Saturday, June 3, 2017

Being an Introvert Among Extroverts


I'm not shy.  I have no problem socializing, in fact, I really enjoy spending time with friends chatting and doing playgroups once in a while.  I love going to church meetings on Sunday.  My husband and kids are my world! And nothing thrills me like running a good race among peers...

But I am an introvert, and sometimes it's a real struggle... mostly for everyone else.  I have no issues with being a introverted homebody.  I love reading, writing, art, running.... spending quiet nights with the hubby after the kiddos are in bed -- I LIVE for these moments.  But I think my extrovert friends really have a hard time understanding and they get impatient with me.  I don't know why, but I feel like they just can't grasp where I am coming from... and they look at me like I'm a crazy weirdo.  It's so uncomfortable.  I understand extroverts and their needs to be out and about and around people and keeping busy doing things and volunteering for everything under the sun.  Lots of my friends live for the moments when they are heading up a PTA committee or getting out for a girl's weekend out on the town hitting the movies, spas, and/or the latest concert.  I know they get their vibe and energy from being around others.  I get it.  I really do.  It's perfectly okay and fine. However, it seems like they don't understand introversion as well as we understand extroversion.  I don't know why. But, to me, all that rejuvenates the extroverts, just sounds EXHAUSTING... and not in a good way.  So here I am writing this, to help my extrovert friends try to understand just a little about me and people like me.

Introverts are a minority in a world where Extroverts are the norm.  We don't care really, we just like to be left alone for the most part to do our thing.  But Extroverts seem to think we have some kind of personality disorder, or we are just shy (shyness and introversion are NOT the same thing), or that we are standoffish and rude.  This is simply not true.  People and crowds exhaust us.  We get our peace and energy from solitude.  Introversion is not something that needs to be cured.  It's who we are, and the world needs people like us to keep the balance.  I truly believe we are some of the most misunderstood people ever.

For years, I struggled to come to grips with not wanting what everyone else wanted.  My loved ones who were more outgoing, just could not understand me.  It doesn't matter what I say, they think I am making up excuses and they take my lack of interest as a personal insult.  They thought I was weird.  I hate feeling like I didn't measure up to their expectations as a person because I didn't like the same things they did.  And sometimes, it's makes me feel guilty and sad, and a little depressed... for just being me.  Like I have a serious problem.  It hurts to feel judged for something I can't help and I really don't feel like this is such a bad part of me that I need to change.  This is who I am.

A few years ago, I made a decision that I won't let it bother me anymore.  And so far, it's been okay.  But once in a while my resolve slips and I feel like a total dud.  One of my problems is that sometimes I feel like a bad Mormon -- and I consider myself a pretty good girl.  I attend church regularly, I pray alone and with my family, we do family night, we study the scriptures together and on our own, and I am worthy to hold a current recommend to attend the temple, which I do when I can.  I live my life the best to my abilities, and I strive to be a good wife and mother and continue to develop my talents and discover new ones.  I am kind to others and I try to help those in need.  I am honest and I go out of my way compliment others.  I try not to judge those with struggles that are different than mine, because I know how it feels to have it done to me.

So....

Here's my big confession...

I don't enjoy attending big church parties... or any big parties.  When our church holds big conferences, I am not there.  While all my friends are posting pictures and thrilled to be at the big General Conference in Salt Lake City in the spring or fall, I think: better you than me.  Just the thought of trying to drive in downtown Salt Lake and find a parking space gives me so much anxiety I can hardly breathe.  When they have local conferences on a smaller level, we stay home because I just can't cope. It might be different if I didn't have 5 boys with 3 dealing with some special needs... but sitting in a hot crowded room for 2 hours is more than I can handle.

Now, don't try to talk me into it.  Don't try to give me well meaning advice on how I can do it anyway if I do such and such thing.  Don't tell me I love Jesus less because I'm not going... I've heard it all.  I am a happy person.  I like myself... we've been through a lot: me, myself, and I.  We've overcome a lot.  And I will over come even more in my time... in. my. time.  Not yours or anyone else's. Mine. Or maybe I will never get used to it, and that's okay too.  Because I am a unique person and my family loves me and that is what matters to me the most.

My greatest strength and comfort is knowing that I am good enough anyway.  I am by no means perfect, but I know that the Lord knows my struggles, my weaknesses, my pains... He knows my strengths, my abilities.  He knows my potential and He knows my heart.  I am not ashamed of how I am... I just want those around me to know that I love them, I just show my love differently.  And just because I am not a party person or attend every church event, I really do care and your love and your life matters to me.

And my husband adores me and loves my silly quirks... most of them anyway...

So my beloved Extrovert friends, here are a few tips on how to deal with and understand me and people like me:

1. Don't stop inviting me!!  You'd be surprised, but sometimes I do need some social fun time and I will say yes.  And if I don't, the thought really did make me feel loved and wanted and included.

2. If I don't want to come, PLEASE don't take it personally.  It really is ME, not you.

3. Visitors in my house are always welcome!  We introverts love one on one time and deep, meaningful conversions. I love people to visit me and I will probably feed you too!  Cooking for others brings me a lot of joy!

4.  Run a race with me, but don't be offended when I put in my headphones and zone you out.  Remember:  lots. of. people.... I have to go into my own world when I run... and I count my breaths with my steps or I get side cramps.  But if you match my pace, I will stay by your side and we can cross the finish line together.

