In Which I Discuss Introversion

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Day 2 of Blog Every Day in May is here! So far, so good. This was a really hard topic for me to come up with, because it asks me to "educate us on something you know a lot about or are good at". Well, it actually said "alot" but since that isn't a word (I don't care that it's in the dictionary!), I corrected it. I vascillate wildly between feeling like I know a lot about a lot of things and feeling like I know NOTHING about a lot of things. I came up with some things I know a lot about:

1. Medicine/health - True, but I don't know as much as a lot of other people, like my friends who are actually doctors, nurses, and PA's. I do know that whatever it is you're suffering from probably doesn't require antibiotics (oh my goodness, people, stop demanding antibiotics for your viral illnesses!) and I can probably tell you whether you need to go to the hospital, but I don't know enough to educate the masses (i.e. - all of you).

2. How to have a meltdown - No one really needs help with this, although I am quite the expert. If you ever need assistance in these matters, I can probably be found under my kitchen table.

3. How to deal with the extreme stupidity you may encounter in your daily life - I actually only know a lot about encountering the stupidity... I'm pretty terrible at dealing with it and instead, prefer to rant (often here).

4. Cats -The internet is already full of stuff about cats.

5. Being diseased/how to talk to someone with a chronic illness - I could probably write a pretty good post about this, but my favorite person to read on this subject is Emily Bradley of Chronic Curve. So go there and read about that. 

I could go on forever about things that I could have written about, but instead, here is what I finally settled on. Introversion. So without further ado:

How I Discovered That I
Am an Introvert
(And How You Can Identify and Interact with Introverts in Your Life)
AKA: The Care and Keeping of Introverts
AAKA: "Stop the madness of constant group work. Just stop it!" - Susan Cain
How many people view introverts. Not always the case.
Some of you may be making the "huh?" face, because if you know me, you probably think I'm not much of an introvert. For a very long time, I did think I was an introvert either. I loved hanging out with my friends and working with people. I want to be a doctor, which means I'll be seeing and working with people all day, every day! I'm not shy, I can't possibly be an introvert! Like many people, I equated introversion with shyness and not wanting to be social, and by that definition, then no, I'm not an introvert. Until very recently, (as in, two months ago), I thought I understood this delineation and myself. A few things happened to coincide that helped me figure out the truth.

The first was that I retook the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter because I was bored, and also because I wanted to see if my results were the same as when I had taken them in 2008 during my orientation for med school. (Don't ask me why they had us take them, but I suppose they were useful for self-evaluation or something.) Anyway, as usual, I came up as an INTJ, or Introverted-iNtuitive-Thinking-Judging, which makes a lot of sense. I also have come up as an INFJ, which swaps "Thinking" for "Feeling", which also makes sense, so I think I tend to ride the line between the two. Obviously, personality tests won't reveal everything about you perfectly, but these two MBT's seem to describe me pretty well. What I kept getting caught up on was that introverted bit, because again, I couldn't possibly be an introvert! To read more about these types, and others, feel free to click the links above. Suffice it to say, it made me start to think about what kind of person I am and more importantly, what that meant for how I interacted with the world.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that while I did like my friends, I also really loved staying at home. I had always attributed that to my depression/anxiety, and because I wanted to avoid giving into those types of avoidance behaviors (which only reinforce the negative feelings), I forced myself to go out and interact with the world. I usually enjoyed myself once I got out there, but I always came home feeling drained and like I needed to recharge my batteries. Then one day, I found this comic:

Click here for a larger view. It's worth it, I promise!
NB: In the bottom right, the comic says that introverts "tend to see extroverts as obnoxious predators out to steal their sweet, sweet, energy juices. . ." which is the only part of this comic I don't agree with. Extroverts are not predators; they're just different than me. We must be careful to not create more negative stereotypes when banishing already existing ones. :)

I also got really into watching Ted Talks on YouTube, and I found this one:

For those of you who can't/don't want to watch, it's a talk by Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts. (It's really great; you should watch it when you have 20 minutes to do so.) She talks about being an introvert, what that means, and how introverted and extroverted people can work together for more productivity and better lives for each set of people. My favorite part of the video is when she says, "Stop the madness with the constant group work! Just... stop it!" because... for real. (My hatred for group work is for another post entirely...) But yes, watch the video. Or read her book. Or both!

The comic, while funny, really hit home for me. I never thought about it this way or knew this, but introverts and extraverts differ in how they make and take energy. As the comic explains, extraverts take energy from social situations and get "good vibes" from the people around them. Conversely, introverts make their own energy, or rather, they give off energy in groups of people. Finally, I had a reason for why my enjoyable social outings left me feeling drained! When I felt burned out, I wasn't depressed... I was just in need of a recharge. Suddenly, the pressure to force myself to go out evaporated and I was able to manage my social outings and energy levels in a much more effective manner. I also love the "hamster ball" analogy, because it is exactly how I feel most of the time. Sometimes, you just need to curl up in the hamster ball and recharge. So, what does this mean? If you just discovered that you're an introvert, welcome to the club! If you know you have introverts in your life and never knew what to do with them... now you can (hopefully) understand them a little better!

So basically: 

- Realize that you/introverts in general have a limited capacity of energy (just like a battery) and that too many social interactions will run that battery down.

- Take time to recharge (if you're the introvert) or allow your introvert time to do so. It doesn't mean there's something wrong, it just means that you/they need to rest up for the next encounter.

- Don't avoid the introvert! We aren't antisocial, we are just judicious with our energy. We like being invited places, but we also like to be able to say "no" and not be judged as being shy, weird, or withdrawn.

- Introversion and extroversion are on a spectrum, and no one is a pure introvert or pure extrovert.

- Respect the hamster ball.

As an aside, when one Google's "introvert", the images that are returned range from completely non-related:

Really, I have no idea. If you're introverted, you put a bag on your head? Not true.

To amusing:
Haha, introverted mussel!

 To negative and downright hostile (and also untrue):

Not true.

To nicely put and true:
This. Exactly.

I've made it my own personal mission to:

- Be outspoken about my needs as an introvert (Ex - Turning down plans to "recharge" and not being ashamed)
- Value the extroverts in my life
- Help shift the perception of introverts to something that is more positive and less pathological

Wow, that turned into kind of a manifesto, but hey. Guess I really did know a lot about introversion? Tune in tomorrow for Day 3, and check out the link-up to Day 2 here!

- A


  1. I loved Quiet! Welcome to our not-as-anti-social-as-everyone-thinks world! :-) I am a hardcore introvert and I am a pastor. I love working with people, but I also need time to myself.

    1. I'm very social! Just in small doses, haha. Miss you, Pastor Rachel! Hope all is well. :)

  2. Good lord, reading this, I now realize that I'm totally an introvert. But seriously, who DOESN'T want to be home in their PJs after spending a good long time out at night??


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