An introvert and shy

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 “I want to be alone … with someone else who wants to be alone.”

 

I was an introvert before author Susan Cain was a gleam in her daddy’s eye. I was a highly sensitive person (HSP) before psychologists had validated such a personality, and I was a fully developed INFJ personality before I ever heard of the Myers-Briggs type indicator. I’m an introvert. Not just an introvert, but a shy introvert (two very different things). A shy, highly sensitive introvert.  I suppose I could change some of that if I could afford lengthy therapy, but it’s out of the question. And at my age, what’s the point? Nevertheless, having spent 72 years like this, I feel qualified to speak on the subject — not as a formal researcher or trained psychologist, but simply as someone with a lot of first-hand experience as both a shy person and an introvert. I won’t presume to speak for others whose experiences may have been vastly different. Instead, I’ll just tell you what it’s been like for me. Perhaps you’ll recognize yourself or someone else.

First, a distinction that many fail to make or simply don’t understand. Introversion and shyness are not the same thing. From Psychology Today:

“‘Sociability [one’s extroversion or introversion] refers to the motive, strong or weak, of wanting to be with others, whereas shyness refers to behavior when with others, inhibited or uninhibited, as well as feelings of tension and discomfort.’ This differentiation between motivation and behavior is consistent with the ability many of us have to behave like extroverts when we choose, whereas shy people cannot turn their shyness off and on.”

Or as Susan Cain explains it:

“Shyness and introversion are not the same thing. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments.”

“Fear” might be too strong a word there; I’d suggest “overly concerned about judgment by others.”

 

CHILDHOOD

Childhood is when I developed a habit that has not served me well — not making eye contact.As I child I faced one insurmountable and crippling problem: I blush easily. So I was shy. Or perhaps I was very shy because I blush easily. And as soon as I became aware that I was blushing, I’d get embarrassed and blush even more. It was a miserable situation that I couldn’t control. Whether shyness and blushing naturally occur together or whether it was just an unfortunate convergence of genetic characteristics, I can’t say. But it did make me timid around others because, as everyone knows, kids can be quick to target each other’s weaknesses. And when they discovered how easily they could make me blush …

On top of the hell of not being able to control my blushing, I’ve never dealt well with very emotional situations, and that can be very embarrassing too. Great happiness, sadness, beauty, tenderness, any strong emotion — all can make me weep. No matter what the movie or TV show is about, comedy or drama, I may get misty-eyed. My son learned years ago to just ignore it and pass the tissues. My sister once said she’d have to hire me as her professional crier; she says she “can’t” cry. I can’t even imagine what that’s like.

Childhood is also when I developed a habit that has not served me well — not making eye contact with others. As a tomboy who loved nature and the outdoors, one of the first things I learned was that looking an animal directly in the eye is considered a challenge, a threat. That reinforced my natural tendency as a shy person to avoid eye contact. As an adult, of course, such a habit can make you seem evasive, insincere, or perhaps even a liar. In the business world, I doubt many people dismiss it as just shyness, but I’ve never been able to break the habit. I’ll look in someone’s general direction, I’ll look at their forehead or the bridge of their nose or maybe their ear. I even discovered if I took off my glasses, I couldn’t see their faces clearly enough to care where I looked. But normally, looking directly into someone’s eyes feels too much like defiance. And worse, their return gaze makes me feel completely exposed and vulnerable.

 

SCHOOL

In class I usually sat near the back because I didn’t want to be called on. Not because I didn’t know the answers but because being called on would make me the center of attention (horrors!) and likely cause me to blush, which in turn made me so self-conscious I couldn’t think straight.

I was a good student and generally got excellent grades. But I wasn’t particularly popular and had only two or three close friends. Even with them I didn’t sit around discussing personal feelings the way I assume girlfriends do. Such things were private and, worse, might leave me open to ridicule — and much blushing. Whether my shyness came across as aloofness, or it just wasn’t cool to be a good student, or whatever, I never knew; I simply wasn’t popular.

Obviously such shyness and introversion made it difficult to meet and enjoy the company of boys, and teenage boys are not the most sensitive, empathetic individuals in the world. I had my first few dates with a boy in 10th or 11th grade, only to have him confess later that he’d first asked me out just to win a bet that he could get a date with the next girl who walked through the door. That did wonders for my self-confidence.

My interest in writing bloomed in high school, especially under the tutelage of a particular English teacher who was also sponsor of the school newspaper. She encouraged me to get involved with the paper, but there was no way I wanted to be a reporter, no way I was going to approach people and ask prying questions that they might not want to answer. The interest in publishing stuck, however, and that’s where I eventually chose to work — in positions that did not require dealing with the public. Behind-the-scenes stuff, tucked safely in a quiet corner somewhere doing my thing with words and paper, not people.

