Call me a “loner”, “independent”, “a hermit”, I am giving myself a self diagnosis as an ‘expressive introvert’ (perhaps an oxymoron within itself). An “expressive” person is effective at conveying thought and feelings; they enjoy socializing, having recognition, are people-driven. An “introvert” is someone who receives energy from spending time alone, tends to look inward, and are reflective of their own thoughts.
Symptoms include: avoiding small talk about the weather, nail polish colors, celebrities (and saving that expendable energy for big-idea conversations, such as solving world peace and education politics), enjoy spending time alone (for me, it’s yoga and reading, for others, it’s hunting and fishing), think before speaking (and are often deemed ‘good listeners’), and talking on the phone is painful.
And, in a world dominated by extroverts, being an introvert comes equipped with a few consequences and misconceptions:
I can’t expect people to magically “know” what is wrong with me: Girls have this famous tendency, when you ask them how they are, to respond with, “Fine”, but we all know that “Fine” actually means, “I am actually really pissed off right now, but I want you to probe me for how I am really feeling and give me lots of attention until I finally tell you”. Well, as an introvert, I don’t ever really tell people when things are bothering me, because I would rather keep them to myself. So, I can’t get mad at other people when there is something bothering me, and I can’t blame them because they “must not care about me since they aren’t asking” or “they don’t even seem to notice I am having a bad day”. As an introvert, I have to take responsibility that it’s my fault “no one notices”, because I am not good at sharing what is going on in my head, and unless I tell someone directly something is bothering me, I can’t get upset about it.
I am not being “anti-social”: In fact, as an introvert, I am actually being very social. I think this is why writers and thinkers and artists often need to do their thing in isolation; there is so much socializing going on in my head that it is overload if I am also required to socialize on the outside. But, because I am also expressive, I do like being the center of attention, and I really like talking, me “not talking” seems to be a sign of me also being “anti-social”.
I was once accused of “hiding behind my computer”, and “using the internet to create a facade”. The truth of the matter is, because writing and thinking are so connected, what you read is probably a more accurate representation of my inner workings, and it’s not necessarily that I am trying to “hide” my “true identity” from a public forum, but rather that, as an introvert, I just don’t share those things readily, because I just don’t think to. For example, if you met me, you probably would have no idea that I am somewhat of a reckless driver. I love shifting my car into neutral when I go down hills just to see how far inertia can take me, I love driving down our dirt road super fast and fish tailing around the corner, and during the summer, I love turning my music up super loud, opening my sun roof (and turning on the floor heaters because I don’t have any circulation in my feet), and just driving. And, as an introvert, I wouldn’t necessarily think to share this with you, so when you hear I just got a speeding ticket, or I got stuck in a ditch, you are kind of surprised.
(For this reason, dating as an introvert is really painful, because you have to verbally extract things about your personality to explain why you are the way you are, and how you came to be, and why you have the viewpoints you do, and that just feels really unnatural)
People might get offended if something happens I don’t tell them about: Because I am expressive and outgoing, people assume that I am also extroverted, and because I am “extroverted”, I share everything with everyone. So, when something happens that I didn’t tell people about, they get kind of offended and feel betrayed, because they assume I am lying, and not telling the whole truth, and that feels shady, secretive, insincere. But in reality, as an introvert, I figure things out in my head, and once I figure those things out, I have made a conclusion and a determination, I compartmentalize it, dump it, and feel no need to continue discussing the topic. Once upon a time, I decided I might want to apply to grad school. Of course, I sought out all my resources, asked a bunch of people their opinions, talked extensively about the pro’s and con’s of grad school, and in my head, I made the decision to in fact apply. I got accepted, dumped the topic, and when I started my class a few months later, people were offended that I never followed up and told them I decided to apply; it really had nothing to do with me wanting to be secretive, but rather, once I made the decision, I didn’t feel the need to continue it in conversation. I really have two choices: try to tell people more stuff, or face the consequences of them being mad when I don’t tell them stuff (I personally prefer the latter).
I am not giving you ‘the silent treatment’: As an introvert, I always like to think before I speak, so my silence is probably due to me ruminating about what I should say, and how I should say it. And, I never want to blame someone for something that could actually be my fault, or a trait from my past. For example, I one time had this boyfriend who would “forget” to call me. And, it turns out that “forgetting to call me” was actually probably him doing some things he knew he should not be. So, when I had another boyfriend who was unable to call me one night, I had to remember that my reaction was probably stemming from distrust and history of the last boyfriend, and blowing up at the other boyfriend would not be fair to him. While I am sitting and thinking and processing all of this, I did not talk to him, but it really means nothing; I am not trying to give you the silent treatment, but rather, I am just figuring things out before I open my mouth, because as an introvert, I think before I speak.
It’s really not you, it’s me: I really need my time alone. I notice this every Friday; I spend all week talking to people, teaching people, hanging around people, and because I am expressive I enjoy that, but by the weekend, I kind of want to be by myself. To an outsider, this feels kind of repulsive, and you feel like I am judging you, and there is something wrong with you, and that makes you feel insecure, like you are doing something wrong. But, it’s really not you. I don’t want to be around people in general. I did not realize what an introvert I took an extended vacation. My travel companion was awesome, and I found myself wanting to wander away at the museums, take long showers, and stay up late reading, for the mere fact that I wanted to just be by myself, alone with my thoughts; I start feeling stuffy and irritable when I don’t give myself enough alone time to deeply process the world as my brain so desperately desires. It’s really me, not you.