It’s been a while since I wrote a more personal, deeper type blog post and I’ll have to admit I’m struggling a bit to get going. When we started this blog – nearly four years ago, actually – I felt very free in what I wrote and chose to share. I felt unfiltered and raw, not one bit afraid of anyone’s judgement. And even though this place – this website – has seen close to zero negative energy (there was that one lady lashing out at our apple butter for being too sugary and that we were wasting precious fruit but that’s about it), I can tell that I’m much more concerned what people – you – will think these days. I can tell I’m nervous about accidentally stepping on someone’s toes, not being politically correct enough, letting something slip out of my mouth (keyboard) that perhaps won’t sit well with exactly everyone.
And it bothers me. For a range of reasons. But can you guess which reason bothers me the most? It’s that texts that sometimes step on toes (that deserve it), that aren’t always politically correct and that deliver truths or thoughts that challenge one or two or maybe even one hundred minds are the best pieces of writing.
Wasn’t this supposed to be about introverts, you might think now. Oh yes, it was. And it will be. And in some ways, I’d say it already is.
“there are many misconceptions surrounding what an introvert is”
I’m an introvert. There are many misconceptions surrounding what an introvert is and just to get some of those out of the way from the start, I’ll go ahead and state right away that I’m not anti-social, not particularly shy (anymore), not socially incompetent, not unable to keep a conversation going and – I have to say it – not boring.
What I am is someone who recharges her batteries the best in quiet, prefers smaller groups of people over big, likes deep conversation more than small talk, feels wiped out after too much social stimulation and is perfectly happy and content on my own or “just” with my loved ones for days (weeks) on end.
If you’re unsure of what you are and would like to pin it down (which by no means is necessary), I think the best question to ask yourself is if you recharge and gain energy from being surrounded by people and actively engaging with them or if that tends to drain you after a while. While most people actually possess a mix of traits and aren’t found at either one of the extreme ends (introversion and extroversion), we do tend to lean one way or the other.
From where I’m standing – a rather clear case of an introvert – our modern world is built around an extrovert personality type. It praises extroverted traits as the “right” traits, it promotes extroverted activities and it holds extroverted behaviors as the norm. We should want to socialize often and have many friends. We should be talkative, open and keep a busy social calendar. We should make our voices heard – already from a young age – and we shouldn’t fear speaking in front of others. We should thrive in a bustling office landscape environment and never say no to an after work activity.
But what if we don’t?
I don’t like socializing often and a packed social schedule makes me unbelievably stressed. I prefer a few friends that I can actually keep track of than a whole crowd I don’t even know when I would have the time to see or catch up with. I like talking sometimes but far from always, and I like to choose my conversations and company with care. I would call myself open in some ways but I also like keeping to myself. I don’t fear silence or my own company. And social gatherings – however fun and wonderful they may be – will leave me CRAVING quiet and a total recharge in a calm, home-centric environment. I’m a one-party-a-year gal and I’ll be the first one to leave, so to speak. (And my younger self would also add that I’d spend about 85% of the party hiding in the bathroom. Not anymore though.)
But I never felt like it was cool for me to live my life that way and I always tried liking a different way of doing things. I felt strange and odd for not being like the other teenagers who loved “hanging with friends” and couldn’t wait until next weekend’s “epic get together”. And I felt just as strange and odd feeling the very same way as a 20-something.
“It was surrounded by some other 8 million strangers and not a single one I knew from before I finally arrived at the conclusion I could choose to live my life however the heck I wanted to.”
My big turning point came around the same time as I moved to New York, which may sound a little ironic – but it was surrounded by some other 8 million strangers and not a single one I knew from before I finally arrived at the conclusion I could choose to live my life however the heck I wanted to. That meant ending a bunch of relationships back home – “friends” I didn’t benefit from having in my life whatsoever – keeping a selected few and forming a couple of new ones I (still) treasure with all my heart. It might sound harsh, but I was done wasting time and precious energy on relationships that didn’t give me much back (if any at all) and trying to keep up with a social agenda that may have fitted someone else but definitely didn’t fit me.
Cleaning up among your various relationships isn’t perhaps the cure-all for an introvert wanting to live by their own rules, but it was a big and important step for me personally. And you know what? Finding new friends as an adult has been a remarkable experience, as you automatically connect because of likemindedness and not due to the totally random reason of living close to each other or going to the same school (I have one or two of those relationships too and they’re great, but you get my point). Forming adult friendships with others who care about the same things, like the same things, think the same way (or not) as I do has been far more enriching than I could have imagined. I always thought (a tiny bit enviously) that those with a whole bunch of childhood friends had somehow won the relationship lottery, but I feel differently nowadays. Very differently.
Another big realization and life adaptation for me has been learning what situations I don’t like, understanding why that is and changing my day-to-day routines so that I can be more myself and both act and feel in-character (expression borrowed from the phenomenal book on introversion and extroversion, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain).
For a brief period in my life, I worked as a receptionist at a high-end spa in Brooklyn. It wasn’t something I wanted to turn into a career or anything, but it was a decent job for the time being. It was also very zen, in many ways – calm music playing, super clean and organized everywhere, healthy snacks on hand… and rather simple, straightforward tasks. Only I dreaded going there. So, so much. And perhaps the most difficult part of that was not understanding why in the world I did. The co-workers were lovely. I felt competent at what I did. But lord, I had anxiety every single night before going there.
“I remember texting Mike saying I GET IT NOW!!”
And then it clicked. Ironically, it clicked when I was sitting in the lunch room, reading the book I just mentioned – Quiet. I can’t remember the passage exactly, but it basically explained that introverts tend to find constantly meeting and interacting with new people extremely difficult and draining. What was I doing all day, every day? Greeting and interacting with complete strangers. I remember texting Mike saying I GET IT NOW!! and it was one of the biggest reliefs of internal stress I’ve ever felt. And going forward – the remaining months until we actually moved to Sweden – it was much easier to handle the whole situation because I at least knew why I felt the way I did. Lesson learned: never opt for a work situation where you have to constantly meet new people. For me, that is.
In our world – because thankfully, Mike and I are very similar in our introversions and share most life preferences – it’s totally cool to see friends a couple of times a year. Once a month, tops. It’s normal and expected for us to let out a big sigh and need a couple of days’ worth of decompression when we come home after a birthday party or even just a day in the city. It’s so, so okey to let out “I don’t feel like going” and be wholeheartedly supported no matter what. It’s not one bit strange that we get anxious before having to make a phone call to a stranger and postpone it several days. It’s not thought of as anti-social to just want to sit on the couch and either read or watch TV and not say a word at night. It just is.
And trying to live your life in-character – in other words, being careful with where your energy goes and making sure there are as few leaks as possible in your everyday life – shouldn’t be confused with never daring to think or act outside of the box, being stuck in your ways or not being willing to compromise or ever wanting to challenge yourself. It’s about creating a baseline everyday routine that vibes with your personality, so that you’re ready and equipped to tackle whatever curveballs life will (inevitably) throw at you.
I falsely thought I should “challenge” myself to become someone I’m truly not, and that attempt made me 100% miserable. When I now instead lead my life differently and more in tune with who I am, I’m much more balanced, happy and content as a result, and able to actually handle what comes my way in a significantly better way than before.
Whether you’re a total introvert, extrovert or (very likely) a mix of both, my final words will be the same: when something bothers you – big or small – ask your gut and not your mind what the culprit is. And then try your very very best to act on that. Thanks for reading, as always ❤️
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