 

WORK

I’d be thinking about how soon I could go home, change into something comfortable, and be alone again.For the most part I think employers appreciated my work but not what they might have perceived to be my loner attitude (“not a team player”). I was always unhappy having to join in office activities, company picnics, parties, etc. It always seemed to me that social activities should be purely voluntary. They’re social, not work related, outside the office, etc. But no, they all came with ATTENDANCE REQUIRED stamped in big invisible letters. Not that I didn’t have pleasant conversations in smaller groups or with individuals, but the whole time, in the back of my mind, I’d be watching the clock and thinking about how soon I could go home, change into something comfortable, and be alone again. It’s been said the difference between extroverts and introverts is that extroverts are energized by social activities and introverts are fatigued by them. That’s certainly been true for me, and it goes a long way toward explaining my feelings about being with others.

Even just saying I want to be by myself makes me feel selfish. It’s so “me, me, me” to talk about doing what I want to do, when and how I want to do it. But I was raised to be a pleaser, as were so many women my age. In my upbringing, I was taught to always be feminine, demure, ladylike, at the beck and call of others. Always helpful, never complaining. Always thinking of others first. A giver and a pleaser. Drill those lessons into a shy, introverted person and you get … a doormat.

One of the few places I was reasonably assertive was where my work was concerned. I was confident in my work, in my knowledge of what needed to be done and how and when. The difference was that it wasn’t about me and other people. It was about the job.

 

ASSERTIVENESS

I can’t imagine anything more uncomfortable than sitting around with people I barely know, making small talk about things I don’t care about. In the ’70s I went through a period of reading all the pop psychology self-help books I could find, looking for ways to “fix” myself. Assertiveness training was all the rage and I looked for a solution, a magic cure for what felt like a crippling social maladjustment. How to Be Your Own Best Friend. Don’t Say Yes When You Want to Say No. When I Say No I Feel Guilty. And those are just the titles I remember. There were many others on my bookshelf. Highlighted, underlined, dog-eared. But none of them really helped. In fact, the few times I summoned enough courage to try to act more assertively, I felt I was being rude. And it was sometimes perceived that way by others. I’d had no experience being assertive; I did it poorly, clumsily. And embarrassed by my ineptitude, I’d crawl back into my shell.

My activities as an adult haven’t always been of my choosing. My parents were well known in the community and as their daughter, I was not socially inconspicuous. I was neither expected nor allowed to become invisible and withdraw from society and the world at large. I lacked the assertiveness and confidence to “just say no” to demands, invitations, expectations, and assumptions. My mother made it very clear that “I’d rather not” was never a valid excuse. Besides, I was and am a lousy liar, and making up excuses never works. I get embarrassed trying to defend a lie. I squirm. I blush! 

I’m such an introvert, I’m even uncomfortable with family. Even when I was young, “immediate family” was seven people. To me, that’s a crowd. That exceeds my comfort level. And of course, it only got worse with time as my four siblings married and had children and grandchildren of their own. I love my siblings. I’m so lucky to have a wonderful family where we all still love and respect one another. But I prefer to see them one or two at a time, for only a few hours at a time.

 

UNDERSTANDING

In the early ’80s, someone brought to work a long form Myers-Briggs personality assessment. I don’t recall if it came from a book or from one of our doctors (I was working for the medical association at the time). But in any case, the results showed I am an INFJ personality, bordering closely on INTJ.  The score was equally divided between the “F” and the “T.” Basically the classification means I’m introverted (I) and my decision-making will be a conflict between my feelings (F) and my thinking (T), with neither really prevailing.

Each of these personality types constitutes only 1-2% of the population, and I have the misfortune of being trapped between the two. I’m often very indecisive, constantly weighing alternatives, unable to decide, reluctant (or unable) to disregard either my feelings or my reason. And I haven’t changed in the 30 years since I took the test.

It was reassuring to think I wasn’t a freakish misfit after all. I was a recognized, defined personality type. There were others like me. Famous, successful people. (Interestingly, Thomas Jefferson is claimed by both INFJs and INTJs.) I was okay after all. And that was comforting. Even if it was only a pop psych evaluation from a questionnaire conceived and written by non-professionals.

In recent years the Myers-Briggs assessment has been widely discredited. But it was and is an interesting exercise that can lead to a lot of worthwhile self-examination and understanding. Just be aware you’ve not been typecast for life. The methodology is badly flawed and you need to pursue answers elsewhere, from more reliable sources.

