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Confessions of an Introvert

An exploration of just what it means to be highly functioning introvert (most of the time)

The Umbrella Theory: Pros

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(A quick apology for the delay – small problem about being allergic to nearly every type of bug is that, well, any season but winter is rough)

In my last post, I gave an overview to my Umbrella Theory.  As an introvert, my theory goes something like this: I can either open the umbrella and present a social side to the world (at the cost of being exhausted), or I can leave the umbrella closed and remain socially uncomfortable (and usually become tired even faster in any social situation).  I have become a huge fan of the open side of the Umbrella Theory, and I’ve decided to break down a few more of the Pros in day-to-day life.

Pro #1: With an open umbrella, my energy level can stay level far longer.  As long as I am the one doing the opening, then I have established some semblance of control over the (social) situation.  With some control, I can then deflect more of the unwanted energy around me.  The result?  I can typically manage up to an hour of standard small talk and sometimes I can even walk away with a new friend.

Pro #2: The Umbrella Theory, when properly implemented, helps me to survive my job.  I am completely convinced that telephone conversations are worse than face to face.  When I left my last customer service job, it took me, quite literally, three months to answer my personal phone again.  Unfortunately, by that point, those who had been friends thought I didn’t want to remain friends.  Now, I answer the phone even more than before (largely because now I work full time, my last customer service job was part time).  And yet I’m not nearly exhausted and I can make time on weekends to actually respond to phone calls 0 thought texting is always preferred.  And it is thanks to my developed ability to turn the socializing around on the strangers.  If we can either keep it purely professional (and under five minutes) all the better.  If we can’t, then tell me about your last trip to the coast, and we’ll find common ground.  You also love Port Townsend?  You don’t say!  In this way, a full time job doing something I would ordinarily hate, is made palatable.

Pro #3: Even introverts like to “know” people.  Our favorite people are usually old friends, family, or a good book, but we do not, despite misconceptions, like to just be loners.  I happen to love to get to know someone new whom I can relate to.  I met a lady just the other day who ended up being from Germany which is where I was born.  If not for the Umbrella Theory, I might never have known that my physical therapist had also been to Barcelona and fully supported me retiring there (the con to that particular example will come in my next posting).

Without opening my umbrella, I would never know anyone outside of my limited circle, and that circle would slowly shrink – from personal experience.  And so if the umbrella in my hand happens to offer a bit of protection while at the same time offering me a chance to know you, then come on over if I’m smiling, but stay far, far away if I’m reading.  After all, I am an introvert, and the umbrella has to be open for any of this to work.

Happy, safe 4th to everyone!

Next up will be my own rebuttal (I’m also a Gemini, so it’s always easy to present two sides of the argument.)

L.E.

The Umbrella Theory

As promised, I present one of my personal achievements – both from the point of view of necessary interaction and self acknowledgement: The Umbrella Theory.

For years, I have heard of “introverted extroverts” and “extroverted introverts”.  Most of my life, I would have safely classified myself as an introverted introvert.  All through school I went because I had to, but hated nearly every second not spent learning.  Socializing was like having teeth pulled.  However, the great wide world is not designed for those of us who are most comfortable on our own.  It is crafted around the world of those who are comfortable with introducing themselves to strangers.  And in this extrovert-centric world, we introverts kind of have to “adapt or die”.  (That is a line I pulled from Moneyball, and I love it, even if I forget where it came from.)

For fellow introverts still feeling the sting of this injustice, I recommend reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  For those wondering when I’m going to get to my point and explain my theory, I’ll get to that presently.

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Life has taught me that the best option to surviving the extrovert world is to at least pretend that I can be more than just socially reserved.  Rather like an actress, I have discovered that if I can only show the pretense, I can make significant inroads before anyone realizes just how much I don’t want to be around them.  If I’m really lucky, they never catch on, and no one learns of my anti-social tendencies to judge me for them (because, let’s be honest, we introverts are judged for being reserved).

I consider this pretense my umbrella.  If I can open my umbrella before the rain (i.e. socializing) really starts to hit, I won’t really get wet.  Instead, I am protected by the power of my own ruse.  And so long as I can interact about topics that I enjoy – if I can find the ability to relate to a stranger – then the tell-tale exhaustion that would usually follow is held at bay for hours, if not fully vanquished.

If, however, I don’t manage to open my umbrella, then I am stuck shut and can’t open, even if I wanted to.  By the time I have the ability to hold my head above the flood of small talk, I am too tired from the effort to show any side of my personality but that of the painfully awkward one.

