Recently I found a wonderful blog post about being an introvert: “10 Myths About Introverts” by Carl King. I want to write about it here, but I think it’s going to take me two blog posts. This is the first one.
King talks about having found a book that helped him understand his own introversion. And he discusses, briefly, the scientific basis of introversion: “Introverts are people who are over-sensitive to Dopamine, so too much external stimulation overdoses and exhausts them. Conversely, Extroverts can’t get enough Dopamine, and they require Adrenaline for their brains to create it.”
This is exactly what too much external stimulation does to me. When there’s too much going on in my life, when it gets overwhelming, I have a tendency to shut down. And when I can’t, like this semester, when I just had to keep going and going, I get angry. I feel trapped, and all I want to do is get away.
King says, “Unfortunately, according to the book, only about 25% of people are Introverts.” Meaning that society is not set up for introverts. They often find themselves having to adjust to the expectations of other people. (I could never understand amusement parks. What was amusing about them? They were like the roller coasters that featured as their main attractions: both frightening and boring at the same time. If I want to be frightened, I’ll do something more productive than go around in circles, thank you.)
In this blog post, I’m going to take King’s first five myths and discuss them as they apply to my own life. Partly in order to understand myself, and partly because I suspect many of you are introverts as well, and may find some of it useful.
Myth #1: Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.
That’s certainly true for me. Part of the problem with being a lawyer, for me, was that I could never fake interest in things like sports or who was admitted into the country club. (I’m not joking, the latter was an actual topic of conversation at a cocktail party I attended.) I just didn’t see the point in talking about things that were completely unimportant and uninteresting to me. After all, there’s so much going on in the world that is important and interesting. Always, everywhere, the fate of the world hangs in the balance. I want to live fully and intensely, spending my time on the things that matter. On art, on literature, on the things that affect the fate of the world and humanity. You think I’m exaggerating, but I’ve been teaching Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and we’ve been discussing the ways in which Wilde’s writing and trials mattered. The ways in which the aesthetic movement ushered in modernity. I don’t have time to stand around at a cocktail party, eating shrimp and talking about golf. I have poems and stories to write.
Myth #2: Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.
I’m not sure this is always true. I think meeting new people can be overwhelming, for an introvert. New people are unknown quantities: you never know how they will act. Whether they will be authentic or kind. I think I always approach people warily. And sometimes I don’t approach them at all, but if you approach me, and you are authentic and kind, then I will feel comfortable. Then I will talk to you. But yes, I tend not to talk simply for the sake of talking. I want both of us to have something to say.
Myth #3: Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.
Please just be real and honest. I’m always so relieved when anyone is honest with me. When I can tell that they are being their real selves.
Myth #4: Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.
And once you have lost their respect, which is difficult to do – you really have to prove that you are not worthy, not a friend – then it tends to be truly lost. But I think of my friends as infinitely precious. They are the people that, even when we haven’t talked for a while, I still connect with. That I still want to be there for.
But this is one of the difficulties of being an introvert: that you don’t have a large circle of acquaintances. You have a small circle of friends, and what you want from them is connection on a deeper level. If you don’t have that connection, you tend not to let people in. Which means you can be lonelier than extroverts.
Myth #5: Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.
Let’s repeat that, shall we? Recharging is absolutely crucial for introverts. That’s something I’ve had no chance to do all semester. I think that, after the semester is over, I’ll need to simply sleep for a while. Starting next week . . .