 

LIFE

Travel: I’m not a well-traveled person. Traveling to new places for fun and adventure has rarely sounded like fun to me, and certainly not as a single. I wouldn’t know where to go, how to get around. I’d have to approach people — total strangers — for instructions and advice. And traveling outside the country would add language barriers. I grew familiar with northern Colorado during many family vacations when I was growing up, so it became the one place I could visit as a single adult and feel comfortable, in familiar surroundings.

Community: I’ve rarely been a joiner or a volunteer. If I feel strongly about a cause and can jump in despite my dislike of spending time with a bunch of strangers, I might do it. But to join a group just to meet people or get out of the house, no. My discomfort just being there and guilt at having ulterior motives far outweigh any other feelings.

Social Life: What social life? I don’t do social life. I can’t imagine anything more boring and uncomfortable than wasting hours sitting around with people I barely know, making small talk about things I don’t care about, and waiting for the moment I can get away and go home. If I know the people I’m with, and there aren’t too many of them (three or four perhaps), we’re talking about something worthwhile (eg, politics, space travel, the environment), nobody is getting obnoxiously intoxicated, and we’re in comfortable, quiet surroundings, then maybe, just maybe, I might enjoy myself for a couple of hours. Does this ever happen in my home? No. Never has, never will. I’m not interested enough or confident enough to play hostess to anyone.

Dating: Trying to get back into the dating scene after my first divorce was a joke. Despite my aversion to religious institutions, I tried going to several church groups because supposedly only nice people go there. The neighborhood church had an adult singles group that turned out to be two age groups; my age (yes, I was honest about it) made me the oldest person in the younger group. Not good, considering most single men seem drawn to younger women. I tried the church I was raised in, and the singles class there consisted of about 30 women and 2 men, both much younger than I. Again, not good. I got a few dates via singles ads in the local alternative newspaper (remember, this was pre-Internet). I always thought they went well, but the guys never called back. I even tried video dating; only one guy indicated an interest, and I had none in him.

Friends: You don’t make a lot of friends when you’re shy and introverted. When you do, or at least when I did, it was because we were drawn together by common interests. I’d meet someone in a class and discover we both liked art. Or horses. Or writing. Or I’d get to know the woman two doors down because our children played together. Or there were co-workers I enjoyed having lunch with or an occasional drink after work. (I was to discover later that co-workers are not the same as friends.) But even with friends, I never discussed deep personal feelings the way I assume most close friends do. Nothing so personal that I might feel embarrassed discussing it. And being introverted, shy, and excruciatingly modest, that covered a raft of topics.

Only in school did I make a couple of friends with whom I kept in touch after they moved out of town. As an adult, I’ve had few close friends. One neighbor and I kept in touch for a few years after I moved out of the neighborhood. The “friends” I had at work turned out not to be the friends I thought they were; not one called to see what happened after I was fired, and I was too embarrassed to call them. Maybe I just don’t know how to make friends. Or maybe I misjudge people, mistaking cordiality for friendship. And that makes me feel gullible and naive.

Marriages: I was married twice, once for 17 years, once for three years. I ended them both. Both failed for a number of reasons, but primarily because I needed more “me” time than they allowed, and I simply couldn’t find it within the constraints of marriage. At least that’s my assessment given the perspective of time. Maybe it just means I’m terribly selfish. I don’t know. It’s almost impossible (for me, at least) to objectively evaluate the problems.

Telephones: Oddly enough I’ve only read in the last few years about introverts hating phones. But it’s certainly true of me, for many of the same reasons cited on the Internet. A ringing phone is an intrusion. It’s jarring, at times even startlingly, and it’s a rude, impersonal interruption of whatever I’m doing.

At my last job there were only about 15 employees, but we had a front desk, receptionist, and switchboard. I’d ask the receptionist to hold my calls and take messages so my train of thought wouldn’t be interrupted. But management overruled that and told her to put the calls through. When we got a new phone system with voicemail, I thought my problem was solved. But no, management chewed me out for not taking the calls when they came in. How I hated that phone! I hate my home phone for the same reasons, but at least I can use the answering machine, choose a pleasant ringtone, adjust the volume, ignore and then block calls from telemarketers (hurray for my new phone!), etc.

And all of that adds up to my also hating to make calls. I suppose I assume the people I’m calling will feel as I do, that calls are ill-timed intrusions. And I hate being intrusive. Or, increasingly, I have to brace myself to navigate through voicemail menus. These require that I listen to a lot of filler or instructions. I also feel obliged to plan what I’m going to say before I call, especially if I know I’m going to encounter voicemail. Bottom line, receiving or making phone calls is a huge hassle. Anyway, moving on.

