What’s Wrong With Being an Introvert? (Writing 101, Day 16)

People are always surprised when I tell them I’m an introvert.  “Really?” They ask.  “You seem so…” Fill in the blank:

  • Socially adept
  • Outgoing
  • Normal

In general, there’s a stigma surrounding what it means to be an introvert.  Introverts are the shy, awkward loners who sit in a corner avoiding people.  I can’t count the amount of times someone has criticized another by saying, “They’re just so introverted!”

But the thing is… none of this has to do with being an introvert.

Introversion is seen as a negative trait when, in reality, it’s nothing of the sort.  It has nothing to do with being socially awkward.  It has to do with where you get your energy/rest.  Extroverts gain their energy from being around other people–thus, they are seen as more social.  Being alone drains them.  Introverts are the opposite.  Being around people drains them and they refuel by doing things alone.  Another misconception is that you are either one or the other.  I tend to see introversion and extroversion not as categories, but as a scale.  On a scale of Introvert to Extrovert, where do you land?

Found this useful graphic on Google. Yay Google!

I’ve always been an introvert, but it’s been a journey figuring out how to take care of myself.  Because, opposed to popular belief, I actually really like being with people.  When I was younger, I’d hang out with large groups of people all the time.  While on church or band trips, where you’re surrounded by people, I didn’t know that I needed to pull away.  Because I didn’t know how to take care of myself in this aspect, I’d find myself experiencing bursts of crabbiness that did nothing to help my friendships.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand my introversion much better.  I’ve learned that removing myself from company and spending time alone is necessary to my mental health.  I now plan “Me-Time” into my schedule.  If I know I’ve got plans with friends or other social activities, I make sure to have time the day afterwards where I hang out by myself.  If I’m going on a big trip where I’ll be surrounded by people all the time, I sometimes go off on my own while everyone is hanging out.  Working at camp for three summers is a huge challenge for an introvert, but I usually managed to find time to sneak off on my own to re-fuel.

On the spectrum, I fall just to the left of the middle line.  I’m an introvert, but I’m less introverted than many of my friends.  I have found that too much time in my own head isn’t necessarily healthy. If I’m alone too long, I get angsty and lonely. That’s where the spectrum mindset it so useful. Because I’m aware, I’m very careful to balance  people time with me time. This involves making plans with friends a few times a week while keeping enough nights free to be alone.

I love being an introvert!  Most of my favorite pastimes require no company and the hours I spend reading, writing, and painting are what I most look forward to in the day.  Sometimes, I feel like I live for the few hours in the evening where I retreat into my own little world.

Where, readers, do you fall on the spectrum? Are you an introvert? Extrovert? Or a bit of both? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

What brings you life?

A good friend of mine has a job at an after-school program teaching coping mechanisms to teens with depression and anxiety.  When I asked her more about what she does, she replied, “We have them set goals every week.  These goals fall into two categories: Do things that make you feel accomplished and do things that bring you life.”  She then looked at me and asked, “Amelia, what brings you life?”

It’s something I’ve been thinking about ever since.

The first category is simple.  I feel accomplished by doing things that are practical–by making a list and checking off all the items.  (Yes, in my Meyers-Briggs I’m a strong J).  I feel accomplished by doing a job well, by striving for excellence, by working hard.  Schoolwork is good for this, even though at this stage in my life I’d rather be doing other things.

Life-bringing activities are harder to pin down.

You see, there are lots of things that don’t bring me life.  Trudging through the bitter cold is upsetting, though as a hardy Minnesotan I hardly complain.  People bustling around disturbs my thoughts.  Trying to cook dinner at the same time as two of my other roommates tests my patience.  Overly pretentious classmates annoy me.  Having the super-bright fluorescent ceiling lights in the apartment on after dark makes my skin crawl.

What, though?  What fills me up when the world sucks me dry?

Reading for pleasure.  There’s nothing more special than curling up in bed and reading by candlelight, than getting lost in a world that exists within your own mind, than falling in love and friendship with people who don’t exist.

Deep conversations with good friends.  Most of the time, these take place over the phone.  You see, I don’t let a lot of people close (typical trait for an INFJ), so the time I have with those I deeply care about is extremely special.

Encouraging others spiritually.  I love leading Bible studies and praying for people.  I love when I can speak truth into the lives of others and help them draw closer to God.  This brings me so much life that it’s what I want to do every day until I die.

Spending time alone.  Granted, too much alone time makes me go crazy.  (Another typical INFJ trait).  But there’s something incredibly calming about being in a room with no one around and only my thoughts to keep me company.

Tonight, I took advantage of the fact that my roommate was out and spent some time doing things that bring me life.  I turned all the lights off except the desk lamp, pulled up a movie on Netflix, and broke out my watercolors.  Being a college student is a lot of work, and every once in a while, it’s important to take time to do what fills you up.

So, readers.  You now know all about me.  What brings you life?

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