Quite recently, I came about some comments about people like me – you know the ones: people who enjoy time alone, people who participate in online forums or might have a nerdy hobby, people who can be happy and excited by the prospect of a weekend IN.
The comments went something like “You are antisocial. Don’t tell me you are not – you are reading this on an online forum right now and not climbing a mountain or snowboarding or horse riding or hand-gliding or any of the other cool things you could be doing.”
First off: Wrong word, dude. Antisocial is either a serious diagnosed personality disorder or a pervasive pattern of behaviours that are aimed at harming society. If you think of a slightly overweight person enjoying their online fun time, you have the wrong association.
I think what the commenter was trying to describe were introverts. I am an introvert and I am quite thoroughly sick of being called antisocial, uncool or boring. I am none of those things – I simply process contact with people differently. And as we are on the subject – we simply all live in a society that glorifies extroverts, where maybe 50 to 100 years ago this was reversed. I mean honestly, what does mountain-climbing and snow-boarding do for the rest of society? Nothing. And does that even make you an extrovert??? What about working out how to make a more efficient computer, writing a ground-breaking novel or discover formulas that explain the origin of the universe?
Here are some other ideas that tend to be falsely associated with introverts:
Many introverts might be shy but so are many extroverts. Shiness can have to do with a social anxiety disorder but it can also be the result of negative experiences around people. Someone can enjoy being among people a lot, but still be afraid they might judge them at first. Shyness also is usally defined as something that crops up when meeting new people – and then it goes away. That’s not being an introvert.
I’m an introvert but nobody believes me because I’m also a teacher. I am really good at public speaking, I am friendly and I smile a lot and although I can be shy with guys I like, nobody would ever describe me as such. I’m not shy – I have learnt to overcome my shyness and act like an adult in company. Still a massive introvert though.
As I mentioned above – boring is a very very subjective term. Personally, I can’t see what is interesting about clubbing for example – I find that intensely boring. However, it is celebrated as the standard of cool so, I guess I’ll go hide with the other societal rejects
3. Low Social Skills
Like shyness, this is simply not true. I know many extroverts with terrible social skills — offensive jokes, anyone? A person’s emotional intelligence tends to have more to do with their upbringing and the people they learn their social skills with than anything else. Whether a person is an introvert or an extrovert goes much deeper than that.
I am a polite, nice person – people tend to like me most of the time. I try not to be rude or unfriendly, I like telling people what I like about them and I like making them feel good… still an introvert though.
Now here are some things that are true about introverts:
1. Introverts gain energy from time alone.
Extroverts gain it from time with people. Both is equally good – no judgement. They are simply different ways to feel energized and pumped and how to concentrate. Introverts won’t do well in a crowded office, they should telecommute or have their own office. They don’t often really like big parties, they prefer meeting people one to one.
This also means that we can feel really drained after group and outdoors activities — even if we had fun! Yes, we can enjoy time with people, but we usually don’t want to do it as long and then we want to nap the next day 😉 or at least be alone.
2. Introverts tend to set more importance on few very deep friendships, rather than a lot of casual acquaintances.
Kind of self-explanatory. Introverts have to be careful with their time – we can’t give too much of it to people or we end up overwhelmed, so we want to give what social time we have to the people who actually matter to us. And sometimes, yes, that means even to those we well seem like the assholes who always cancel or say no – but we also say yes sometimes!
3. Introverts have a rich inner life.
They self-reflect, they think a lot, they like to concentrate and focus and spend an afternoon mostly musing about something. This is why a lot of introverts are artists or scientists – it is something they are naturally more driven to. They tend to be quite self-aware… and yes sometimes too much.
Introverts aren’t better people – but we are also not lesser. Introversion is also not the same as an anxiety disorder or any other socially harming problem. Just normal people who work a little bit differently.
Sorry for the rant 🙂 It was long coming. And here is a video of someone being so so much more eloquent about this than I could ever be.
photo credit: spodzone, M31. and Sailing "Footprints: Real to Reel" (Ronn ashore) via photopin cc