We introverts are multi-dimensional (this is not to say extroverts aren’t as well).  We can have a mask to show the world, we have a side we show our friends, and then we have that inner “mind palace” that only we truly know the intricacies of.  I rely heavily on my Umbrella Theory for two reasons: #1 I don’t really care for being labeled as something I’m not.  I am not anti-social, not all the time anyway.  I am selectively social, but if all anyone ever sees is me as a closed umbrella, then they never see that side of me.  I’ve lost before the race has ever even entered the back stretch.  #2 I’m also not a fan of being exhausted after thirty minutes of bland conversation.  If my umbrella is true, then I can find something to talk about that works as conversation for an extrovert would.  I can find myself not exactly energized, but not exhausted either.  In this way, with this theory, I am able to survive every day in an extrovert’s world.  My greatest hope, however, remains that rather than adapt to their world, some day they will acknowledge ours.

For what it’s worth, I hope that fellow introverts out there can think of my umbrella and maybe, just maybe, try opening it indoors next time, before the rain.  It’s worth a shot, even if the skies are clear.

L.E.

Some Weeks Are Longer Than Others

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So…I had mapped out my week, decided that Tuesdays and Thursdays would be perfect to squeeze in some blogging and other writing endeavors.  Tuesday worked out according to plan, everything seemed to be working, then the rest of the week happened.

I know I am not the only person to have a rather terrible week.  And my horrible weekend means next nothing to the weeks of some.  And yet…it’s all relative, and relatively speaking, this week was one that deserves a drink.  My choice of company tonight is a whisky sour.

Now as an introvert, my trigger points for an awful week are far different than my friends.  The worst thing to happen this week was an office party.  For most, that sounds like a great Friday.  For me, it meant that in my discomfort I buried myself in my work, became increasingly frustrated with a lack of proactivity from my coworkers, and had my personal space invaded more than is really comfortable on any level.  The lack of productivity from my coworkers had been grating on my nerves for several days, but Thursday and Friday of this week saw me grinding my teeth.  I do not, under any circumstances, consider it a fair shake to make less than someone when I’m doing more work and she’s worried about how many freaking balloons to blow up.

If I were to go into political topics here, which I try really hard not to – politics is so alienating a subject, I would point out that this would be how must of us in the lower income brackets feel about those in the upper.  If I hadn’t hated statistics to the point of frustrated tears, I could even trot out some numbers to support my claim.  But…I won’t go down that path.  The path here is to express the feelings of us introverts, who otherwise are not willing or able to express their opinions in public.  Case in point, did I mention to my coworker that her priorities were a trifle off this week?  Hell, no.  I thought about it, and as I writer, I had several lovely and pithy remarks, but as in introvert – first and foremost – all of them went left unsaid.

If only those extroverts around us would take the time to read what we put out there, we might have some understanding.  But extroverts are as inclined to read about the problems of introverts as introverts are in talking about their problems with extroverts.  We are stuck in a Catch-22: if we are sane enough to fly then we must be insane (terrible paraphrasing, I know).  In this case, if we were outgoing enough to tell the world what we were thinking, then we wouldn’t be introverts.  Or something like that.

Now, after finishing my whiskey sour, I will try to regain some semblance of normality to the lovely plans I had laid out for my tiny window of no school.  And maybe after another whiskey sour, I’ll really cease to care.

Until next time,

L.E.

Next up: The Umbrella Theory

 

The Threat of Overshare

In a world where every little thing can be posted on Facebook, shared on Twitter, and seen on SnapChat, the power still very firmly rests in the hands of the extroverts.  It should come as no surprise that as an introvert, I am not one for parties or, on a bad day, sharing of any kind.  This makes social media outlets a bit difficult to deal with sometimes.

Take, for example, Facebook.  Everyone has an opinion about Facebook.  No offense, but I’m not here to do an opinion poll to weight the pros and the cons.  (I barely survived my stats class, and see no need to delve into random variables again – if ever – in my life).  Now I have a Facebook account, which I held out against for years due to my aforementioned introverted tendencies.  Why would I want a platform to share my inner life with people I might not know all that well?

On the other hand, I adore Twitter. I post random bits about absolutely nothing.  Sometimes I have purpose, like during hockey season or during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those who don’t know – and my apologies, I was taught better than to spring acronyms on the unsuspecting).

So why the difference?  Doesn’t it all seem a little hypocritical?  Well, let me explain the distinctions:

  1. Facebook is largely made up of those who know me.  My first blog, where I mentioned my rather embarrassing near interaction with someone I have a crush on, would never be something I shared there.  I do not need those who know me getting to see that side.  I can laugh at my own inadequacies, but I would rather complete strangers laugh with me.
  2. Twitter is exactly that: strangers.  I can mention trivial matters (like how rude people cut in front of me at Starbucks) and I can also post meaningful events (like graduating school – another issue I don’t want the non-strangers to remark on.  I was once salutatorian, I don’t need them knowing I’m only now going on to finish my Bachelor’s)
  3. I have dipped my toe in other avenues, but the same problem circles back.  I can’t share on Instagram, those are my friends.  I can share on Google+, they aren’t.  It’s an endless cycle that goes around and around, and it leads to something of a split personality.