 

RETIREMENT

Eventually, after I’d been both retired and divorced for a few years, I realized that for the first time in my life I was free of all ties. I had no responsibilities or obligations to anyone but myself. So I did what I’d always dreamed of doing and moved to Colorado. Occasionally I wish I had someone to share things with. Not everything, not all the time. But some things, sometimes. Primarily because I’ve loved the mountains here for as long as I can remember, but also because my son’s work had already brought him here. However, I think there might have been another motive lurking somewhere in the depths of my subconscious: No one here knows me. I won’t be running into people I don’t want to see. There are no pressures or expectations to do anything I don’t want to do. No need to make up excuses. I suppose you could say I didn’t deal with the problems of shyness and introversion; I just ran away from a lot of them.

So here I am, happily living alone. I enjoy my solitude, my quiet little retreat in the suburbs. There’s a world outside my door if I seek it, but currently no friends. Occasionally I wish I had someone to share things with. Not everything, not all the time. But some things, sometimes. And it could be nice to have a single man my age living across the street or just up the block. Other than that, mine is a gentle stress-free life. It’s taken a long time, but I finally understand and am content with who and what I am.

 

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ECHOES FROM ELSEWHERE

“I’ll be honest with you, I’m a little bit of a loner. It’s been a big part of my maturing process to learn to allow people to support me. I tend to be very self-reliant and private. And I have this history of wanting to work things out on my own and protect people from what’s going on with me.” ~ Kerry Washington

“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.” ~ Susan Cain

“Introverts treasure the close relationships they have stretched so much to make.” ~ Adam S. McHugh

“All this talking, this rather liquid confessing, was something I didn’t think I could ever bring myself to do. It seemed foolhardy to me, like an uncooked egg deciding to come out of its shell: there would be a risk of spreading out too far, turning into a formless puddle.” ~ Margaret Atwood

“The only problem with seeing people you know is that they know you.” ~ Brent Runyon

“… because I rant not, neither rave of what I feel, can you be so shallow as to dream that I feel nothing?” ~ R.D. Blackmore

“Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured … Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.” ~ Susan Cain

“Isn’t it refreshing to know that what comes perfectly natural for you is your greatest strength? Your power is in your nature. You may not think it’s a big deal that you can spend hours immersed in something that interests you — alone — but the extrovert next door has no idea how you do it.” ~ Laurie Helgoe

“Companionship is a foreign concept to some people. They fear it as much as the majority of people fear loneliness.” ~ Criss Jami

“Telling an introvert to go to a party is like telling a saint to go to Hell.” ~ Criss Jami

“In terms of like, instant relief, canceling plans is like heroin.” ~ John Mulaney

“Pajamas over people.” ~ Christopher Hudspeth

“Often confused with shyness, introversion does not imply social reticence or discomfort. Rather than being averse to social engagement, introverts become overwhelmed by too much of it, which explains why the introvert is ready to leave a party after an hour and the extravert gains steam as the night goes on. ~ Laurie Helgoe

“Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” ~ John Green

“Solitude matters, and for some people, it’s the air they breathe” ~ Susan Cain

“The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationships into the real world.” ~ Susan Cain

“I am rarely bored alone; I am often bored in groups and crowds.” ~ Laurie Helgoe

“Quiet people have the loudest minds.” ~ Stephen Hawking

“Introverts crave meaning so party chitchat feels like sandpaper to our psyche.” ~ Diane Cameron

“Introverts are word economists in a society suffering from verbal diarrhea.” ~ Michaela Chung

“For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.” ~ Jonathan Rauch

“I don’t hate people, I just feel better when they aren’t around.” ~ Charles Bukowski

“A bore is someone who deprives you of solitude without providing you with company.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“An introvert may feel asocial when pressured to go to a party that doesn’t interest her. But for her, the event does not promise meaningful interaction. In fact, she knows that the party will leave her feeling more alone and alienated.” ~ Laurie Helgoe

“I want to be alone … with someone else who wants to be alone.” ~ Dimitri Zaik

 

 


Photography: Jonas Andréasson

 

Also on Pied Type: I’m an introvert and I’m okay



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45 replies

  1. This is a fabulous posts that I enjoyed reading very much. I like the quotes. I am also an introvert and swing between being an INFJ and and INTJ.You have just described a book I loved. http://thistimethisspace.com/2012/03/05/quiet-and-societys-extroversion-bias/ I have blogged both subjects (introversion and personality types) in my personal blog.

