introverts

Crowd and separate individual

Being an Introvert

The internet is full of reassurances that it’s okay to be an introvert — but here are ten ways to make yourself look like an extrovert. Because that’s what you must do if you want to succeed in life. And anyway, it’s good for you to get out of your comfort zone.

That was then. Things are different now.

Now that so many are having to self-isolate and work from home, introverts have the edge. It’s the extroverts who are feeling uneasy and having to resort to special techniques to ease their anxiety.

I almost wrote a mocking list of tips to help extroverts to get over their feelings of deprivation for the company of others, but then I remembered that many have no choice about being cut off right now. In “normal” times, we introverts have to do some faking performing in certain areas of our lives, but at the end of the day we can return to our preferred environments. Self-isolated or quarantined extroverts right now don’t have a choice. I acknowledge all that, but here’s my list of…

Un-serious Tips for Isolated Extroverts

Simulate your preferred environment. Gather all pets, stuffies, and dolls into a small room. Crank up the music. Add crowd noise using another device. Dance up a storm.

Find non-human crowds. Seek out places frequented by flocks of noisy crows, gulls, or starlings. Parking lot? Garbage dump? Bring bird seed or french fries. Pretend the birds are humans. Mingle.

Hug a tree. (This is a real thing. Read more here.)

Do some role-playing. (A workshop facilitator’s favourite.) Play all the roles. In costume. Make a video you can watch later. Or replay that argument you lost, this time remembering the killer line.

If all else fails, fake it ’til you make it. Gradually extend the times you’re alone in a quiet room. Eventually you may get used to it and stop wanting to scream. And hey — getting outside your comfort zone is good for you!

A Few Serious Thoughts

Until I learned that extroverts draw energy from being with other people, while introverts experience an energy drain in those situations, I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I wasn’t trying hard enough. I had a bad attitude. If I didn’t fix myself, I’d be a failure in life.

In recent years, books by authors such as Susan Cain, Laurie Helgoe, and Marti Olsen Laney have changed introversion from a pathology to an almost okay personality trait. Almost okay, still. In North America, at least, extrovert qualities are expected of those who want success in life, especially working life.

Is it possible to be successful — however one measures success — as an introvert, rather than a pseudo-extrovert? It depends. If you make the right choices and acquire skills that permit you to work mostly alone and earn enough to live decently, the answer is “Yes.” But not everyone can do that.

Some people, myself included, make the choice to apply for jobs in supervisory or managerial positions because those jobs pay better. Team players are valued more than lone wolves. Even we introverts can fake our way through a job interview. Unfortunately, by taking jobs that don’t suit our personalities, we may be setting ourselves up for a harder time at work than if we were extroverts. And if we don’t fit our jobs comfortably, we’re shortchanging the people we work for and with. It’s a lose-lose-lose situation.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who found her true calling after retirement from a “real” job. I’ve also discovered that if there’s something I really want to achieve, and the only way I can do it is by looking like an extrovert, I’ll gladly fake and perform. For a while, anyway.

At least I’m no longer a closet introvert. And right now, we intros are having our moment.

Flock of birds with one flying away
Can you spot the intro-bird?

Are any of you introverts? How has that influenced your life? And how are you dealing with our Covid19-constricted world?

Images by Alexas Fotos and TeeFarm from Pixabay.

Hypocrisy Part II: The Introvert’s Dilemma

I am an introvert. It feels strange to admit that, as though it’s a shameful secret.

One-third of us, supposedly, are introverts, so why has this not unusual personality type been considered a disorder by some?

I’ve seen advice (mostly in self-help books) that boils down to, “It’s OK to be an introvert, but here are ten things you can do to make yourself look like an extrovert, because you need to do that to succeed.”

To me, this is exactly analogous to telling a gay or lesbian person that all they need to do is find the right person of the opposite sex.  This advice is, essentially, “Be a hypocrite. Forever.”

I’ve spent too much of my life considering myself to be socially broken and in need of repair, regularly facing dilemmas such as, “Go to the party and feel like a misfit or stay home and feel like a failure?” With age comes wisdom, and in the last few years I’ve given up any intentions to fix myself, at first with resignation, recently with delight. It really is OK to be what I am, and don’t bother offering me tools to break out of my shell. I like my shell; it has windows and a door and I look out and come out when I please.

Other introverts have begun to speak out, notably Susan Cain, with her book Quiet : the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. Amazing — introverts credited with power, rather than diagnosed with a disorder! I admit I haven’t read it yet, but this item makes me hopeful. Almost all of the 23 things apply to me, and the most surprising one is #8: “Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.” Labelled “shy” as a child, I’ve wondered why I can, in fact, speak to groups  when I have something to say and know what I’m talking about. While speaking, my role is defined — I talk, the others listen. But to me, a free-floating crowd where everyone is yakkng away is an alien, energy-sucking environment.

And then there’s #22 in the list: “You’re a writer.” Need I say more?