learn.

How about you? Are you one of the closeted introverts out there?


Jei said...

Wow-an entirely new perspective on the introverted nature. I must get this book. I am totally introverted.

I prefer to worship alone, do yoga alone, sit quietly and listen to what comes out of me. I have problems with crowds, giving up too much of what's inside of me etc....I need a new perspective on this.

Anonymous said...

This post rang so true for me. I have also felt that confusion over feeling tired after 'girl time' with friends.. Exact same thought process: shouldn't this energize me?

But you're absolutely right - I get energy from being alone, no matter what I'm doing while alone. It truly is a relief to have that epiphany.

I'm an avid reader as well - cheers! Right now, I'm reading Eastern Body, Western Mind and finding myself blown away with the wisdom and healing exercises. Have you ever read it Christine? I highly recommend. My copy is ridiculously, lovingly underlined on more pages than not.

Great post. Take care!

Raine-Lee said...

I'm an introvert and really related to this post. Thanks for pointing out this book, it's on my must read list now!

Linda-Sama said...

There's come a time in your life where you just say F it, I'm me. I did that a long time ago.

I also read a lot, in fact, I read the Encyclopedia Britannica as a child -- true story. You have to be alone quite a bit to read an entire encyclopedia.

I was never a joiner, I never ran around in cliques. I never had lots of girlfriends like other girls had, I always had a few close female friends who were of the same ilk -- loners. It's still like that. In fact, being around a bunch of women is not my favorite thing to do -- when I was in college I hung out with the hippie guys. I don't do wedding showers or baby showers, I'll send ya a gift. This probably explains why I feel out of place in the so-called "yoga community", it's mostly women.

most of my life it seems that a certain type of woman -- and I don't know what type that is, I stopped trying to figure that out a long time ago -- were/are intimidated by my silence and (supposed) strength. sometimes we fear what we want most, don't know. Back in the day my male friends would tell me, you let us be us, you are not judgmental LIKE THE OTHER GIRLS. My gal pals would tell me that less strong women are intimidated by us more independent types, which translates into jealousy and back-biting, so who needs that crap? as I said, I stopped trying to figure it out.

I also notice that when I do trainings and workshops and the leader says "OK, let's get a partner", no one picks me. Maybe because I don't feel the need to chit chat, to bond. At the last training I did, I made a big joke of it saying OUT LOUD every time, "hey, I was always picked last for teams anyway!" (which always happened as a kid.)

So this is a long winded way of saying, revel in it. Revel in your uniqueness and introversion. It's that quality that will take you on adventures that other people might not take.

Like going to India alone at the age of 51, having never been overseas, and feeling like you have come home.

Being like everyone else is just so damn boring, and I don't do boring....life is too short.

Tracy said...

I am definitely an introvert who struggles with panic attacks & agoraphobia. I'm also an avid reader. :)

Rowena said...

not surprisingly, I am an introvert too.

Now, I LIKE to go out and spend time with friends, but I get my energy from being at home with my own brain, mostly.

I recently realize how much guilt I feel about doing this. From reading, to twiddling in my journals or drawing or surfing the internet... I think I am conditioned to believe I am "wasting my time" in these pursuits. I've always done them anyway, but under cover of darkness, hidden in my little corner with my guilty pleasure pepperoni and chocolate.

But why should I feel guilty over this? Now that I'm starting to make money at it, it's like evidence that it IS worthwhile, but I still have this guilt, like I've just been caught doing something selfish and bad for me.

veronica said...

Thank you for this post =)

Jennifer Hugon said...

*Raises hand*

I have always preferred alone time, and have had a very small social accordingly. I prefer a few close friends to many acquaintances.

Reading, check. Panic attacks, check. Feeling drained by social interaction, check. Prefer to be at home, check. Hahah... I guess I qualify as an introvert.

It's funny though. My work forces me to be extroverted (especially now that I am responsible for my own business) so it's no wonder I feel so exhausted after a day full of meetings!

Thank you for bringing this book to my attention! I have to check it out...


Tess said...

I'm not sure, but I suspect I may be an introvert struggling to get out.
The Myers Briggs system is where I first heard about the real definitions of extra/intro version: where you get your energy - externally from others or internally from self.
And while I do enjoy batting ideas around with people, I also need time to think things through and come to a conclusion. It's like the ideas exchange is the dress rehearsal and the solo thinking is the real thing.
Yet I can implement change quickly and make snap judgements when I have to.
And I find it really difficult and tiring to go out socially more than two or three times a week.
I've always come out borderline Extravert/Introvert on Myers Briggs testing, sometimes tipping to one, sometimes the other.
Must get this book!

differenceayearmakes said...