    • Based on your post, which I just read, I suppose you could say I just “opened my suitcase.”

      I haven’t read Cain’s book. I’m sure I’d enjoy it, but given my age, I suspect I’ve already “been there, done that.” Maybe her book can help some younger introverts avoid the decades I spent in the School of Hard Knocks.

      Glad you enjoyed the post. I’ve been sitting on it for quite a while.

  2. I see myself in so much of this (including the blushing and crying). My mom is an extrovert, and I always marvel at how she can just talk to anyone, and I’m too shy to start a conversation with a store clerk I see all the time. Heck, even my hairdresser (and I really, really need to make an appointment) can’t get much out of me.

    Alone with Luke and my mom is about as outgoing as I want to be on an everyday basis. Of course, once I know someone, they can’t shut me up. 😉

    • Yep, hairdresser and store clerks. That’s about the extent of my conversation outside immediate family.

      • Add them to my credit union tellers and the people at my rental office, and we could have a block party.

        To watch from our windows, I mean.

        Apparently I’m an I/eNTJ. Used to be ENTJ, started testing INTJ in my late 30s. Might be ambiverted, as I feel like I’m an introvert in a room of extroverts, but an extrovert in a room of introverts. Even my hands are vague. Quick, hold your hands out in front of you, back of your hands facing you.

        Got it? Supposedly introverts naturally keep their fingers pulled in, whereas extroverts splay them outward. Me, first time I did it, my ring and middle fingers were together, the pointers and pinkies outward, kind of the opposite of Spock’s “live long and prosper.”

        • Ooo, that hand thing sounds interesting. Hadn’t heard that before. Will have to look into it. My fingers were evenly splayed when I just did it. Might depend on how quickly you do it. A quick “hands up!” splays my fingers. A more thoughtful, graceful hands up would put my middle and ring fingers close together. Pulling all fingers in is just … awkward.

          Haven’t read much about ambiverts. Maybe the difference is not you but the people you’re with.

  3. Just letting you know I read it. I had a longer comment prepared, but instead I’ll point to this:

    http://www.teuscher-counseling.com/self-assessments-part-iii-myth-personality-types/

    . . . and add this; it’s been my experience (both through personal and observed behavior) that people can talk themselves into being whatever they want. Which means they can talk themselves out of being whatever they want.

    • If you substitute “force” for “talk,” you may have a good point. I avoided all chances to speak before groups during school years, although I was a good student. The U.S. Army (probably by mistake) decreed that I would be a Troop Information Specialist. That meant I gave speeches or introduced programs in movie theaters to groups of 200 to 300 men each week. I survived that for two years. Later, probably because of my Army credentials, I had several jobs that required me to speak to general public groups. I hated every minute of it.

      I am not a total introvert; I enjoy talking with people individually, and don’t have much problem communicating in small groups. But I detest to this day being forced to speak before groups, although I was forced for years to do so. Surely, because I wouldn’t do something unless forced, I also would not be able to talk or force myself out of doing it.

    • So you’re saying you can “fake it till you make it”? I think that can be done on occasion, for a while. But I don’t believe you can permanently change your innate personality (there’s a genetic component). As for the article you cite, I did mention that Myers-Briggs and similar assessments had been widely discredited and cited a different article (there are a lot of them). But as scientifically invalid as they are, such assessments can still offer some food for thought and conversation.

      • I see that as a contradiction and not logical; something that is discredited should not generate an acronym that one wears proudly. By that I mean, how can you identify with something that is discredited? It points more to that four letter classification as something you want for yourself rather than an accurate description based on sound understanding of behavioral and personality research.

        Then again, people tell me I’m too logical.

    • Don’t really want to get into these discussions because most individuals come with presuppositions about these things, usually based on their own conscious or subconscious preferences, but . . .

      You can, in fact, change your behavior to the point that others don’t know who or what you really are, and that old adage (if it talks and walks like a duck) applies to a degree.

      However, my main objections to these types of self-analysis or even canned analysis is that people latch on to something and basically convince themselves they can’t do this, can’t do that, can’t be this, can’t be that, all based on one or two things they identify with.

      Others convince themselves just the opposite, and study after study shows that circumstances matter and that things are not that clear-cut. What is clear is that people act based on their self-image (i.e. a very crude example is that people who tell themselves they can’t do math avoid doing math).

      For instance, you link introversion and shyness, but they are not linked (according to what I’ve read; for example http://psychology.about.com/od/trait-theories-personality/f/introversion.htm).

      The annoying thing for me is that I am labeled an extrovert while my preference is to minimize contact with people and social situations. Not because it makes me uncomfortable or unable to handle it.

