Calling All Introverts!

I love this article so much, I had to share it today!

(I am emailing it to my husband and close friends, so that they can finally understand some of the things that make me, well, me. )

Pop over now to read “12 THINGS INTROVERTS ABSOLUTELY NEED TO BE HAPPY.”

The author is the founder of IntrovertDear.com and the author of the bestselling book, The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World. From her site:

She blogs for Psychology Today, and her writing has been featured on Quiet Revolution, The Huffington Post, The Mighty, The Muse, and elsewhere. Speaking as an expert on introversion, she has appeared on numerous radio programs and podcasts. For most of her life, Jenn felt weird, different, and out of place because of her quiet ways; now, she writes about introversion because she doesn’t want other introverts to feel the way she did

Boy am I glad she writes about this. It is so spot on.

Numbers 6 & 9!!!

I have read many articles on introvert behavior, but this was the first mention of having difficulty putting things into words and needing a room of one’s own or time in a space on our own. We are moving into a new apartment next year, and I am thrilled that I will have one room that will be all my own. I cannot put into words what this means for me!

I thought it was just one of my idiosyncrasies, but it seems I am not alone.

I have already ordered her book to read more.

My fellow introverts, what do you think?

Swimming in the Shallows

Most of my life, I have dreaded small talk.

I’ve often felt very judgmental towards it, seeing it as superficial and not understanding why people would want to engage in it.

I usually felt very anxious around it. I’d often feel lonely and empty-feeling during and afterwards. A bit lost.

I believe some of this has to do with my being a heavily-introverted person. Introverts, as it has become widely known as of late, often do not enjoy small talk.

But why this is true for many of us is largely misunderstood.

Here’s an excerpt from a well-written article by Lecia Bushak: Why Introverts Hate Small Talk: The Myths And Misconceptions About Our Quieter Companions.

Introverts Are Exhausted By Small Talk. People who are introverted tend to prefer “heavier” conversations pertaining to philosophy and ideas, rather than small talk. Indeed, introverts can get easily intimidated, bored, or exhausted by small talk. They would much rather be “real” with someone and talk about more weighty things.

For years, I thought I was shy. I was told I was shy as a child, and the way in which it was said/used signaled to me that being shy was not a good thing to be. I grew up hating that about me, even though I wasn’t even really sure what it actually referred to about me.

In my confusion, I put together the theory that I was “shy” meant that I was quiet + I was thoughtful and that these things = that I was defective in some way.

To this day, I bristle when people use the word shy in reference to their children as in: “Don’t be shy, say hello,” and “She/he is shy.” In the former example, the “shy” is usually said with an inherently negative-messenging tone directly to the child. In the latter, it is whispered about the child, usually in their presence, as if it is something to be ashamed of, or apologized for. Why do we do this to our children — label them with such far-reaching labels? (Don’t even get me started on that word!!!)

There is a difference between introversion and shyness. Being shy is about social anxiety. An introvert may not have social anxiety. They may just really not need or enjoy being in groups to socialize. As Bushak says in her article:

Introverts tend to turn inward when solving problems or observing the world around them. They process stimuli better internally, rather than reaching out and socializing with others. Where extroverts become energized from social interactions, introverts regain energy through alone time. After going to a party or spending time forcing themselves to network, introverts often feel drained from the stimulation and must go home to recharge.

They’re more likely, in general, to want to stay home with a good book and a cup of tea, rather than go out and experience the night through partying, loud music, and meeting new people. But just because they gain energy from being alone doesn’t mean they’re shy or socially anxious. Social anxiety and introversion are two different things. “The number-one misconception about introversion is that it’s about shyness,” Dembling told The Huffington Post. “The best distinction I’ve heard comes from a neuroscientist who studies shyness. He said, ‘Shyness is a behavior — it’s being fearful in a social situation. Whereas introversion is a motivation. It’s how much you want and need to be in those interactions.’”

I sometimes do experience shyness and social anxiety. There are parts of me that are very young and are not adept at socializing and so become very anxious around it. It makes total sense to me. When that happens, I tell them to go play and let me take charge of the situation. I take care of those parts because they need taking care of in those situations. That does not make me a shy or anxious person. That means I am a person experiencing shyness or anxiety.

Conversely, there are parts of me (both young and adult parts) who are totally adept at small talk, joke and story-telling and being gregarious, parts who love making people laugh and think.

I tend to be an introvert, so yes, I tend to prefer one-on-one conversation and that it be deep rather than chat about nothing at a party. I do feel drained after social events. I do need to refill my well with alone time.

And I like to meet new people, and if I am in the mood, I am a great listener and converser. If I am in the mood, I love parties. At one time in my life, I was even considered to be a “party animal.” That did not mean I was out-going.

Once I began to really see what was underneath the “shy” label that so affected my early self-perception, I began to explore my introversion and extroversion tendencies and find compassion and appreciation for both. None of them define me as a person. They are simply colors within me.

I no longer judge all small talk as superficial or something that is for people who are afraid to go deeper. Today, I am able to appreciate that sometimes “pleasantries” are a useful bridge or transition in social situations, and have a time and a place as well as the deeper, meatier conversations I prefer.

I do not want to have meaningless conversations that avoid intimacy or risk, certainly. But there are times when there is something in-between. Hence, the phrase “small talk.”

I used to read that to mean “nothing” or “inferior” talk.

Now I get that it can simply be a “brief amount”, an “easy amount”, an amount that does not weigh or cost much.

