Monday, September 21, 2015

Dear Introvert

Hi Introverts, it's me, an Extrovert, coming to shake your world up a bit and make you feel uncomfortable.

I'm terribly sorry, it is not my intention to make you feel nervous. I feel terrible when other people are uncomfortable, and I try very hard to be sensitive to other people's needs.

I have had this message knocking around in my brain for some time now, and I feel the best way to present it is head on. Take comfort, dear Introvert, that you can read this post when/where/how you feel like it, and there is no pressure to respond to my comments immediately. Please just read what I have to share and then think about it for a while.

I have spent time thinking over all of the reactions and buzz on the internet caused by Meyers Briggs personality test. I have taken the test at least three different times. Strangely, I ended up with a different extrovert personality each time I took the test. Each time the result was a part of me, but it was never the entire picture. More on that later this week in my post "Dear People".

As a human being, I understand that it is really encouraging to be able to understand yourself. It is comforting to find a classification to fit into. It creates a sense of belonging, a feeling that we as human beings crave.

And for you dear Introvert, I know it must be especially comforting to finally feel recognized for who you are. Our culture holds those who appear bolder, brasher, and more socially active as being of higher value to society. Our culture is wrong, and I am so sorry, dear Introvert, that you have been made to feel obscure, stupid, and lame. 

In truth, dear Introvert, I, an Extrovert, feel that there are some ways in which I have also been misunderstood. You and I aren't as opposite and different as you may think. Neither of us are simple or tidy enough to just be put into one tidy box. We are complex, we are similar, and we are different.

Please hear these things from my heart. I share them with you out of a desire to know you for who you are, and to be known by you for who I am.

Here we go....

  • I think deeply, almost all of the time. I have gotten the impression from some of my reading, that there is a misled belief that introverts have the corner on the market when it comes to being deep thinkers. I have come across this more so from individuals, who have created a stereotype for both introverts and extroverts. It's not true. I think deeply, all the time, sometimes to the point where I can't settle down and go to sleep at night. I know other extroverts who do this as well, so know that I am not a rogue agent.
  • There are moments when I feel trapped inside my own head. This goes hand-in-hand with thinking deeply. I think so deeply sometimes, that I feel a bit smothered. Granted, the best way I find relief is in blurting my thoughts out on paper, or to another person, but they may still be jumbled and messy. 
  • I overthink....everything. I never want to get things wrong, I don't want to mess up introductions, friendships, relationships. I never want to be caught unprepared, I hate being at a loss for words. My solution? Lay awake at night, or waste time in the shower thinking up every possible scenario, and coming up with a game plan for my response. And I still fail, regularly.
  • Many times, I am at a loss for words. "Uh, how about that weather we're having?" Yeah, being classified an "extrovert" doesn't mean that you are good with all people, anywhere, anytime. Some days I feel bold, and I have an easy time drawing a person into conversation. Other days, I wish I had just stayed home and never even gotten out of bed.
  • Crowds freak me out. I do love being with people, I really do. And certain situations involving large groups of people are very intriguing and enjoyable to me. But overall, large crowds of strangers totally freak me out. I feel small, smothered, and overwhelmed by all of the sounds, the movements, and the smells of so many different people.
  • I need space. I do like to get cozy with my family and close friends. I am not afraid of touch, I love hugs, and I love the warmth of someone being near me. But, I need moments when I can have some space. I need a place that I can go where it is just me. Without that refuge, I feel like I am just wandering, a ship without a home port.
  • I need time to myself. I need time to just be quiet, to sort out my thoughts, to have less noise surrounding me. It is in this time that I recharge my batteries, clear my head, and get time to feel the world around me. I have conversation with myself, just me, myself, and I. Without this time I feel frantic, harried, and irritable. Let's just say I have a hard time being a good Christian when I haven't had any alone time.
  • I often feel insecure and stupid in social settings. It all depends upon the social setting and who I am with. This is one aspect of the Meyers Briggs test that I feel is terribly flawed. The questions about social settings are too cut and dry. When I am asked, "Do you feel comfortable in social settings?" I am uncertain how to answer. With certain groups of people, my answer would be a resounding YES. But with other groups of people? In those scenarios I am often insecure, and nervous. I have to constantly step out of my comfort zone and put myself out there.
  • I don't like unnecessary/loud/obnoxious behavior or conversation. I see loud and overly obnoxious people as very rude. They are so focused on themselves and what they want in that moment, that they fail to think about how their actions are stealing the oxygen from everyone else in the room. I have done this very thing myself before, and I am ashamed of those moments. When I am in situations where people are behaving this way, I tend to shut down, withdraw, and just coast through the rest of the evening on autopilot. There is no way I can compete with the level of energy that obnoxious person is expending, and truthfully, I don't want to.
  • In some cases, I come home from social settings utterly exhausted and spent. I don't want to talk, I don't want to engage with anyone; I just want to be left alone and go to bed, read a book, or watch a movie.
  • Most of the time, I am just acting like I feel confident. Being born an extrovert doesn't come with a genetic tendency towards confidence. That is something that we both (Extroverts/Introverts) have to grow into, nurture, and develop over time.
  • I love to create. Everyone on planet earth has the desire to create buried inside of them. It is encoded in our DNA, another secret message within our structure that points us to the fact that we are made in the image of the Ultimate Creator.
You and I are needed in this world, dear Introvert. We both have a role to play in the timeline of history being written by our mutual Creator. Understanding ourselves is important, but not at the expense of recognizing that we as human beings are too complex to be stuck with one specific labels that we feel we have to live out of all of the time. 

It is my desire to give you, dear Introvert, room to be yourself. But honestly, I don't want to be introduced to you as, "Hi there, I'm an introvert. That being said, our entire relationship will be defined out of how I feel or think I am supposed to feel." I would venture to guess that you wouldn't desire the same when it comes to meeting me. "Hi there, I'm and extrovert, so here is how this friendship thing is going to look."

No. I want to meet you like this, "Hi there, my name is So-and-So." And then I can reply, "Hi So-and-So, my name is Grace."

Let's take it from there. We'll figure each other's personalities out over time. We'll find out what makes each of us comfortable, or uncomfortable. What quirks we each have. What shared interests we both enjoy. What makes us laugh, and what makes us cry. We'll create a history of friendship together, built on the foundation of getting to know each other as people, who are more than labels or boxes.

That is the joy of getting to know people, it is the journey of discovering each other, one step at a time. Each person you meet will be different, and your journey of friendship will be taken on a new path.


Join me on Wednesday for my next post, "Dear Extrovert".