      If I have to deal with people, I’ve very good at it and always was. Strangers, friends, makes no difference, but my private life, my preference, is solitude and no close friendships (I’m successful in that with the exception of my wife). I treat interactions with others almost like a job; something I have to do, so I might as well be good at it.

      Side note: it’s why I really like the internet . . . I have ultimate control over my interactions; when, where, and how much.

      I see making friends as adding to responsibilities I already have, and also adding an element that is outside my control, meaning that I lose a measure of control in my life. In my book, that is something to avoid.

      Anyway, as I said, I don’t want or need to argue it; take it as another perspective and one that some think is way off the mark.

      • I stated at the beginning that I’m am both shy and introverted and was simply sharing my personal experience as such, not holding myself out as a behavioral expert. I then explained in detail, and rather emphatically I thought, that shyness and introversion are most definitely NOT the same thing. I didn’t link them; I was careful to make the distinction for the benefit of people who don’t understand they are different. I’m rather distressed that you missed that because I thought it was important. Maybe the title change and minor edits will help.

        • P.S. You sound like a confident (not shy) introvert.

        • One of the things I’ve learned quite early in my life is that many, many people are eager to assign labels to both themselves and others.

          My other observation about people is they like to take complicated things and simplify them. I have to tell you it’s not a trait I share nor one I like, but one I understand; it makes things easier for them, perhaps even gives them comfort.

          Anyway, I’m off now. Sorry for my intrusion. It won’t happen again.

  4. From one of the 2% (I’m INFJ) to another… Thanks for sharing this. It’s been cool getting to know you.

  5. I loved this post. Might very well be my favorite of yours.

    P.S. “Hell is other people.” –Jean-Paul Sartre, “No Exit.”

    • Me too. I’ve struggled with it for months (everything had already been used!). Couldn’t quite stomach “The Aging (or Ancient) Introvert.” Hope this one helps reinforce that shyness and introversion are different things.

  6. Great post….speaking to the choir here—

  7. Hey, PT, kudos for baring your inner thoughts here. I must say that having followed your posts for several years now that I am not surprised by your self-analysis. I would have predicted what you describe. I have noticed that in your correspondence you never address your commenters by name. C’mon, Susan, give it a try. 🙂

    In your well-expressed thoughts I see manifestations of my own natural inclinations. In support of several of your commenters, I too believe that some change is possible. In my case, such change occurred in high school. My yearbook shows multiple activities for my senior year and nothing, absolutely nothing, for the first three years. I started dating that last year and my girl-friend’s mother influenced me to come out of my shell. It was transformative, although I admit my personality still has remnants of my former self.

    But of course, you may not want to change. But if you don’t, even at this late date, then why post your thoughts on the subject?

    My wife is more like my former self. She doesn’t like talk to strangers and feels a stab of stress when the phone rings unexpectedly. She has agoraphobia and takes imipramine for it. It works. I wonder, doctor’s daughter, if you have considered that as a possibility? The symptoms seem to fit.

    Jim

    • Hi, Jim. I don’t deliberately avoid addressing commenters by name, but in many cases I don’t know real names. And those who use screen names may not want their real names used (in those cases where I know their real names). But you’re right, I should make more of an effort.

      I’m content with my life and see no real reason to try to make any drastic changes at this point. I wrote this more as a just a thoughtful retrospective. (I have lots of time these days for “retrospecting.”) And I thought it might be of interest to other introverts, and perhaps enlighten a few people who don’t really “get” introverts.

      Agoraphobia, as I understand it, is an actual fear of going out in public or being in crowds because of possible panic attacks, an inability to escape, a fear of being trapped. I don’t fear those situations at all or go out of my way to avoid them. In general I simply prefer quieter, less crowded surroundings. But give me a great concert, a special sports event, a good movie — I’m in.

  8. Hi PT–
    The MBTI has been in my professional life for about 25 yrs or more now; always the I, but i seem to not be strongly tied to the other identifiers. First scored INTP, then to ISTJ, INFP, INFJ, and not really certain where it might land today. My offices have been using the DISCprofile recently. Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness are the four behaviors, then their questionnaire sorts the subject into the proper (?) categories. I have yet to be assigned this one.
    Appreciated your hard work, your sharing your personal journey, and explanations in this post; really liked the added quotes, the photos are great, and feel the title fits much better now.
    Dare i say you could score an “E” as a blogger? 😊

    Ps, tried the hand thing; my fingers were spread, but slightly curved, as if to catch something. Interesting–

    • I’m not familiar with the DISC profile. Sounds interesting but the categories make me wonder if it isn’t subject to the same shortcomings as the M-B methodology. Yet for all the objections to categorizing people, we still need ways to understand people, their similarities, differences, preferences, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Employers need help in deciding who’s best suited for the job. I think no one test or assessment should be relied on and the shortcomings of each should be well understood. In the meantime, I’m sure the search for better, more accurate methods is an ongoing process.