And so I now find myself here, on WordPress, looking to connect with more strangers.  Somehow, at the end of the day, finding kindred sprits out there whom I have never met and will probably never meet, is more comforting at times then talking to the outer rim of my social circle.  Because being an introvert doesn’t mean you don’t like people.  It means that people can drain you, and even something so superfluous as social media can take it’s toll if we are forced to enact the same mannerisms as we would in public.

With all this in mind, I have never ventured into the world of online dating.  The idea in itself is terrifying.  What if someone recognizes me?  What if I recognize them?  And yet, here I am, 30, single, and dealing with one of the more awkward near-relationships I’ve ever had.  Sometimes, honestly, I wish the extroverted side of me that stays hidden and only comes out in my writing would jump up and say what needs to be said.  It is this inner battle that I’m waging here, online, in the comfort of anonymity.  For all those who similarly suffer, please, share your tales of woe with me.  After all, misery, like introverts, really does prefer some company (in reasonable doses).

L.E.

My Poor Extrovert Friends…

To break the ice, I’ll start with a joke.  Here goes:

Two introverts walk into a bar…nope, that’s not going to work.  First of all, what introvert is going to a bar?  Let alone two of them.  I don’t speak for all socially uncomfortable people, but I do speak as an introvert, and I hate going to bars, sometimes even restaurants.  I’m not anti-social, that’s not what an introvert is.  But I am uncomfortable in forced small talk.  And the awkwardness of bars…let’s just say no.

This means, basically, that it takes an extrovert to first be my friend, or it takes several weeks of knowing an introvert to finally be comfortable enough to make a connection that will last.  My two best friends are both extroverts.  Our paths crossed, and they were willing to breach my “resting bitch face” personality to et to know me.  I love them both dearly, and I wouldn’t change a thing, but it can make communication awkward at times.  I’ll go into detail in future blogs about the hows, the whys, the intricate little details, but for today, I want to get a thought out there and let it be seen.  And I know that even though they don’t actually shake their heads at me, both of my friends would truly love to.  And maybe roll my eyes.  Give me a kick in the butt, something.  The ways of my mind are far different than theirs.

Case in point:  when an introvert has a crush on a fellow introvert, extrovert friends the world over pull out their hair and try really hard not to yell at us for being idiots.  For the sake of privacy, I’ll alter names a bit here.  But really, I’m just saving my own tender feelings.

I happened to like a guy, let’s call him Will.  We have known each other long enough that I can safely say that we have had successful conversations.  Many times.  However, we don’t see each other as much anymore.  When the inevitable separation was approaching, my friend, let’s call her Andrea, told me that I just had to tell him how I felt.  Well, that’s really not an introverts forte.  I told her as much.  She asked if he was likely to say anything.  I explained that I was actually the more extroverted party.  Pretty sure at this point, she rolled her eyes.

Well, when you’re a thirty year old introvert, and the prospect of not seeing one of the few men who you actually enjoy conversing with at any frequency approaches, you find yourself compelled to try.  I tried.  It didn’t work.  The cold voice of logic might step in here and point out that he wasn’t as interested as I thought.  I’ll cede that point.  But then there are the little moments that linger.  We work maybe two blocks from each other.  We see each other at least once a week.  But in true, awkward, introvert fashion, we never speak.  I’ve finally mustered the courage to wave just as he turned down another street.  Just the other day, we were passing, he made to wave, I hit my head on my car and had to duck down to grab my glasses.  He awkwardly turned the wave into something else.

Let’s be honest.  At this point, we’re both screwed.  What we need, if there is indeed hope, light at the end of the tunnel, what have you, is to have one of our extroverted friends step in and call us the words we deserve to hear, but live in mortal fear of actually hearing.  It is not easy being an introvert.  It really isn’t.  And the longer this thing goes on, there really isn’t a more descriptive adjective, the more ridiculous it becomes.  At what point do you seize the energy of an extrovert and say “hello”?  At what point do I actually walk into that bar?  At what point do I swallow this nearly overwhelming fear and channel my inner extrovert.  At what point do I finally show my extrovert friends I was listening?

I tell myself it will be the next time I see him.  And you know what, right about now I hope I’m right.

Signing out to go and be by myself in true introvert fashion…

L.E.

 

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