I didn’t post yesterday, because the day got away from me. I could write another silly ‘writing is hard *pout*’ post, but I figured I’d take a day to write about something a little more personal.
I recently read a book titled The Introvert’s Way by Sophia Dembling. It was a small, mostly anecdotal book about being an introvert and how to not only handle yourself in this extroverted world, but embrace your introversion. It perfectly described some of my more hermit-like behaviors that I had struggled to explain–what doesn’t quite fit in the shyness or social anxiety categories can now be described simply and truthfully as “introversion.”
So what is introversion? It means different things to different people, as all things do, but to me it means preferring my own company to that of others. I don’t mean this as an “I hate all people” thing, but more as a preference for a night spent alone with a book to one at a party or bar. When I do socialize, I prefer a one-on-one or very small group outing that involves food, movies, or games and not alcohol or crowds. I hate talking on the phone (something the book surprisingly described, as I had not associated that with introversion before), and I am quickly drained by sustained socializing. Again, every introvert is different–some may enjoy a drink here and there, and might become bored and anxious with too much isolation. For my part, I can’t say I’ve ever felt too isolated (not in the sense of wanting no people in the vicinity, because that would creep me out, but in the sense of having no interaction with others for days on end).
However you may describe introversion, or your own particular brand (if you feel the same), the next question is: Is it healthy?
My concerned parents are always telling me to “go out and have fun,” never mind how many times I tell them that it’s an oxymoron–I simply cannot do both at the same time. The world tells us that “loners” are dangerous and deranged, possibly psychologically broken. Studies come out about how having more friends makes you happier and helps you live longer. We live in an extroverted world (or at least an extroverted country), and the society around us conspires in every way to make introverts feel weird and defective, a “non-extrovert” who simply needs to try harder.
But The Introvert’s Way encourages us to embrace our introversion, to honor it and cherish it. Not that you shouldn’t accept a party invitation now and then (particularly when the host and/or the event is important to someone you care about), but that there’s nothing wrong with weekend nights with a book instead of a crowd. There’s nothing wrong with a small handful of friends instead of an entire network. There’s nothing wrong with preferring e-mail to a phone call, or needing to take a few moments alone after lots of socializing, or leaving a party early.
In the classic theme that should become the motto of the world, we are simply different but not worse, like all people who don’t quite fit the mold of what society tells us is normal. More and more books are coming out about introverts (such as Quiet by Susan Cain, which I have not read but I believe takes a more scientific look at introversion’s benefits in society), and I think we’re finally standing up for ourselves and our way of life as valid and perfectly fine, even normal.
We may still struggle with speaking up. But that doesn’t mean we have nothing to say.
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