When I tell people I’m an introvert they think I’m joking.
I am a fairly confident person. I make speeches in front of hundreds of people and stand in front of a class each day to teach. I run meetings and am not afraid to offer my opinion, even if it might be unpopular. I was briefly the lead singer in a band. I put myself out there in blogs and on Twitter. Above all, I really like people. I love my friends, I love meeting new ones and I love hanging out.
I just don’t love hanging out for too long.
I enjoy company, but after a while I usually want to leave.
In fact, I NEED to leave.
If I remain when I feel this way, I begin to find it hard to concentrate on what other people are saying or to hold up my end of the conversation. I lose focus.
If leaving is not possible or would seem inappropriate, I start to feel trapped.
All I want to by this stage is take time out to be quiet and to collect my thoughts, which is a fairly lame sounding excuse if I was to offer it up as my reason for leaving early. I think it would offend people.
To avoid offence I stay, but it feels like an endurance race and my stress levels rise. I find little ways to escape briefly, like going to the bathroom or checking something on my phone.
I used to worry about this because it didn’t seem normal to feel such a need to be alone. I thought I was weird when I’d turn down invitations to go out with friends on a Friday night because I was l looking forward to my solitude.
But it turns out it’s not so weird at all.
Introverts make up around 25% of the population. We become energised through solitude, where we have time and mental space to think and process. We like being around others, but it drains our energy so we don’t enjoy it for such extended periods. We recharge when we are alone. Studies have shown that our brain is wired that way. We require less external stimuli, perhaps that’s why after a lot of social stimuli, I feel overloaded.
Extroverts on the other hand do not thrive in solitude, they need to interact just as I need to be alone. Their energy fades in their own company and expands when around other people.
There is a continuum of course, and while I do have extrovert qualities, I’m definitely more of an introvert.
I feel a lot better now that I know that. Instead of feeling guilty for wanting to leave early, or turning down an invitation on a Friday night, I realise that it is just how I’m wired. I need my time out to recharge.
If you have an introvert in your life, or think you are one yourself, I recommend these two great articles:
Caring for your introvert (I love this title!)