Is introversion a pervision, a function of social anxiety, or do some of us just prefer more me-time?

September 13, 2010

Thinker or stinker?

I went to a cocktail party the other night. Given I don’t cocktail anymore I’m pretty much there for chips and the occasional conversation. That means most every social gathering is, for me, a chore. Especially without the social lubricant. But, honestly, I wasn’t socially adept even when I was drinking. Neither a good time Charlie nor a brawler, I tended to hop from person to person nervously trying to make a connection. Failing that I would drink until it was time to go home and pass out, hopefully in that order.

Thing is I’m in an introvert. For myriad reasons –good and bad- I’m more comfortable living in my own head than most anyplace else. Consider my passions: reading, writing, running, cinema, working out, fishing; things I can and do all by myself.

Maybe “comfortable” is the wrong word. Frankly, my head can be a bad neighborhood. It gets pretty scary in there. Yet, I’m used to it. And it’s been my M.O. since I was a boy.

So, I’m at this party and I notice one of the children shying away from the pack. One of the other kids asks the little girl to play. She shakes her head no. Then the child’s mother intervenes. “Go on, sweetie, you’ll have fun.” Her daughter is having none of it. As I was nowhere near the adult party (see above explanation), I walked over and ask what’s the matter.

The mom says what moms always say when her child’s behavior is called into question: “She’s just tired.”

“I wonder if she’s an introvert,” I offer.

Aghast, the mother ruefully denies the possibility. It’s as if I accused her daughter of being abnormal.

Feeling guilty for exacerbating things, I tell the woman that I’m an introvert too, and that, after all, the world needs introverts. “Who would write all the books,” I joked, “if everyone were outside playing?” Not the best argument but it seems to make the mom feel better. Which makes me feel better, especially given how infrequently I add value to a conversation. I also think most art requires looking inward.

Driving home I thought about the incident and introversion in general. Tough being wired the way I am and having a large family. Moody and introspective, I am often seen by them as the bad guy: anti-social and self-centered. I’m working on it but isolating is a hard habit to break –even with loved ones, especially with loved ones.

At work, I make it a point to walk the halls even though my every instinct would have me in front of my laptop with the office door shut. Thankfully, I trained myself long ago to be more than capable presenting work, to the point where I genuinely adore this facet of the job. But it wasn’t easy.

No surprise I love email. With it, I can communicate without actually socializing. I’ve taken to social networks for much the same reason. My guess is the creators of many social media platforms are introverted, perhaps trying to get out! Certainly Mark Zuckerberg is.

While at times I rail against it, clamoring to be socially awesome, I am and always will be an introvert. And if that little girl’s fate is to be one too here’s hoping her mother cuts her some slack. After all, the little one might have some very big ideas cooped up inside.


13 Responses to “Is introversion a pervision, a function of social anxiety, or do some of us just prefer more me-time?”

  1. Raffaele said

    It’s a pleasure for me knowing that there are other people in the world that are introvert. I feel unconfortable in many situations except when i stay with some of my friends with whom I might stay in silence without feeling embarassed.

    Excuse me for possible grammar errors, but I’m italian and I’m trying to improve my english.
    Best Regards

  2. Jim said

    Great post. I have identical twins. One is an extrovert, class-clown. The other is an introvert and shuns attention. I think he’s often misunderstood. But together, they’re a force to be reckoned with.

  3. Chad said

    I’ve been an introvert trying to come off as an extrovert for most of my life. Perhaps this is the source of my internal conflict. Even in the company of my closest friends, sometimes my own head is a more comfortable place to be. Mine, too, can be a bad neighborhood at times. After all, it’s where the selfish and resentful things are. But it’s also where I find most of my inspiration. Like Luke seeking Vader in the dark corners of his mind, I face the demons, learn and emerge stronger in my resolve. As a creative, this is invaluable. Nothing, for me, is scarier than the blank canvas. And no amount of socializing will paint the picture. I have to go “upstairs”. Alone. Shut the door and create.

    Thanks for a very thoughtful and thought provoking post, Steffan.

  4. adchick said

    Great post. I’m “ON” all day at work, cajoling, informing, directing, and working people to get them to see the reason of our ways. After that, leave me alone. Let me workout in my gym, tend my flower beds, read, and get lost in nonsensical television. I really don’t like people all that much, I think. I’m a horrible networker. Socializing AFTER I’ve been with people ALL day is exhausting. I’m so glad to know others feel the same way.

  5. Jennifer said

    Love this post. Introversion has a bad “how to overcome” reputation. But, there’s something to be said for the pursuit of introspective solitude. When achieved, it can deliver originality.

  6. Robbie said

    Great post. I thought I recognised myself in there, but then I ran away. 🙂
    I have aspects of both, probably 75/25 introverted as usually the extrovert only comes out in certain situations.

  7. Miles said

    Hopefully we’ll start getting invited to the same cocktail parties. Or better yet, allowed to stay home in the company of a good book or film. This post was so very therapeutic. Thanks.

  8. sue said

    Great post Steff! I see your pain and thanks for trying! We all don’t have to be the same. xoxo

  9. SRP said

    Above commenter, Miles sent me this article “caring for your Introvert” first published by the Atlantic.

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