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Confessions of an Introvert

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

When a Voice is Left Unheard

First of all, as an introvert, I know a thing or two about keeping to myself.  I often don’t become comfortable enough to talk to others in anything other than a reserved manner until I’ve had a chance to meet them.  I understand when others like me do the same.  But the important thing that is often missed about us introverts is that while we may not always be overly social, we are almost always watching.  I have learned by watching all my life, and I can read moods like they’re books on almost anyone around me.  This makes it incredibly annoying when I find that no one can do the same with me.

As an employee, I have never been less than one of the very hardest workers.  I take every job I’ve held seriously.  Sometimes this has lead to a physical breakdown or an emotional one.  Often this means my work ethic is taken for granted and those in a position of power make my life a living hell.

I am one who keeps my nose to the grindstone, I watch others, and I try to always play fair.  When others around me don’t act within the boundaries of polite behavior, I notice.  And I will say something.  However, what happens when I say something and no one is listening?

In light of the #metoo movement, I gave serious consideration to a coworker’s actions.  This man has pressed himself into me, forcing me to walk into a solid object to get away.  He has cornered me for the excuse of getting something, but really he just wants to have a visceral graze of my boob.  He crowds my space, follows me around, and makes me as uncomfortable as any coworker short of the devil herself has ever made me.  I made the decision to bring this to the attention of my management team.  It was promptly turned into a joke.

THIS right here is a key reason we women don’t speak up more.  We are either called liars, told we brought it upon ourselves (I was born with a genetic predisposition for big boobs, not sure how I’m supposed to help that one), etc.  The excuses for why men are allowed to act as they do is endless.  With the gain in momentum for women’s voices, though, there has finally been at least some reckoning.  Unfortunately, on the small scale, there are so many more of us who attempted to voice a concern and have nothing but the mockery of our coworkers to show for it.

I would never have brought this issue up lightly.  I have often worked in a male dominated work environment. I understand all about “locker room talk” and I understand that even my friends are likely to say or even occasionally do things I’m not overly fond of.  However, this particular man has crossed that boundary multiple times to the point that I view him as a threat.  Of course, he works for a union, and even if I were to successfully lobby for disciplinary action, the union would never actually fire him.  I know where this road leads, and it does me little good to follow.

The problem, then, isn’t in the actions of this entitled perv, but in the actions of my management team.  When they first started laughing and trying to make it a joke, it hurt me.  I pointed out that to me it was no laughing matter, and for a time they shut up.  But like a terrible sense of deja vu, it just keeps cycling back.  Today was the point that I nearly broke down in tears because of it, and so, as an introvert who usually manages her problems in writing, here I am.

The topic had, for the most part, been allowed to rest.  There is no real recourse, but it has been noted, and that was all I could really hope for.  However, today it came back after another coworker noticed that the man in question did follow me around the night before.  I had sought safety by being near one of my coworkers whom I consider a friend, and as we were in the open, there was truly no more danger than discomfort.  When my coworker recounted this man’s actions, it was then turned into a joke – to the point that it was implied I was seeing more of a threat than was really there.  Again, I stressed that I do not bring this up lightly.  Again, after some discussion that gained no traction, it was shoved to the side again.

I like to consider myself a respected employee within my work group.  If even after I have brought this issue to the attention of others it is still brushed aside in a place where everyone knows my name, what happens to women who face far worse in larger companies?  What happens to women who do not have the benefit of some standing beforehand?  What happens when our voices are left unheard not because we did not speak, but because no one would listen?

Sadly, even this introvert cannot find comfort in the therapy of writing tonight.  I’m am simultaneously disheartened by what my treatment implies for women all around the world and reassured by the amazing bravery shown by women who have spoken out.  If by speaking out, again and again, we can finally be heard, then there is still hope for a better future.

#metoo

Yellow Brick Road of Good Intentions Vol. 1

Well, it’s certainly been a long while since I posted here.  Life has a way of taking over even the most simple tasks.  I was asked by a coworker the other day when the last time I just had fun was.  I thought about it, said I’d managed a few days this summer during school break, but largely I’ve been fun-less since starting up as a full-time student nearly two years ago.  I’m a mere eight months away from graduating, so the finish line is very, VERY faintly in view, but that’s largely my life in a nutshell right now.  I work, I do homework, and I try to squeeze in friends and family on Sundays because, well, that’s the only day I can pencil them in.  Or Wednesday evenings, but so far no takers on that one.

As an introvert, this schedule doesn’t really bother me too much.  I’m not feeling any sort of terrible neglect because I don’t get to go out on the weekend and party.  I keep in touch with my best friends, and see the majority of the rest of them at work.  As an INTJ, I know that logic will win out time and again, and logically, I’m doing the best thing for my success.

However…

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For many years, I was a happy, completely functional INTJ.  I didn’t have much that rattled my psyche.  Few people really ruffled my logical mind.  Emotions were reserved for family and loved ones.  My heart only really came into play in family/friend dynamics.  It was a calm, collected world.  Well, that’s changed recently, and my poor brain is struggling to keep up.

