“Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.”
Susan Cain author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
Recently I was invited to be a guest on a nationally syndicated live travel radio show to talk about the inaugural Sacred Introvert Retreat Tour to Glastonbury/Southwest England.
This was excellent news as having the opportunity to speak about introverts and travel to anyone not necessarily in the introvert realm was invaluable. It seemed the idea of introverts and travel was something people were interested in as, in many people’s minds, the two don’t seem to go together.
I was contacted less than a day in advance of the show. This was not ideal for my Virgo planning and preparation mind.
The two hour long show allotted each guest a six minute segment. Eek, for an introvert who needs time to formulate a thought and then channel it up to her lips this could be scary. But I’m a social introvert who has spent most of her adult life volunteering so speaking to people on subject matter I am passionate about is usually easy.
The host was a very jolly looking man and the photos on his Facebook page depicted him doing very dynamic activities. I listened to the show and he had excellent questions for his guests. My inner voice told me I’d be okay, but I was worried about the six minutes part. That seemed about enough time in my world to answer one question.
There was no preinterview so I had no idea what he was going to ask me. I did my morning meditation and, in my mind, that was the best prep I could do. And once I was on air it was fine.
I did have a momentary flash of physical panic overtake me and my lips seemed like they would not move but I managed to force them. And I did ramble a bit on introversion but this was after the host told me he and his introverted ex-girlfriend clashed since he could go out to dinner five nights a week and she only could handle two.
My “introvert activist” immediately kicked in to defend this poor woman’s need for less nights out. He seemed to be genuinely interested and I was able to include all the necessary details about the upcoming Retreat Tour. And he invited me to come back after the trip to talk about how it went.
I made it through with no major flubs, yay me! But as the interview ended and we were off air I overheard the host say to his staff “she’s not that introverted.”
What the hell?
This was the second time recently this happened and now it was beginning to annoy me. Was I required to be shy, soft spoken, misanthropic and not very enthusiastic to fit the picture others have of introverts?
In certain situations I can appear very outgoing and this seems to contradict what many believe introverts are. It doesn’t help that most dictionaries still define introverts as shy.
Introverts require and enjoy spending time with others just like most everyone else. The circumstances may be a little different and the amount of time may be a bit shorter. But as much as I would love to participate in some of the yoga festivals that are offered, I know myself well enough to understand I will most likely burn out and feel overstimulated being surrounded by crowds and people I don’t know in a potentially loud energized environment.
I can definitely handle it for a short burst of time. But over a entire long weekend I could become a very unpleasant person to be around. And that is where the misconception about introverts being aloof and standoffish comes from. If I am feeling overwhelmed my self preservation tactic is to become very quiet and, if I can, find someplace to retreat to.
In general, introvert understanding is growing and this is incredibly positive. Wider comprehension of some of the true characteristics and needs that make up an introverted personality type help us all to connect with each other much more effectively and authentically. The need for alone time and solitude is no longer being looked upon as “mad, bad or sad,” as Sara Maitland describes in her book How to be Alone.
What I am now finding equally as confounding is some of the new introvert stereotypes being perpetuated. It seems now all introverts are bookworms and go nowhere without a book to hide in. They express beautifully with the written word but not so much in conversations. They find people in general a drag and prefer their own company exclusively. They would rather log on than have to leave the house. And they definitely like cats over dogs!
I love books and have a house full of them, but would I describe myself as a voracious reader—no. I love to write but also enjoy a good conversation, most preferably one-on-one. I also love to dance and still rock out to the old heavy metal and punk I discovered in high school regularly (in the living room or the car mostly!). I find people for the most part endearing and often amusing and enjoy putting myself in settings where I may run across a few. And I have a needy, attention seeking, vocal rescue dog that gets me out of my own head with his regular demands for food and play. He’s a constant source of joy in my life.
It’s been proven that dopamine receptors in the introvert brain need a much smaller amount of stimulus to feel full. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to experience any stimulus at all. I enjoy being private in public. In my head there is always a endless loop of banter going on so sitting by myself and watching the world unfold can be highly entertaining. I’ve only recently discovered how much I enjoy going to the library to work on projects. The combination of quiet and human contact seems to leave me energized and able to complete more work than I would at home on my own.
Jung stated no one is 100 percent introverted or 100 percent extroverted 100 percent of the time. I think this is important to note as otherwise we run the risk of feeling limited by a description that isn’t completely accurate for every individual. There is no unspoken set of rules that you must adhere to keep your membership in the introvert club. So being selectively social but friendly, open and even talkative in a setting you feel safe in is all okay. And it should never make anyone question whether you are really an introvert.
I believe quality intimacy is what every introvert craves. And the way one finds it will be as unique as they are. Lets not take a giant step back by dictating what should and should not constitute a real introvert. If someone claims introversion, let’s support and honor them as one of the tribe. Because ultimately we all want to be understood and accepted for who we are.
Author: Lisa Avebury
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Joe Wolf/Flickr