Introversion is Not a Mental Illness

If, like me, you are an introvert, welcome to the American minority. As such, you probably can relate to being treated as if you are strange or broken. You’re considered antisocial. You are expected to explain yourself. You don’t fit in.

You have probably been accused of being depressed, even when that isn’t necessarily so. Introversion does not always equate to unhappiness. The phrase “social anxiety” gets bandied about by your critics. It’s not an anxiety so much as a preference. You are often misunderstood.

Believe me, I get it. I am so sick of being treated like I’m somehow less than, simply by dint of my position on the Introversion/Extroversion bell curve. I genuinely believe that we all have our place, and every place has value.

Introversion simply means that people suck energy from you, as opposed to energizing you. But why is that description couched in that way? Why does no one say that extroverts need energy from outside themselves, while introverts are much more self-sufficient? Why does no one say that introverts thrive in the quiet beauty of isolation? Why are we not praised for our focus and depth?

And no two people are alike. I wish that were more understood. Just as with gender, it’s about time we figured out that this is not a binary situation. For example, I personally don’t dislike people, even though introverts are often accused of hating mankind in general. I just prefer interacting with small groups that I know well, as opposed to large crowds of strangers. I don’t consider myself to be shy. I have no trouble speaking up or asking questions. I just don’t feel the need to constantly put myself out there. I enjoy observing more than interacting.

And I love time alone, which means my job as a bridgetender is perfect for me. Extroverts don’t last in this job. They just can’t handle it. There really are places for us “quiet types”. They’re just sometimes a bit harder to find.

As a child I was constantly berated because I wasn’t making enough friends. I have friends. But I go for quality, not quantity. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I think it’s cruel to make an introverted child feel as though there’s some score card that is not up to snuff, simply because that child has a richer inner life, and that’s hard for you to see. We don’t need to be fixed. We are fine just the way we are.

There is no shame in thinking of alone time as a gift. It’s not rejection. It’s not a mental illness. You are still capable of love, loyalty, and friendship. And so much more.

I think that the only time we introverts feel free and well-adjusted is when we stop caring what other people think. Unfortunately, those other people are still out there, thinking, and loudly shaping society. The world would be a much nicer place if people learned to listen to the quieter voices as well. We, too, have our stories.

30 Hilarious Thoughts Every Introverted Person Goes Through

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An Introvert Throws a Party

Now that I’m a homeowner, I decided to have a housewarming party, for many reasons. First of all, it would give me the incentive to actually unpack. Second, this is a very close-knit community, and I really want to become a part of that. This would give my neighbors a chance to get to know me. And it would be a delightful mix of old friends and new, coming together to make my house a home. I really like that concept.

No, it wasn’t a cheap plea for gifts, although some people did bring some thoughtful and lovely ones. But it was a potluck, and I’ll be eating leftovers for at least a week. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

I am a classic introvert, and I haven’t thrown a party in at least a decade for good reason. The planning and preparation stressed me out. Who to invite? Who won’t show up? I need to clean x, y, and z. How will my dog Quagmire behave? I need plates, cups, chairs, condiments…

The party was to start at 6:30. No one showed up for the first 25 minutes. This gave me plenty of time to try not to freak out. “Nobody loooooves me!” It also gave me time to think about all the people that I invited who told me they weren’t coming. They love me enough to not stand me up, but not so much that they’d actually come. “Ouch! Stop that!”

In the end, 15 people came, and it was a wonderful time. Well… except for the Quagmire incident.

I needn’t have worried about how he would behave. He showed his ass from the very start. The first person who had the nerve to enter the house without his permission got attacked.

I was mortified. There was blood and peroxide and band aids and apologies. But the attack-ee was a lot more gracious than I would have been in similar circumstances.

Quagmire’s piss-poor behavior gave the party an awkward start. And he spent the rest of the evening in time out in the bedroom, barking his fool head off. (Had I known no one would see that room, I wouldn’t have bothered to clean it.)

