Quiet: Fighting the Intro-Extro Battle

If I’ve talked to you about books or personality in the last two weeks or so, I’ve probably talked about Quiet: The Power of Introverts. I’ve read exactly 4 chapters and I keep telling people about it because I’ve learned so much. Essentially, our culture currently prizes extroversion above introversion and because of that, creativity and inspiration is lacking in day to day life.  Because the most innovative ideas come from introverts, we are doing ourselves a disservice with the constant fixation on group activities and teamwork. 

Quiet

I used to think of myself as an introvert, but I began surprising myself a few years ago when I started enjoying being in groups. Being center of attention intimidates me, but I like the idea of giving a worthwhile comment or having a lengthy and intense discussion about books or the possibility of music-making with an old friend over a microbrew. Bouncing ideas off friends, successfully creating something with a team, and acting as an authority (in a professional setting as well as social settings) are all things that appeal to me.

I don’t mind being alone, but if I go to bed without having talked to anyone other than coworkers (no offense to my cube-dwelling friends), I feel restless and disappointed with myself. I should have reached out to Nicole today. I wonder how Kaleigh is doing in her new home. I should have asked Jason to meet up for a drink. I haven’t talked to my aunt in a long time, I wonder how her kitchen remodel went. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Sam. I should have hung out with Nic. I should have taken Christina up on that idea about coffee. I pull my sheets in closer and turn on my Kindle and start reading, and quickly forget about all of that. 

My introverted nature is fighting with my freshly-cultivated extroversion.  I want the people around me to know that they matter to me,but it’s so much easier to just putz around my apartment, pretending to be productive. That sounds selfish because it is. What stops me from reaching out to friends? They’ve reached out to me multiple times and I rarely return the gesture. Am I afraid of the rejection? In a few cases, maybe. But I know that I have common interests with these people. I’m confident I would enjoy that show Nic has been telling me about. I know I would get a month’s worth of laughter if I talked to Nicole for twenty minutes. And I might find a new friend if I reached out to Christina. But there’s a part of me that is reluctant to face the potential awkwardness of hanging out with a friend who doesn’t know me as deeply as someone like my best friend, Andrea. And that fear is what stops me from reaching out to those people. 

But getting back to the issue here: my actual placement on the introversion/extroversion spectrum.  When asked to list my hobbies, they’re all of the introverted variety: reading, writing, knitting & crochet, running, baking, cooking, sewing…good god, I sound like a grandma who should be in fantastic shape. Though I truly enjoy doing those things, I feel a pressure to be surrounded. Where that pressure hails is a mystery, but I feel it stronger than I’d like. The times I’ve showed my extroverted side, I’ve been rewarded instantly – by the approval of an idea, laughter at a joke, or the gratitude of being understood. 

But it’s a quick sense of satisfaction. It takes very little effort for me to feel fulfilled in social situations. My default setting for social interaction is self-deprecation, and since people seem to enjoy that, I go with it. But the things that make me feel really good are things that require patience and focus on quieting my inner monologue to let the creativity flourish.

When I spent hours reading or writing, it was in high school – when I didn’t have much of a social life. I journaled constantly because I didn’t have a best friend to listen to my sometimes never-ending wordbarf. Reading allowed me to get swept away by a story. I wrote short stories and the beginnings of a few terrible novels, because when I was alone, I was able to cultivate and tweak those ideas. Without anyone else’s input clouding the development of my ideas, I was free to work as I saw fit, yielding some of my favorite pieces.

Having only read the first four chapters, I’m not sure what else I’ll find from the rest of Susan Cain’s book. So far, I’ve taken away that I’ve begun to prize the gratification of my extroverted efforts above my introverted ones, despite the fact that the latter gives deeper and longer-lasting satisfaction. After spending an hour writing this, I’m not sure if I want to go read more of the book or if I want to spend the rest of the night feeling guilty about not calling people. 

If you haven’t heard of Susan Cain or her awesome book, I’d recommend listening to her fantastic TED Talk. 

I’m like Fat Amy but with introversion.

It’s Friday night and I’m in sweats. I’m alone on my couch. I just inhaled a personal pizza. I’m halfway through my first cocktail. I’m listening to Norah Jones’s discography on shuffle. If I were trying to out-sad you, I’d tell you I was contemplating the beauty of the partially deflated balloon my roommate got for Valentine’s Day.

It’s sort just hovering around a single light. Sort of like that scene in American Beauty with the plastic bag being tossed around by the wind. Poetic, the way it mocks my loneliness.

Judging balloon is judging you and your loneliness.

Stoic helium balloon knows how you really feel

Just kidding. I’m not lonely. My pizza was delicious and my cocktail is refreshing. Vince offered to make me dinner tonight, but I declined. I’ve been craving a night to myself. I say that like I have this incredible social life. Really I’m just figuring out how to be an adult. I don’t know how they do it. I feel like I deserve a parade when I work a full day, go to the gym, shower, AND put my dirty clothes in the hamper.

But I’m not trying to out-sad you. I did that a few months ago, because I didn’t know how to deal with it. I use self-deprecation as a tool for self-preservation. I make fun of my loneliness and sadness before other people can ask me how I’m doing. Sort of like Fat Amy.

Fat Amy

If you’ve been reading for a while or if you know me well enough, you know that about a year ago, I went through a breakup. I was sad and lonely for a big chunk of time. I drank too many whiskey drinks and listened to Ok Go too many times. I ate too much bread and just avoided looking in the mirror. While my roommate was out with her boyfriend, I would find myself sitting alone, unable to do anything but make fun of myself.

True story, just use the search bar to find all my posts on heartbreak and breakup and love and relationships and all those other uplifting topics.

The optimist in me says I was dealing with my situation head-on. But the realist in me knows I was denying the issue and pretending to be stronger than I actually was. But eventually I started to believe myself. I don’t know (or particularly care) what this says about me and my coping capabilities, but eventually I got through it – I became strong on my own. Now I value my alone time. Maybe a bit too much at times.

But you know what? All that matters tonight is how quickly I can get in bed with my heating pad for my hip (I skipped training last week, ran 3mi on Tuesday night, 3.5mi on Thursday and decided I was too cool for stretching), and start reading. And anyway, I’m being responsible. My boss requested I stay in.

Well, sort of.

Well, sort of.

The last time I volunteered to help her out on a Saturday morning project, she (and several of my coworkers) saw my painful recovery from the night I went to a rave. I was so out of it that morning that I didn’t have the mental capacity to lie about where I had been. So when a coworker asked what I had done the night before, I told her, “I went to a rave.” Now, almost two months later, they’re giving me crap for it, constantly making jokes about glowsticks and E.

I bet they’ll have a hard time thinking of something to tease me about when I tell them I read the last 130 pages of Gone Girl alone in my bed.