I feel like introverts have been getting some serious love these days, and it makes me really happy. I just read Buzzfeed's 27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand, and am proud to say I relate to every single one.
Being an introvert is really difficult out there in the real world. As you know, I was recently on the job hunt and had four in-person interviews, and a handful of phone interviews. And each time I felt like I wasn't being true to myself. I felt like I was forcing myself to act as if I'm an extrovert. I'm confident in my abilities, but I have a hard time communicating that to someone I'm just meeting. The idea of having to "sell myself" in an interview is very uncomfortable to me. I felt like I was misrepresenting myself, which goes against everything a true introvert stands for. We have a strong need for everything to be genuine. To always be acting as true to ourselves as we can be. Sometimes, that feels like a recipe for failure to me.
I feel like I've always struggled with this inner conflict. Maybe you feel the same. You're expected to have a big circle of friends, to ace that public speaking course, to act confident in things when you aren't the least bit so, to network at company events, and to socialize with other people other than your dog on weekends. And when you don't, you feel like there's something wrong with you.
When my husband and I first started dating, I started to feel this conflict to a larger degree than I ever had before. I realize now, it's because Mark is a classic extrovert. He loves meeting new people, having in depth conversations with whoever he's with, going to parties and making lots of friends. On Sundays he would start going over his plans for the upcoming week, and I would sit there in agony. So many friends to meet up with, so many social obligations, so many work functions. Ugh. Why can't we just take a walk, make some pizza, read books on the front porch, and drink tea? Why do we have to involve other people in our lives? What's wrong with me that I feel such anxiety when I hear the word "fun"? I must be depressed...
Before all this media hype, I was definitely confusing introversion with depression. It sort of feels the same sometimes. I prefer to go days without any social engagements, and sometimes I find myself forcing a smile in public. I spend a lot of time in my head, and there are times when those thoughts aren't so pretty, which in turn makes me very moody, gloomy, and critical of myself. As an introvert, my work self, social self, family self, and friend self are not truly me. Some are closer to the true me than others, but I am never my true self unless I'm alone. And sometimes that is a scary thought. And, contrary to how it may seem, I do often feel lonely when I'm by myself. And the feeling of loneliness rarely goes away, even when I'm with a large group of people. What we introverts ultimately need is deep connection, and when we're not connecting, we're losing power. We're like mermaids who've been out of the ocean too long. It gets harder to breathe the longer we're away from home.
I'm being a bit dramatic here. I love my friends and family. I do really enjoy spending time with them. I sometimes even enjoy myself at parties. But when I don't, does that mean there's something wrong with me? Am I not normal? The answer is obviously no. No, I am not not normal. And to be completely honest, I've come to like being an introvert. I like the idea that my power comes from within. I can go out into that real world and share my power with others, but eventually I have to return to my safe place and recharge myself in peace. I like that I only appreciate things when they're genuine. If you prove that you care about me, I'll open up to you. If you don't, then you don't deserve to know what's going on in my head. That means the people I open up to are special and should consider themselves lucky. And I like my need for self discovery, self exploration, and self realization. I feel like I've learned more about myself these past two years than I have in my whole almost 30 years of living. It's a great feeling when you finally find these answers that help reveal the person you've been fighting to understand your whole life.
If you'd like to know your personality type, this is the test I used to determine mine. It's based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is basically a questionnaire that helps determine how a person perceives the world and makes decisions. Leave a comment and let me know what you discover!