I discovered one of my friends lamenting her introvertedness a few days ago. It got me thinking, because, though I am a fellow introvert, it’s been a while since I’ve struggled with that as a personality trait. I’ve always been very comfortable inside my own head, and I’ve learned over the past few years how to be more comfortable in that rough-and-tumble outer world which is, for me at least, much more difficult to control and structure—though to be honest, I’ve never given that much of a shot, preferring to take things as they come: that’s the ‘P’ side of me, for you Myers-Briggs nerds out there. I probably owe my relative comfort in my outer world to a couple years of drama, where everyone’s competing to be the center of attention, both on and off the the stage, and a year in ministry, which is, I suppose, ultimately about people.
Introverts, if you’re wondering, are the opposite of extraverts. In the Myers-Briggs personality theory, extraverts get most of their energy from interacting with people, while introverts tend to get most of their energy from time alone. I want to make something very clear: there is nothing wrong with being an introvert. What extraverts have breadth, introverts have in depth. You have to dig more to discover the whole person, but the results are well worth it.
So, here you have it, an introvert’s manifesto:
1. When we need solitude, we will seek it out. This year I learned a magic little phrase that changed my life: “You know, I think I just want to be by myself for a little bit.” To my surprise, no one was offended, and as far as I know, they didn’t even think I was weird. We all need alone time, whether we’re extraverted or introverted, and there’s no shame in that. Some of us are just better at recognizing and fulfilling that need.
2. Just because we don’t want to hang out with you right now doesn’t mean that we don’t like you. That’s right. And wedon’t mind telling you that, either.
3. We need to be alone sometimes because dammit, we’ve got important shit to think about. You think Einstein would have come up with the theory of relativity if he had spent more time hanging out with his buddies? Hell no. You think Lincoln would have freed the slaves and kept the country together (more or less) if he liked fancy dinner parties more than time alone? Hell no. Think Dostoyevsky would have written The Brothers Karamazov if he had been a socialite instead? Hell no. See my point?
4. We are compelling, interesting, intriguing people who are worth getting to know. We just don’t always feel like showing that off all the time.
5. Being introverts does not automatically make us socially inept. Actually, if you really want to know, we are wonderful conversationalists. Why? Because we are great listeners.
6. We are more self-aware than you.
7. We know how to have fun, too We can dance, laugh, party, sing, crack jokes, and even be comfortably the center of attention (every once in a while, anyway) without compromising our introvertedness. We just need a little downtime before and after the fact.
8. Just because we are quiet doesn’t mean we feel out of place. If you want to know whether we are engaged in a conversation or group setting, don’t listen: watch our eyes. If they’re focused and tracking, we’re there, don’t worry. If they’re unfocused and tend to dart around, we’re probably not interested.
9. We are wise and intelligent because of all that time we spend not hanging out with you.
10. We have fewer friendships, but they are of higher caliber.
Sorry if that sounds smug. I certainly don’t think introverts are better than extraverts, or vice versa, I just think that one side tends to be undervalued. I know more than a few people who are very talkative and gregarious, but boring as hell. Compelling is the last word I would use to describe them.
That being said, I would make a distinction between having introversion as your preferred mode of existence and using extraversion when necessary. You have move in both worlds, the one inner and the one outer. For extraverts, their first forays into their inner worlds are as awkward and uncomfortable as our first forays outside of our own heads. I know more than a few extraverts who spend all the time they can with people in order to escape the uncertainty, complexity, and turmoil of their inner worlds: something an introvert would be much more comfortable tackling. Doing something unnatural to you takes practice.
Also, it’s easy to look at the way other people are and be jealous. But I happen to know that a lot of extraverts come to introverts when they need wisdom or counsel because of the thoughtful, reflective approach we tend to have about life.
Of course, sometimes we introverts need to be able to abandon the comfort of the inner world and lose ourselves in the moment: thus, for instance, a certain video on Facebook of me stripping away much of my clothing while singing the national anthem at Gasworks park at 6 in the morning.
Anyway, enough of the soapbox: I’m starting to ramble. Courage, dear introverted friends. You are worth getting to know, but that does involve an element of risk. I promise, the payoffs are well worth it.