I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I highly doubt I am.  I read once that INTJs may appear unfeeling, but that’s because we’re so busy trying to analyze every single possible outcome that our unruly organ of a heart forces on us from time to time.  When your life doesn’t allow you the benefit of dropping down into a cave to analyze every single option of a situation, emotions start to creep in and make themselves known across every spectrum of a day.  For this INTJ, the struggle is very, very real.

If the way to hell is paved with good intentions, then I think my road is currently a bit like Oz.  Hence the title of my newest venture.  With no easy outlet, I’ve reverted back to writing.  I’ve always been better at putting my thoughts, or, more particularly, my feelings, down in words rather than saying them out loud.  If you’re interested, come join this crazy trip as I seek to analyze more than I can in any given day, all in the name of reason.  I’m on a year long trip to see how an INTJ can handle a sudden surge in relationship issues all while balancing work and school.  It should be entertaining at the very least.  Or at least I hope it is.  I’ll continue to laugh, just to keep from weeping.

Until Vol. 2…

L.E.

Circling Back

There is absolutely, positively, nothing wrong with being an introvert.  I speak from experience.  We introverts have a harder time at first, either always feeling left out of group functions or feeling like we are somehow different because we don’t like to “have fun” like the other children.  I was seventeen before I accepted life for the way it was, and it has taken me the better part of the last thirteen years to undo years of trying to be something I’m not.

While my family has always been loving and supportive, my family are a bunch of introverts.  They could understand what I was going through, but were never really able to explain how normal it was.  After my revelation that being introverted was “A Okay”, I became a wee bit neurotic.  That might sound like I took a step forward and then jumped light years back, but it had more to do with starting to understand the world as I was meant to, and learning not to fight my natural impulses.  At this raw time in my life, I met two people who would forever change me.

One recently passed away rather suddenly, and this was the weekend I had planned to meet her for Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  So, instead, here I am, trying hard not to start crying in public and drinking my PSL.  And really, that’s where this blog was meant to go today.  To the fact that even for those of us who like to keep to ourselves or only our closest circles, even for us, it is okay to cry.

As an INTJ, I find painful solace in the anguish that makes my heart keep bleeding.  It reminds me that I’m human.  That being said, as an INTJ, I am often relied on by others to be the strong, unattached one.  I cannot have moments of weakness because there is no one else in my life strong enough to hold me up when I break down.  As a result, I break down in silence.  I have been breaking down on my own for the last two weeks, and each and every time, I have to remind myself that it is okay.  It is normal.  And I think that is where we INTJs have a tendency to go wrong.  We become so comfortable with our lack of “feels” that when we have them, they overwhelm, and we just want them gone again so that we can return to our well ordered life.  I laugh even while I’m crying, knowing that this is as shattered as I’ve been in a very long time.  I don’t wish to be an extrovert, or some other form of introvert.  I happen to like who I am, but right about now, it’s a jumbled mess of pieces.

For all those fellow introverts, let me just remind you, it’s okay to cry in public.  We’re allowed displays of emotion just as any extrovert.  We shouldn’t have to hide, we just don’t have to talk about it.  Sometimes, knowing we can is half the battle.  So know that you can.  It’s painful, awkward, and unwanted, but can be oh, so necessary.

And for my fellow INTJs, know that we can “laugh just to keep from weeping”, but sometimes we need to know that we are human.  And it can be a painful reminder.

-L.E.101730564dd256bd37f52fc226596fe3

Love, Loss, and Introverts

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To be an introvert usually means that we do not make friends easily, and we tend to have a limited amount of people we freely, willingly seek out.  We keep our true friends close, and everyone else at a safe distance.  This means, however, that to lose a friend beyond devastating.  For awhile, we are like a chair without a leg – balancing precariously but never stable.  We have to fall over before we can come to terms with the fact that our stable world has been broken.  We have to then find a way to mend that broken chair leg – and it is never, ever easy.

I recently lost one of my very best friends.  She was, quite honestly, the very best person I have ever met or will ever meet.  When most of us have to consider all aspects, Wendy knew instinctively what the right thing to do was every single time.  She always had a kind word, and it wasn’t the sort that she would call someone “dear” and mean it with any sort of insult.  She really was that wonderful of a person.  The world she was a part of is a darker place without her, and as those who knew her struggle to come to terms with the loss of a bright light, we have to remember to try and be more like her.   With her in our lives, we could always feel a need to be better human beings.  Without her, there will be a humanistic struggle to fix our own ways without her guidance.

As an INTJ, there is a tiny part of me that is grateful for the agony of loss.  It reminds me that I am human, just like everyone else.  I sometimes feel that my lack of open emotions makes me more of a high functioning sociopath or a machine, but then my heart gets wrenched and torn asunder, and I remember that I feel just as the next person.  I feel, if anything, more deeply for the rareness of the emotion of love and loss.

There is some comfort to be found in those friends I had thought gone from my life, who are willing to embrace me again.  Healing from sorrow is, I think, more of a community endeavor.  If there is no community, then it would just be me and my dark soul to confront the days ahead.  For once, I do not wish to be alone.  For once, I want the comfort of those around me.  Of course, that does not mean I want to show my pain – that is still reserved for a select few – but I do want to feel pain, and healing, and to feel that there are others like me.  For that reason, I know it can be good to feel normal.  In a few weeks or months, I’ll start to find a way to balance that chair again, and then I’ll want to be alone again as I try to make it stand again.  But until then, I will embrace the spirit of the community, and hope that we can heal as one.

