For years, I believed I gravitated toward extroversion. During high school, I tended to be loud and vocal about my opinions. My circle of friends included people from all groups and I liked the hum of incessant chatter in the morning when we congregated before the class bell rang. I adopted this philosophy in college. My political science classes required expressing opinions in a roomful of my peers as well as in-depth conversations in groups. This emphasis on outgoing and energetic behavior appeared in law school in very brief bursts, but I started feeling irritated and drained after some of these encounters. I attributed this departure to just the rigors of law school, not realizing that there was more to my uneasiness.
In the last few years, I made an interesting discovery about myself: I really am an introvert. It seems almost shocking to see these words in bold, but it is a revelation that offers a tidal wave of comfort. Unearthing this truth came in small increments. Part of my discovery came with reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet , where in the first few pages you can take a quiz determining whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or a combination of the two. This quiz proved eye-opening. Always believing I gravitated toward extroversion, my answers to almost every question leaned toward introversion.
I started paying more attention to different places where I felt comfortable and uncomfortable. In the last few years, I steered away from small talk in large group settings. There is too much stimulation, in terms of the number of people, the banal chatter, and the uncomfortable feeling that I am really not learning much about the person I am conversing with, other than a few pieces of minutiae. I realize these type of conversations are necessary in all our lives, but I tend to like smaller settings where there is some give and take in the dialogue. I strive to work toward making some kind of connection. There are times when I berated this behavior as being too intense, but now I realize it is part of my marriage to introversion.
These characteristics come up in other places too. I generally detest over scheduling. The quiet time at home is essential. Downtime at home is time that I covet. If a continuum of days pass where I do not get a chance to read, write, or sit in the quiet, I feel irritated and annoyed. The other half of this conundrum is that I also crave social activity as well. Girl’s night, coffee with friends, and dinner dates are all sources of enjoyment. These are only fun if I squeezed in my downtime.
Just recently I announced how much I related to the article profiled in the Huffington Post, 23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert, with some friends at dinner. I read it and nodded my head several times and announced to them how much it spoke to me. The other part that added to my confession was what I did not confess at dinner: The sheer joy of learning something new about yourself.
I’ve missed so many of your posts!
Wow, we are on such similar wave lengths here. I’ve been wanting to write a post on this as well, but I wanted to wait until I read Quiet first (it’s sitting on myself, in queue). Like you, being introverted was somewhat of a revelation to me. I’d been quiet growing up, but went through a very energetic and extroverted period in my 30s which I think was necessary for my survival and success in Japan (once I decided to move abroad). Then I had a baby, quit work, and started to work from home, and I shifted so dramatically that I really thought something was wrong. I suddenly shunned schedules and even started experiencing anxiety when talking to new people. We now live in a quiet small town, running into deer in the mornings, and everything is just the polar opposite of my former life in Tokyo. It was only recently, with Susan Cain’s book and the Huffington Post article that you mentioned, that I realized nothing is wrong with me – I’m just introverted. I think that knowing this about yourself can go a long way in alleviating anxiety, knowing that you don’t have to say yes to that big party or making it a priority to keep your calendar quiet. Thanks for writing about this, Rudri.