5.  Even though I'm not on the front row at church or at such and such church event, I still have a strong testimony of the gospel.  My religion is in everything I do and every choice I make.  I love my Mormon faith very deeply... sometimes, I just worship a little different than you do.

6.  If it's important to you, it's important to me and I will try be there.  I may feel uncomfortable and leave the event a little early, but I will be there for the most important parts.  (Unless it's out of state, then sorry... but my thoughts will be with you!)

7.  Being an introvert doesn't mean I am shy.  I am totally not shy.  And I actually like public speaking... I just don't like sitting in the crowds, and small talk is awkward to me.  But talk to me about something important or meaningful, and I will open up.

8.  Introverts make the best of friends!  I may seem stand offish at times, but I'm not.  I'm probably just tired or thinking extra hard.  But I am always listening to you, and I feel your concerns, I cry with you, I laugh with you, and I rejoice in your successes with you.  Introverts aren't big on gossiping, so we are very true and loyal friends.

9.  Your fun isn't always our fun and that's alright.  We can still be good friends!  Because friendship is based on so much more than just that.

10.  This introvert loves to share and teach others.  Why hog all my talents and abilities to myself when I can SHARE with people.  Come over anytime and I will teach you what I know about crocheting, art, homeschooling, or whatever... and we LOVE to learn new things, so teach me something I don't know how to do!  (Like, please, come help my decorate my house!!)

11. Introverts are not lazy.  This one myth really irritates me.  Just because we aren't out getting involved in everything, it doesn't mean we aren't working hard in another area.  I keep busy all day long.  If I'm not schooling the kiddos, I am cleaning, cooking, reading, painting, playing with babies, running errands, doing projects, etc.

12. People like me, we don't like talking on the phone.  Don't take it personally.  Please.  We hardly answer it because the ringer is on mute (which drives some spouses crazy, no names...) but send us a text message and we are all over it! And because we are a reliable bunch, for the most part, people usually only call us if they want something.  This is hurtful, even if it isn't intentional, it makes us feel a little used.  We absolutely love people to text or message us just because they are thinking of us and want to know how we are doing.  But don't email and expect an immediate reply... we kind of hate email.

13. We park at the very back of the parking lot, not because we want the extra exercise (although that is a perk) but because we don't like the crowds near the front.

13.  We hate confrontation and contention.  We don't like talking to angry people or debate.  We just don't.  So if you post something on Facebook that could start a fight, don't be offended if we don't join in.  Even though we hold very strong opinions about things, we aren't big on sharing them publicly.

14.  We NEED alone time.  It's essential for us to function and it's our way of recharging our energy.  So if you see me and I'm frazzled after a day of homeschooling, just run... it's safer that way.

15.  Contrary to popular thought, we make excellent leaders, because we think things out and stick to our guns.

16. Please don't pressure us to do things we don't want to do.  It just makes us angry and resentful.  When we say no, or we don't feel like going somewhere or doing something, move on.  I can't tell you how many hurt feelings (on both sides) start with this conversation:

Friend: "Hey, are you going to so-and-so's BBQ tonight?"
Me: "No, I don't think so, not tonight."
(What they should have said: "Okay!  Well, I'll miss you!!  Maybe next time!" -- what they really say:)
Friend: "Why not?"
Me: "I really just want to hang out with my family and relax tonight.  Maybe soak in a hot bath."
Friend: "Ok... well, you should come anyway!  It will be soooooo fun!  Hanging out at home is no fun."
Me: "I'm just tired, and I am not in the mood. Please understand, I just don't feel up to going."

Then said friend won't talk to me for a week or two and both of us aren't haven't kindly feelings toward each other.  Please accept no as an appropriate answer and understand once again, that it REALLY isn't you, it's me.

17.  We know all the best days to shop at Target, Walmart, and the grocery store (when there are less people, naturally), the mall is exhausting, and we hate going to movies on the opening weekends (again too many people).  We do most of our shopping on Amazon, order our take out on an app, and like to make things as hassle free as possible.  Black Friday is a no go.  Cyber Monday is God's gift to the introverts.

I am truly sorry if I unintentionally offended any of my friends by my introvert ways... I never, ever, intend to hurt anyone.  I truly try my best.  Even as a mother with an extrovert son... I am constantly stepping out of my comfort zone to help him feel loved.  My Sam (11 yrs old) is a very touchy-feely kind of kid and as an Introvert, I'm just not... But Sam wants to snuggle with me all the time and he loves on me and sometimes even does this purring sound.  It's awkward for me, but I take some deep breathes and try to relax because he NEEDS to feel me loving him.  Love languages and all that... so I understand doing things sometimes, not because I want to, but because I love the people who need me to step it up and step outside my zone of comfort. I will always strive to understand, you, my person I love. So every time I go out with you on a girl's night, or I give you a hug, know that I REALLY love you to do those things for you... and I always will.

-Cat

Here are some FANTASTIC articles about Introverts that are far more eloquent than I am:

What is an Introvert?
6 Illustrations that Show What's it's Like in an Introvert's Head
Nine Signs You're Really an Introvert
Carrying for Your Introvert (This is my favorite one!! So read it... right now!)

1 comment:

Shelly said...

I read the book 'Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking' by Susan Cain It was really worth the read. Especially as a mom.