It’s actually quite a lovely thing and perfectly named. Small talk.

So whether you are an introvert, shy or someone like me and a mix of it all, here is a great article with some helpful ideas for navigating the tricky waters of small talk: Christina Park’s “An Introvert’s Guide To Small Talk: Eight Painless Tips.”

And for more reading, here’s another interesting piece on the subject: Cherie Burbach’s “I Hate Small Talk Why Introverts Can’t Deal With Making Small Talk”

Here’s to those of us who sometimes feel shy, sometimes feel introverted, sometimes feel like stealing the show. It is all a part of being human, and it makes conversations work. Imagine if we were all one way or the other! Either we’d all be listening in silence or we’d all be talking over each other. Thank goodness, there is a need for it all.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: superficial

Confessions of a Closet Extrovert

I have always had a very rich inner life.

In fact, it’s always been so vibrant it has been confusing to me through the years when people would label me shy, quiet or reserved. It just made no sense to me.

I felt I was living this wildly adventurous lifestyle. I thought I was an extrovert. I actually felt sort of claustophobic when others reflected back to me how they experienced me. The dissonance between my sense of myself and what the world told me was disturbing.

It was a great shock that became tremendous relief when I finally realized at a certain point that I was living a whole internal life that no one had a clue about. I truly had no idea that all those thoughts, all those fantasies…no one else could TELL they were happening. They were just the movie inside my own head. Ah ha!!

I was an introvert who didn’t know it.

I understand more about it today, but in many ways I am still living a kind of double life: the internal world I am living in my head, and the one I live in the outside world. We all do this to some degree. But I want to make the line between the two thinner.

You see, I have extrovert longings.

Don’t get me wrong. I embrace being an introvert at this point in my life. And I love my rich inner life. I use it for my acting and writing; it serves me well. But.

There are times in my day-to-day life where I feel it is time to find and release my inner extrovert and let her take the wheel.

Like the other day, for example.

There I was, in the upscale hair salon I go to because I love my hair stylist dearly and have followed him here. Our relationship is one of the longest I’ve had in NYC. I cherish it.

Normally it is quite a chill vibe. There’s usually a celebrity there amongst the other wealthy clientele. And me…usually the only unmade-up-face-unstyled-person of the lot (unless you call sweaty workout clothes a style. I usually go after a run or the gym. I am not one of those people who love to go to the salon or spa. I can barely sit still long enough for Jacob to check the color before I am out the door with still-damp hair, much to his consternation.)

But on this day, there was one of those people who just drives me nuts. You know the type. Totally self-absorbed. On the phone as her poor stylist attempted to work on her. I mean, he was blow drying her hair, for heaven’s sake! How could she even hear what the person on the other end of the phone was saying?! The entire salon had to hear her conversation, which, as you can imagine, was quite loud. We were held hostage to her whims.

I soldiered on for while as I had my hair rinsed, until I could stand it no more. I gave her the ‘ole Southern girl’s passive-aggressive evil eye, designed to awaken her to her broach of social manners.

Nothing. Not a twitch or a skipped beat. She was too immersed in her sense of entitlement. I probably did not even register to her. I was just a pasty blur on the fringes of the center of the Universe, which was, of course her and her Important Phone Call.

Then I began to bear witness to the despicable way she was treating the stylist. She’d stop mid-sentence and dress him down for some indiscretion he’d made. Maybe the brush touched her phone? Was the air too hot? She spoke to him like he was an indentured slave. It was grotesque.

Soon, I was seething with rage. I began to have fantasies of ripping the phone out of her hand and giving her a piece of my mind. If she used the word “foliage” in that British accent one more time…I was gonna march over there and let her have it.

There it was…she said it! “And you just have to see the foliage!”

I leapt up and ran over and ripped that phone out of her hand and said, “Excuse me. But we are all having to listen to your conversation and it is rude. It stops now! Plus, this man is a person! Who the hell do you think you are? No one deserves to be talked to like that!”

It was amazing. And I did do all that…but only in my head. In the outside world, there I was. A fairly reserved-looking woman quietly having my hair glossed.

Oh, I did my best to convey psychic messages of commiseration and support whenever I could catch the stylist’s eye. But I just did not have the guts to confront the beast herself, at least not out loud, anyway.

There was one saving grace. Apparently, as he was rolling her hair in rollers, her stylist must have accidentally brushed her forehead with a tiny part of the brush. She literally cried out in a dramatic style that would have rivaled Sarah Bernhardt in her day, waving him off, touching her forehead as if to insinuate that blood was about to gush forth at any moment. All the while staying on the phone, of course.

I found this incredibly funny, and started to giggle and then laugh out loud, uncontrollably, at her plight. It just felt so right. Karmic retribution.

I so want to be the kind of person who speaks up in such situations. Something still holds me back. Caring too much what others think, I suppose. That “good girl” Southern, Protestant-y encoding goes deep.

My step for that day was to speak to the front desk and ask that they offer the stylist a massage or some really loving thing to offset the disgusting shower of ugliness he had been submitted to by that awful woman.

They apologized that my experience had been tainted. I said no. I wanted to apologize on behalf of the human race for the ugliness we human beings sometimes inflict on fellow human beings in the service industry.

That was my Big Step Out. But it is not enough for me. It is time to bring that rich inner life with all of it’s bravery and bold action into the outside world where perhaps it can benefit others.

It is time to live my life out loud, out on the skinny branches. (At least sometimes.)

Look out, world. Here I come.