Updated: Feb 8
As an introvert myself, I've learned to celebrate these differences rather than being embarrassed by them. I enjoy helping my clients learn that it's okay to prefer time home alone to being surrounded by people all the time. I asked people on facebook what they wish people understood about their experience as an introvert. Here's what some of them said:
1. It's like being left handed.
The world is mostly in tune with extroverts, so what is good for them is seen as good in general. Extroverts get charged up by being in groups of other people, so it's really hard for them to understand it's mentally and even physically draining to introverts. Even introverts who love people can't spend too much time in a social situation without falling into bed after and wanting to stay there for a week. ~Stephanie D.
There's actually research that supports this. Extroverts' dopamine receptors fire when in social situations, large crowds, parties etc. The dopamine acts as a 'reward' to the extrovert in these situations, while the introverts don't get the same 'reward'. Instead, we are exquisitely sensitive to external stimuli, it takes work for us to process everything going on around us, which is why we get tired out so easily. It's important that introverts understand that becoming exhausted is a real thing and to honor this and not overextend themselves.
2. Getting lost in thought or daydreaming is the norm.
Feeling very comfortable alone...I find an evening of gaming or working on projects to be fulfilling and a big stress reliever! ~Katie T.
I learned something new while doing some reading about introverts. Katie is dead on and there is a reason that introverts daydream and get lost in thought. Although introverts don't get a 'reward' for being in groups; we do get a 'brain boost' when we turn inward. Our reward is spurred by another neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. It becomes active when we are quiet and turned thoughtful. The important thing to note is that there are real, biological reasons that we react the way we do. We can't just 'power through' or 'get over it'. Our brains don't get rewarded for being in big groups or by running around constantly. Our brains reward us when we are quiet, introspective and contemplative. That doesn't make us bad, or weird or anti-social, just different.
3. When introverts are in creative fields, we need space and time!
It takes time to do the 'thing', be it art or music or xyz, and then put on top of that peopling, it can just be overwhelming. ~Kris K.
Kris summed up what it's like for all introverts. We need space and time to be creative, however that may look. Painting, singing, knitting, crafting, sculpting, gardening, writing (even blogs!) Painting nails, doing beautiful make-up, creating movies. There is something about being creative that feeds the introverted soul.
4. That extroverted introverts do exist, and that it can be just as confusing for us as it can be for everyone else.
It all depends on the situation I'm in. I'd love nothing more than to keep to myself much more than I do, but I can find a common ground with anyone - people approach me to talk to me much more than I approach anyone. In a celebratory or party setting, I can easily get things rolling and enjoy my surroundings, but I'm always observing and tend to "take breaks" away from everyone. At work, I have no problem taking charge. I enjoy teaching others as much as possible. ~Holly S.
Holly is speaking to the myths that surround introverts. Introverts don't dislike people. Although some may be shy or socially awkward or have social anxiety; not all introverts struggle socially. We might have to work to be outgoing, but it is possible. We are comfortable being alone. And we get exhausted/overwhelmed in social situations and need to tend to ourselves when that happens.
5. I enjoy being around people, but not large groups. Being in a large group overwhelms me and l just feel the need to escape and be by myself for awhile. It is like l have to recharge my inner "batteries" if that makes sense . Before l learned this about myself, l would have panic attacks but now l can prevent those. ~Shelley K.
Shelley identified something really important for all introverts. Being aware of what our social limitations are. Listen to yourself and be kind to yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed or drained. Go home, turn your phone off and take care of yourself.
One caveat, because introverts are so comfortable alone, we can be in danger of isolating. We are all social animals, extroverts and introverts alike. Even though introverts enjoy being alone, if that's taken to far, it can result in isolation which can easily slide into depression. It's useful when you're thinking that you really don't want to go to that dinner party, to remember that you will enjoy yourself once you are there and you can be the first to leave.
Understanding, the cost of social interactions (even when we are having a good time) helps reduce anxiety. Be gentle with yourself, it's normal that you don't like small talk. You really are reacting differently in large crowds. It's okay that it's a struggle to go out even when we want to. Understanding how we process social situations helps normalize our experience. When we can accept who we are, we are on our way to reducing our anxiety.
I had a lot of fun writing this article. A big thank you to everyone that replied to my request to talk about their experiences as an introvert. What about the rest of you? Can you identify with what was said? Did we forget something important to you as an introvert? Or are you an extrovert living with an introvert? Did this sound like someone you know? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!
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