suppose I’ve had some level of knowledge about introversion for most of my life, but I don’t recall assigning the topic any real importance until relatively recently.

As with many others, I have long viewed extraversion as the norm.  Without even pausing to examine why, I felt as if I should enjoy Girl’s Nights Out, and gatherings of all sorts, but rather than taking pleasure in these activities, more often than not I find them tedious and taxing.  I have felt odd and even guilty for preferring an early bed time and quiet time at home to the obvious fun of a party.  The relatively recent “introvert revolution” has developed language and community for this phenomenon, which has been transformational.  

If you look at Merriam Webster, the definition of the word “Introvert”

Simple Definition of introvert

  • : a shy person : a quiet person who does not find it easy to talk to other people

would lead me to believe that it doesn’t apply to me.   I’m not shy.  I’m that person who smiles at people while walking down the sidewalk and won’t think twice about complimenting a perfect stranger.  Nor do I find it difficult to talk to other people.  When the mood strikes, I can be quite engaging, so the traditional verbiage surrounding introversion doesn’t apply to me and updating the language regarding the introversion/extraversion dichotomy has been life changing.

For example, in this article by Personality Hacker, Antonia Dodge writes, 

When you distill it down to its essence, the actual difference between Introverts and Extraverts is this: for Introverts, the inner world is the ‘real world’. For Extraverts, the external world is the ‘real world’.

Talk about an “aha” moment.  

Dodge goes on to say, 

Introverts are put in the position of constantly filtering information and calibrating it to what they know to be true internally. This can be quite taxing after a while, and time to themselves becomes a necessary reprieve.

Delving further into the subject, in her book, “Quiet”, Susan Cain explains:

“Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.”

And suddenly everything crystallizes.  All of the mixed feelings I have always had have been given language and community, and I no longer feel deeply flawed, like I’m missing important ingredients in my psyche.  I now know why I am the person who is frequently interrupted, whose RSVP’s most often read “no”, and who wanted to leave her own wedding reception after the second dance.  I live juxtaposed between yearning to be included, and needing to be alone.  Not only that, but introversion has long been seen as a lesser or weaker trait.  As Cain says,

 “Introversion- along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness- is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living in the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”

But Cain and her kin have blazed paths for us introverts, and in so doing have freed us from the standard to which we have felt obligated to conform. They have empowered me, and so many others, to take off the mask and stop pretending, or feeling guilty when we don’t or can’t pretend.  

As a result of this quiet revolution, I am more comfortable in my skin.  I can plan outings, knowing that before and after I will need solitude to restore my energy, and grant myself permission to leave when I am ready, without being accompanied by guilt for the early exit.  I now understand why I feel pressure in my head when an environment is chaotic and why others railroad me when I pause to gather my thoughts before speaking, which means I don’t take it as a personal failing, just a complication of introversion.  At the end of the day, this all comes together to equip me for my pursuit of personal development, and self acceptance, giving me the tools to build better version of myself.  And in those times when I just can’t, I can forgive myself.

Read more from Alethea at Ben’s Writing, Running Mom