      I love the added quotes, too. Spent a lot of time picking my favorites from the hundreds that are out there. They were an afterthought, and yet I saw my words echoed in them many times. Given the traits common to introverts, that probably shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did.

      I credit disperser for the title change. His comments pushed me to keep looking for the better title I knew was needed.

      One of Susan Cain’s quotes up there mentions how the person who wouldn’t raise his hand in a lecture hall might blog to millions without a second thought. I thought it particularly apropos.

  9. Sounds as though you and I may be peas from the same pod. But given that fact, answer this for me if you will. Why, given all the above revealed in your post do we choose to blog?

    Actually at the moment I am no longer blogging but that has been the way I have done things ever since starting to blog in 2006. Blogging one moment, not blogging the next. But why do I blog at all? Blogging is certainly social interaction on some level and social interaction is something I will go out of my way to avoid. It is honestly a question that has bugged the hell out of me ever since I started! 😕

    I was a part-time musician and entertainer most of my life so you can’t get much higher on the scale of social interaction than that yet when my set was over I went back home and got under the bed where I belong. What, pray tell, is that all about? Vying to be the center of attention one moment and wanting people to forget you even exist the next!

    As to the blogging, I do love to write so perhaps that is what it,s all about. Past that… I remain clueless. So why do you blog?

    • Well, I’ve always been a writer of one sort or another. Long, long letters when I was a kid. Journals and diaries as a teen and young adult. Sometimes with the intent of communing with others but often just my way of talking to myself, ordering and organizing my thoughts, capturing them in a form that let me return to them, reexamine and reconsider them, and later, remember what I was thinking and feeling at the time. Introspection made concrete. Blogging, I think, is just the most modern, easy platform upon which to continue those same activities. I’m more concerned about privacy, of course, and rarely get as personal as I did here, but I think the motivation is basically the same. (And of course any blog can function as a private diary, never being made public.)

      Blogging is social interaction, but at a safe distance, with controls, with time to consider one’s responses, and without the eye contact (!). Perfect for introverts, it seems to me.

      I’m not sure how to explain your experience as a musician and entertainer except to draw on what my son, an introvert (but not shy), once told me when he was acting in plays in high school. He wasn’t himself on stage; he was a character, a different person. I don’t recall what drew him into it in the first place (I’d have never considered getting on stage in front of an audience). Perhaps it was originally a class assignment. Or maybe the stagecraft attracted him first and then something drew him out of the wings.

  10. ha. my own just reward. here’s what happened.

    i was blown away by your touching tour de force of honesty and simplicity. so much so that i had tears of recognition all through it. it’s so beautifully written.

    i even wrote an overlong response about myself.
    luckily my computer crashed as i was about to press publish and it was lost.

    i always over talk. so no doubt this comment will become too long too. my apology in advance!

    i live an introvert’s minimalistic simple life alone and i love it. i have been a widow for 36 years.
    i was married for almost 16 years to my literal soul mate. why would i want or need to replace that?
    he truly was one of a kind. not an introvert. and yet we matched perfectly. i am still in love with him.

    holidays are the worst. no one leaves alone introverts nor understands them on thanksgiving and christmas.
    why on earth would one want to simply stay in their own little apartment and read good books and watch old sentimental classic christmas movies? alone??? why it’s simply UNTHINKABLE!!!

    my best friend in high school was a long dead englishman named henry david thoreau.
    i carried ‘walden pond’ around with me like a parson carries a bible.

    i used to ask my parents to say NO when i was invited to slumber parties. i could not stand nor understand all the giggling and the boy craziness. i was always the first one asleep anyway.
    i didn’t want STUFF or new clothes … so i didn’t relate to shopping trips. it’s not easy being an introvert in the teenage girl’s world. and yet i was in every school play and in the drama class competitions. and did well.
    go figure. i think many actors are introverts oddly enough.

    i’m a talkative introvert. and it’s now i see … simple camouflage. it was an early learned coping mechanism.
    my family moved every single year i went to school. i was constantly ‘the new girl.’ very uncomfortable.
    you never made friends. you made acquaintances. i was friendly and warm… and wanting to just go home.