But if you overlook the initial crisis in confidence and the canine violence, a lot of friends from various parts of my life came together and made new connections. The time flew by. The food was good. And apparently I’m not going to get sued. I’d consider that a success.

But introvert that I am, people suck the life out of me. So even though I had a great time, I was really glad when it was over. I slept for 10 hours straight that night.

So, that’s me done with the party obligations for at least another decade. Whew. There’s a load off.

Housewarming

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A Different Breed of Ladies’ Man

The other night I had dinner with a friend who was just passing through. His work takes him all over the country. He fascinates me because we couldn’t be more different. But in a good way.

I have to admit that normally extroverts get on my nerves. But his is a pure, clean, distilled form of extroversion. He’s not attention seeking. He’s not aggressive or loud. He’s not in your face. He just genuinely and truly likes people. He likes meeting them, talking to them, interacting with them. Especially women. He has this affinity for women.

I’m not quite sure how he manages it, but he’s drawn to women without any perverted intent whatsoever. He genuinely seems to respect them and isn’t trying to get anything from them. He’s not on the hunt. He doesn’t have an agenda. It’s refreshing.

At dinner he made it a point to learn the name of the waitress, and whenever she stopped by to check on us, he included her in our conversation and asked her opinion. As the restaurant was crowded, we sat at the bar. Throughout the night he’d also turn and chat to the much older lady sitting next to us. He helped her get ketchup out of the bottle. He recommended the smoked sea salt. The cherries with our salmon were so delicious that he said to her, “You’ve got to try this,” and put a cherry on her plate. I was charmed. By the end of the night he knew where she was from and what she was doing here.

Don’t get me wrong. I doubt he lacks for female intimacy. I even contemplated making a move myself once or twice as we enjoyed our salmon. (Well, not at that exact place and time, but… you get the picture.) And even if he had rejected it, I’m quite confident that he’d have done so with aplomb and would have allowed me to maintain my pride and dignity.

But (and this is unusual in a man), I strongly suspect that he prefers a certain level of connection before he goes to that place, or else it would be as hollow and unsatisfying for him as it would be for the other person. I thought to myself, “This is a rare creature, indeed.” I think I’ll just appreciate the fact that he’s on the planet, roaming free, and look forward to future opportunities to interact with him in his natural habitat. Because it’s a delightful, friendly place indeed.

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Hibernation

I admit it. I’m an introvert. People don’t energize me, they drain me. I’m not someone who looks forward to parties and large gatherings.

It’s not that I don’t like people. Quite the contrary. I have several dear friends. I just prefer to interact with them one on one, and I agree with Ben Franklin that fish and visitors stink after three days. I’m quite happy to see them go after a certain length of time, but that doesn’t mean I love them any less.

It is much easier to be social and an introvert in the modern era. I can keep in touch via e-mail and facebook and text messages, and I can write this blog. Then, when I want to have some “me time”, all I have to do is log off. It’s the electronic equivalent of “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

I am glad I have my dogs. It’s nice to have a heartbeat in the house, someone who is happy to see me when I come home. But I’m fairly certain that if they suddenly were endowed with the ability to speak, or if they stopped feeling the need to sleep 18 hours a day, I’d probably be setting them up in their own bachelor pad on the opposite side of town. Oh, I’d call and chat daily, but I wouldn’t want to spoon with them as much as I do now.

Katherine Hepburn had a good point when she said a happy marriage would be one where the spouses were to “live nearby and visit often.” Unfortunately it would be hard to find someone who would be willing to agree to that, which is probably one of the many reasons I’ve never been married.

I actually enjoy my own company. I can entertain myself for hours on end. Some of my fondest memories of vacations have been the ones where I’ve rented a cabin in the middle of nowhere, and stayed there for a week, just me and my dogs, a good pair of hiking boots and a stack of books. Bliss.

Perhaps I was a bear in another life. The thought of crawling into a den and hibernating for months on end appeals to me greatly. But in this life I’ll just have to settle for hot baths and curling up in bed with a good book.

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