-L.E.

 

wendy

Please Define High Functioning Sociopath

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I’ve decided, in response to my own conundrum a month ago, that I simply have the very worst timing on the face of the planet.  It’s a bit hard to describe the specifics of the last six years, but in a less crude way, it’s a bit like Good Luck Chuck, only I’m the female version of Dane Cook.  Not sure what to make of that other than to shake my head, and move on.

And in moving on, it leads me to my INTJ tendencies.  That I am an introvert there is no denying, but the other aspects of my personality can take a bit more explaining than even extroverts would be comfortable divulging.  However, by saying INTJ, there is an immediate stereotype (Sherlock anyone?).  I might find a cause or two to resent those stereotypes, but for the most part, they’re pretty spot on.

Case in point: When I found that the last man I had any sort of romantic inclination towards had become engaged, I was upset for approximately half an hour.  I might have been near tears, but nothing really transpired other than the feeling of a dark abyss wanting to swallow me whole.

Flash forward thirty minutes, and I was left with a wry twist of the lips in the approximation of a smile.  After all, I had a track record, and this was just another identical outcome for me.  What else was new?  And besides, if he wasn’t willing to take the massive leap that I seem to present, and he wanted a safe, loving relationship, then that is wonderful for them both.  I say this without a drop of rancor.  I march to the beat of my own drum, and while guys might find this appealing for a short time, in the end, they search for something they can march alongside instead of the unpredictable patterns of my tympani. In all honesty, I don’t resent anyone I’ve felt affection for who chose someone else.  I feel their brief return of affection as a gift – without them what on Earth would I write about for my literary creations?  I’d be left with about two stories to share instead of fifteen books and counting.

The true matter at hand here is that thirty minutes.  In that time, I was able to understand where emotion had briefly played on my heartstrings, and I was able to understand where logic would be waiting for me when I was done wallowing.  This is not to say that from time to time over the last month I haven’t thought about what could have been, but I haven’t felt the bitter sting since the news first hit me.  To an INTJ, emotion is something that is hard to understand – largely because it is something to be felt, not understood no matter how hard we try.  In a way, I feel this is a blessing and a curse.  I can move on from heartbreak in half an hour, but at the same time, when an emotion is deep – when it penetrates to my very core – I never really heal from it because no matter how I try, I cannot reason my way out of true love.  (And no, I don’t mean that in a Princess Bride sort of way – I mean it to encompass friends, family, and lovers.)  At least now I know that when I find true love (again), I’ll know it by my inability to set it aside as just another pesky emotion.

And so I circle back to the issue at hand.  If I am cut from the same cloth as Sherlock, then what, exactly, is a high functioning sociopath, and do I really want to be one?

L.E.

The Umbrella Theory: One Major Con (pun intended)

Having started in on this theory of mine, I realize that it is far more multidimensional than last I checked.  In fact, like a character in one of my novels, it has started to grow a personality of it’s own.  I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever be free of it now that I’ve given it a voice, but really, do I want to?  After all, it is a part of me and I of it.

Today though, I feel compelled to take a moment to point out the biggest flaw in my own plan.  While I have adapted to a world largely run by extroverts with my handy “umbrella”, at the end of the day there is no escaping that it can keep me from what I want nearly as well as it can help get me through a long day full of required small talk.

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The greatest flaw is that sometimes I am a little too good at opening my umbrella and convincing people that I am as easy going as society might demand.  It makes for a much easier job, and I truly love when I can find common ground with people.  Just the other day, by engaging in my own method of projecting that piece of me that I have decided to share with everyone, I found a fellow German.  (I will dedicate a post some day soon to how the Umbrella Theory just might stem from this very noticeable difference between me and most everyone around me).  If I had been the anti-social person that my core often demands, I would never have known.  Instead, I was able to chat for fifteen minutes – and not be exhausted! – about our mutual homeland.

Did this lady think me social? Yes.  Did she think me an extrovert?  Probably.  But what happens when I instead relate to a fellow introvert by this crafted projection?  Does that introvert think me the extrovert?  And if there is mutual attraction, does he think I’m the one to make the first move?

At thirty years old and still single, I would have to think that there is some logic to my dilemma.  Pinterest tells me that the true match to an INTJ is an extrovert who won’t take no for an answer.  While those same extroverts have asked me out, and I have developed relationships with a few, it is the fellow introverts that hold onto my heart for the longest.  And either I have the singularly worst timing on the face of the planet, or I am too good at presenting a side of me that is only a drop in the bucket.

So I have to ask myself, is it my taste in men?  While I enjoyed my time with the extroverts, I never felt my heart ripped to shreds.  Or is it because I fall hardest for those who are like me and seek a quiet connection, but in the midst of reaching out to the world, I give them the wrong impression?

And in the end, does this make it all one giant con?

Oy, I think I need a drink now.

L.E.

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

 

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