I am an introvert who ended up with the job that really required an extrovert. At first dealing with a large number of people would just physically and mentally wear me out - I would feel totally drained.

But I learned that if I dealt with people one on one, person to person, I could manage and even have it become energizing. When meeting with a large group I thought of it as a number of individuals and that made a difference. Or maybe what made a difference was if I were trying to exert my authority, forcing someting, it would wring me out. But if I were empowering, about them and not about me, it would be energizing.

I surprised a lot of people I'll tell you with my success at it.

I do know that I need doses of solitude - but time with friends, with others, is also important to my total wellbeing.

It is all about BALANCE.

nadinefawell.net said...

Yup, also an introvert. I was told as a child that people wouldn't like me if I was shy. I learned not to be. But I still prefer lying (alone) on my bed, reading, to a party. I also prefer to see friends one at a time, not in groups, so I can connect properly with that one person.

nomad said...

Hello fellow introverts! I'm with you too! (But off in my own area.)

cocosparkle said...

I just have to get this book!
I have been beating myself up for a long time for losing my "socialness". I really have a hard time with people, especially in the past 3 years or so. The worst part is the people who are close to me think and expect the old me, outgoing, funny, witty, the life of the party! What pressure! The truth is I think I've just lost the desire to pretend I am those things as I uncover my true self. It seems harder for the people around me to take, but perhaps this book will shed some light on this for me. Then I will give the book to my mom! LOL!
Thanks once again for the enlightenment!
much love

blisschick said...

Oh, how wonderful that this spoke so clearly to so many of you! We are not alone (though we prefer to be -- ha!).

I really encourage you all to find a copy of this book. It has so opened my eyes and just made me instantly less judgmental of myself.

I spent Monday out with too many people and it took all of Tuesday to get myself back on track. Normally, I would think about how lazy I was and how abnormal, but not any more! :)

christagirl said...

Amen to all the wonderful comments!! Enough said!!
It's wonderful to know I am not alone....even if I prefer to be :)

Grace said...

i was exactly the same way. I read a lot, day dreamed a lot, walked in the woods alone a lot. I still do those things alone and more. I was wondering about that book, Introvert Power, I'll have to check it out. My partner is an extrovert, and he invites people over sometimes without checking first and I freak out, and he like "What's the big deal." I NEED alone time where I don't have to do anything. I love having a whole weekend to myself. Even if my alone time is interrupted for just a short while, if I really needed that alone time, the interruption totally wrecks the energy and it's like starting all over again!

tinkerbell the bipolar faery said...

Almost 20 years ago, I took a personality test as part of counselling treatment I was receiving at the time. It was the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. One of the 'personality poles' this test measures is the Introvert-Extrovert pole. I was almost off the chart on the Introvert side. It was explained to me that Introvert-Extrovert denotes from where one draws one's energy ~ from within oneself, or outside oneself.

I think I'm still introverted, all these years and two children later. Its amazing how many people frequently misinterpret these words.

amy said...

this is so me--thank you for writing this!

i used to feel like there was something wrong with me--especially in high school when my friends wanted to go out and i just wanted to hang at home.
but now i've learned to embrace it and celebrate it. i think blogging is especially wonderful for introverts--it allows us an outlet for sharing our thoughts without draining us of our energy.

Anonymous said...

No, I'm not closeted. I'm not ashamed to be an introvert. I don't put up with attempts to pathologize my introverted traits or my gifted traits. That doesn't mean, however, that I don't have post-traumatic stress stemming partly from my mom's attempts to do so, although there are certainly other factors.
I don't conform to a lot of stereotypes about introverts. I'm not the shy type and I like taking social risks. I'm more at ease than most people in settings where I don't know anybody. I'm not genetically awkward or oblivious. I'm not a docile pushover and I'm not low-key.
I do often think too much for my own good, though, and I do like to do a lot of things alone. I wasn't as sensitive during most of my younger years, but I'm more sensitive now, partly because of hormones and partly because of traumas in my adult life.


Catherine Hansen Peart said...

Ditto Nomad! Ha, ha. I only recently discovered this concept and have been easier on myself too. I felt guilty about wanting to hide from my children (one of whom is very extroverted!) but now I know that I need to set time aside for myself so I can be what they need. Much better with balance! I think I will get that book as more info is always good.