    i wish i had the courage to move from here. my only family is my beloved brother. he lost his own wife to cancer too. three years ago. i only see him about once a week to eat with him at different restaurants.
    i would miss him terribly. so . here i stay.

    and yet i’m very independent.
    when recovering from major surgeries i’ve always lied when answering “is there someone to take care of you at home” when released from the hospital. i simply go home and take care of myself from the first day onward.

    i would love to live in colorado (i used to live there once) or some beautiful place like that again. so why don’t i do it?
    i’m not afraid to be alone or live alone. i never have been. so why do i not go? i say it’s because i would miss the marine (my brother) too much. maybe i live such a small simple life because i haven’t the courage to live another. i don’t honestly know. but i remain very content. and actually happy.

    it’s so good to see mr. wilson’s comment here. i was worried about him. now i see he’s in one of his non blogging times. and i so understand that. my own muse has been on vacation most of the summer.
    i say… “well. i’m glad at least one of us gets to go!”

    thank you for this wonderful post pied type. i will enjoy the links. i’ve never taken the tests mentioned.

    have you read ‘the introvert’s way… living a quiet life in a noisy world’ by sophia dembling? or ….
    ‘party of one … the loner’s manifesto’ by anneli rufus? they’re both excellent.

    • Hi Tammy. So sorry your computer crashed like that. Always seems to happen to me when I’ve just spent an hour writing the most brilliant, thoughtful bit of prose ever!

      So much of what you say is so familiar. And you mention the holidays. Ack, holidays! I go into hiding when the Christmas chaos begins (earlier every year!) and don’t come out till after New Year’s. I hate the crowds, the traffic, the pressure everywhere to join in, party, celebrate, etc! A few hours with immediate family on Thanksgiving and/or Christmas is my limit, and if they happen to be out of town or go skiing instead, that’s fine with me.

      I can be a very talkative introvert too. With just one or two people, if I get really wound up about something, you can hardly shut me up. Then sometimes I realize later how much I was talking and get embarrassed.

      Moving, at best, is hard and it takes more than just courage. Nothing less than a compelling motive (and the means) gets me out of whatever rut I’m in, and moving is the toughest thing of all. Without the planets aligning just as they did, when they did, I’d probably still be in Oklahoma, and much less happy than I am here. I was lucky to have family in both places. I seriously doubt I could have moved away from my only family. I’m just not that brave.

      I understand your independence. I’m having my own comeuppance with that now, hating having to rely on others because I’m simply too sick at times to do for myself. But a little too much independence landed me in the hospital one night, so I’ve been appropriately humbled.

      I haven’t read the books you mention, nor Susan Cain’s popular book. I think subconsciously I might be thinking that by now I’ve found all my answers. Or maybe it’s just that I did so much reading when I was working that I’m burned out on reading.

  11. Intriguing post – both you self analysis, quotes, and research. It all sounds just like you.
    I can easily get up in front of groups – even very large ones and present on a topic or talk – there’s a stage and “distance” but social events and company parties with “small talk” really drain me and I prefer to skip them. I hate talking on the phone as there’s no body language and I can’t tell what people really mean or how they are receiving information – so I end up talking too much or talking over people. Ugh.
    I’ve always been able to amuse myself and don’t get lonely. As a kid I became very shy/quiet (introverted is different as you say) as my mother hated anyone who sparkled more than she did – and she always made it very clear no matter what I did it was wrong…so it was easier to be quiet ( and she complained then I was “shy”)
    It bothered me a bit in college until I found a book called “Be glad you’re neurotic” which discussed shyness and being introverted as not being such a bad thing – it’s just some people are more sensitive to clues given by people, by noise, by environment- or sensitive to life in general.
    So since then, it’s just I am who I am.
    I can adapt if I have to if I need a paycheck and force myself out on the stage in life, but solitude and the freedom that gives is not always a bad thing

  12. I just found out recently that I am an introvert, (but definitely NOT shy). It was my eldest daughter (a most exquisite extrovert) that taught me the difference, and viva la diff! I crave solitude. I relate to moving somewhere no one knows me (and therefore doesn’t expect anything of me), but that only for a while, as I would eventually get bored. Thanks for being so open.

    • Isn’t it wonderful to have perceptive children who can bring perspective and enlightenment to our lives? They know us better than anyone and see things in us that we might not recognize in ourselves. Knowing and understanding that you’re an introvert is so much nicer than constantly wondering why you’re different (something I did a lot). Lucky you, not being shy. I’ve got that covered for both of us.

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  1. I’m an introvert and I’m okay – Pied Type

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend." ~ Thomas Jefferson

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