Tag Archives: introverted

Confessions of an Introvert

Years ago, I had a colleague who was very tall, and who had a very ponderous mind (by which I mean it was occupied all the time with heavy, meaningful thoughts), and who spoke slowly when you asked him a question, as if he was drawing up your answer in a bucket from the deep well of his brain. He liked to speak in Greek and Latin, just because, and he was obsessed with etymology, and with dissecting words to such an extent that sometimes their meaning was lost. I asked him once, for instance, if he was a ‘fan’ of something; I can’t remember what, now. His answer was: ‘Well. Since ‘fan’ implies ‘fanatic’, then I’d have to say I’m not a fan of anything. Strictly speaking.’

Fair enough, Grumpy-Guts. Photo Credit: Novowyr via Compfight cc

Fair enough, Grumpy-Guts.
Photo Credit: Novowyr via Compfight cc

Despite all this, he was rather a nice man. I swear.

Anyway, one day we had a discussion about introverts versus extroverts, and it was he who first explained to me that ‘introverted’ didn’t always mean ‘shy’, simply put. He went to great lengths to explain the root meaning of the word (probably giving me a lesson in Greek and/or Latin, and possibly Aramaic, as we went), and he told me the word ‘introverted’ described a person who took time over their thought processes, and who didn’t like to make hurried decisions, and who enjoyed analysing things in their mind before proclaiming their stance on any issue. He also diagnosed me as an introvert, which annoyed me a bit, because I felt like I always made a huge effort to be bubbly and outgoing and friendly. I had been terribly shy as a child, and I’d made huge strides in my efforts to combat it – or so I thought.

But he was right.

The key word, above, is ‘effort’. While working in that job, I made a huge effort to be bubbly and friendly. This wasn’t because I didn’t really love the work, or truly enjoy the company of my colleagues (most of whom I also considered friends), but because I would have much preferred to spend my time with them in companionable silence, reading, than I would talking about whatever issue was occupying us at any given time. I love people, and I love to be friendly, and I love to have fun, but I’m still an introvert.

There are loads of ‘Are You an Introvert?’ tests you can take online, but I thought this one was interesting. I’d wager that a lot of people who like to write are introverted, because writing is one way to express yourself, but at a slight distance – you have the ‘shield’ of the words between you and the world, and even though they’re your words, and your name is attached to them, it nevertheless feels like there’s a little space between you and what you’re saying. If someone wants to comment on it, for instance, you have that crucial time to think before you make your response – and that’s the classic characteristic of an introvert. We don’t like to be rushed!

Even though ‘introverted’ isn’t simply a synonym for ‘shy’, as I once thought, certain aspects of the two are undeniably similar. I can be awkward with people I don’t know, purely because I’m afraid of causing offence without meaning to, and even though I relish meeting new people and I love being around people, I find it exhausting because I’m constantly self-monitoring to make sure I’m saying and doing the ‘right’ thing at all times. When I’m on the way home from a social gathering I’ll pick apart my ‘performance’, wincing over the silly things I’ve said or the mistakes I’ve made or the social gaffes I’ve put my foot in, and I’ll hope that nobody else noticed (or if they did, that they’re kind enough to let it slide). I love quiet, and solitude, and thinking-time; it doesn’t bore me or drive me crazy, like it would some people. I enjoy spending time with small groups, rather than big ones; I enjoy in-depth conversation, particularly on topics about which I’m passionate. I find it easy to focus, and I have to force myself to take risks. I hate making telephone calls, because I hate feeling like I’m being a nuisance (even though I’m aware that trying not to be a nuisance can sometimes make you into one). I always try to look at everything from all angles and make a decision (eventually) which suits the majority of people involved in it. This can drive other people mad, particularly when the question I’m being asked is something like ‘what will we have for dinner?’ but I guess there’s nothing I can do about it.

I’m never going to run a country, or take part in politics, or have ‘power’ or ‘success’, as some more extroverted people would measure it. I’m never going to be a leader, or someone who enjoys the limelight. But I love people, and I love gaining experience and knowledge, and I love finding new things to be passionate about. I love conversation, but I love silence too. I’m careful (some would say ‘doddery’, which is fair enough!), and punctual, and I like to take my time, and I like to do my best.

And that’s all right with me.

 

 

Innerspace

Hey! It’s great to see you again. Thanks so much for calling over. Welcome to my head! I like it in here; it’s comfy. Stretch out, and make yourself at home. Have a glass of wine. Enjoy the view. Pretty, isn’t it?

Talk to me – though go gently, won’t you? If you ask me a question, give me a second to think about my answer. Be prepared for me to look at the problem from all angles before I make a decision. I like to look, and look, before I leap.

Don’t worry that I don’t speak all that much. I will, once I get to know you a bit better. I just prefer to listen at first, that’s all. I like to soak in whatever’s around me, at my own pace. I like to set the permeability of my own boundaries, and deal with whatever I encounter in private, when I have time to sort through it and think about every detail.

Oh, no. I’m not shy. Not really. I love people. I’m just quiet, and careful, and I tend slightly toward anxiety. I like to think more than I like to act. I like to plan. I like solidity, certainty. I like to know where I am and where I’m going. I don’t like to take risks. This can look like shyness, sometimes.

And I like to be by myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like other people. I just get swamped quickly, and I tend to panic when that happens. I don’t like to be out of control or – worse – to appear out of control. I can be good in a crisis, but only when I get a handle on what’s happening, and I have a second or two to make a plan. Then, I’m unstoppable.

But when something’s new, and scary, and unexpected? Yeah. Then, I’m not so good.

Hipster cat and me, well - we understand one another. Image: fbcustom.me

Hipster cat and me, well – we understand one another.
Image: fbcustom.me

What’s that? Oh – yeah. I don’t know why I embarked upon a professional life which is so full of unknowable newness and instability, either. Strange, isn’t it? It would’ve made more sense – infinitely more sense – to stay tucked up in a steady-ish, predictable, quiet-life type of job, just like the one I had before I decided to change everything in my world. I would have spent the rest of my life dreaming and gnashing my teeth, probably. But I wouldn’t be waking up scared every morning, either.

It’s not fun not to ‘know.’ It’s not fun to feel like things are out of your control, and that there’s nothing you can do about it. In a way it mirrors the reality of existence – because, when it’s all said and done, is anything truly under our control? – but then you remember that you don’t want to be reminded of the arbitrary, chaotic nature of reality. Your little life, your patch of world, is supposed to be your domain. It’s supposed to give you the impression that you’re the boss, even if, deep in  your heart, you know you’re kidding yourself. So, if your square of turf is a mess, and you feel like you’re taking one random step after another, it can all get a bit too much.

Which is why I hide out up here, where all the cushions and the books and the warm wall-hangings are, where all the memories live and where dreams haunt the rafters like restless ghosts, yearning for release. I can close my eyes and breathe, and get through the next five minutes, and the next, and the next, and before I know it I’ve survived another day.

And then we – for I know I’m not alone – get up the next day and do it all over again, hoping that someday (maybe, when we least expect it) all the disparate little edges of our lives will line up with a click, and the picture that appears will be beautiful, and exactly what we planned all along.

Until then, all we can do is work as hard as we can, and hope that the path we’re taking – albeit circuitous – will lead us where we’ve always wanted to go.

And if we have a few friends to drink wine and read books with along the way, all the better.