July 19, 2011

My Life As...

Growing up, I never knew there was anything wrong with being introverted. It's just how I was. It wasn't until I got older that I heard people talk about it like it was "bad," like an impairment, something that needed to be "fixed." I've even had the following conversation with SoldierMan multiple times: "I don't like being the center of attention." "Well, you should." (Extroverts just don't get it.)

Last night on facebook, a friend posted an article titled 10 Myths About Introverts. The article begins by summarizing some new research which shows that the tendency to be extroverted or introverted isn't a learned behavior or a strange intangible quality you're born with. It's actually the result of a reaction in your brain to the chemical dopamine. Your body naturally produces dopamine through external stimulation and adrenaline rushes. Extroverts' brains crave dopamine in large doses, while introverts can only comfortably handle small quantities of dopamine at a time. The article itself goes into more technical sciencey-sounding details, before listing off the author's favorite 10 myths about introverts.

Before you go on, click on the link above to read the original article, so we're all on the same page. It's not that long.
A friend of mine also read the article and wrote a blog post about which of the 10 myths were most relevant to him. Be sure and read it, since his list is different than mine. (I include it to show my extroverted friends that, not only are we introverts different from you, we're also different from each other. So nyah.) The ones that struck me the most were #5 and  #6
Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.
Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.
Oh, oh my. If anything sums me up in two paragraphs, that's it. I've struggled my entire life with social overstimulation, and the challenges that brings, particularly to women, who build relationships around face-to-face interactions. Try explaining to a gregarious female that it's not that you don't want to see her, you just don't want to see anyone - for two or three days! You don't want to talk on the phone, and there even comes a point where text messaging is beyond your limit. Maybe a guy can get away with that, but it's much more difficult as a female.

Saturday night, we had (most of) SoldierMan's platoon over. The guys sat around and played xBox and the wives sat around and talked about babies. (FML) It was a lot of fun, a house full of people and TVs blaring Call of Duty and the puppies crying at the back door for 3 solid hours, wanting to be let in (they are just too rambunctious for little kids). It was a great evening and I think everyone had a good time. We both went to bed happy and tired.

Sunday morning we were invited to get together with friends for lunch. (Another blog post in itself) So we pull ourselves together and drive to the PX and Buffalo Wild Wings. We just happened to get there right as the Women's World Cup game began. So the energy in the room was already high. So, we're sitting in a restaurant with a dozen tv screens each displaying different media, and the volume of said screens so loud one had to shout to be heard across the table, and a table full of very fun people, in a restaurant full of rowdy soldiers and sailors enthusiastically cheering on the US women's soccer team....I'm getting anxious just thinking about it.

I need to emphasize for you extroverts who might not believe me: even though I was enjoying my time with my friends, I was - physically - wearing out fast. That's a lot of external stimulation.

So when it was suggested we all get together again for dinner that night, my social side which loves spending time with these friends liked the idea, but I literally felt my body begin to shut down. After having read the above article, I realize my little brain was probably sensing an impending dopamine overdose and shouting "No! Please! No more!" and shutting down my body in defense.
The key word in the above descriptions, in the entire blog post for that matter, is "recharge." Years before I knew the term, I knew that after long or intense social situations, small gatherings or large, I needed to step back and recharge. In fact, that's one of the things that drew me into box tanning. It was only half about getting a nice bronzey glow. The opportunity to lock myself in a box for 15-20 minutes 3 times a week....oh, how I miss it!

After such a fun but overstimulating weekend, I'm still recharging. I have a meeting to go to tonight and I am dreading going, only because I still feel like I haven't recovered from the weekend, and I know I need the recovery time before having the girls over tomorrow night. What? you say. That was Sunday and on Tuesday you still aren't over it? Welcome to the life of an introvert.

Now, granted, I may be more extreme in this way than other introverts. I told a friend of mine last week, if I go three or four days without seeing another person other than SoldierMan, I honestly don't even notice or feel it. I mentioned that to some girls at the party Saturday night and their eyes went as big as saucers. One girl said that when her husband got home from work, she'd ask to go to the gas station (they only have one car) just so she could see other people. Extrovert/introvert. I don't understand that, but she doesn't understand me, either. It doesn't make either of us wrong or weird, just different.

I think this is another reason I and so many other introverts are attracted to social media, like blogging, facebook or twitter. For one thing (as you saw in the article) introverts don't like a lot of prolonged stimulation, so the more quickly and efficiently we can share and absorb information, the better. Yay, internet!

But also, it allows us to get the social interaction we seek (and we do seek it) but on our own time, and without the extra stimuli. So it would be my guess that most of my regular BBs are perhaps more introverted than extroverted, since - let's be honest - extroverted people would rather be out in the world at the mall, restaurants and shops with people in person, not on a computer.

(Which is the main reason I don't take too seriously the articles and editorials lamenting the destruction of "quality" relationships due to the rise of social media. I bet they were all written by extroverts.)
I could go on and on - and I have, I just deleted it - about how much this subject and finding excites me. And excited I am. Finding out there's an actual medical, chemical reason why I need to back out of seeing people I enjoy being around, why I have a nearly painful physical reaction to thrill rides, and why pleasant adrenaline rushes are few and far between and need to be followed up by lots and lots of downtime...it's liberating, let me tell you.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Does this sound familiar or foreign?

photo credit: calliope_Muse via photopin cc Text by me.
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  1. Oh my goodness! This article could have been written specifically about me for the most part. Luckily my best friends completely understand my need for "alone time" but a lot of people in my actual family just think I am aloof & rude (maybe I should email them this article). It is nice to know that I am not the only one in the world!

  2. I am a big time introvert...what that article did was disprove every time someone said that there was no way I am. Because I am friendly people don't seem to believe that I could possibly be anxious in social situations. I finally had a day off work on Sunday (after 6 days in a row of dealing with people) and I had plans to be productive but I couldn't drag my butt off the couch. I had a good night's sleep so I couldn't figure out why I was so tired but now I know!!

  3. I could definitely relate to some of the myths, especially #1. I don't like to talk unless I have something to say, but my husband can tell you I can talk A LOT haha. That was really interesting, thanks for sharing!

  4. I'm an introvert. As a kid I didn't take as long to recharge...I was an extroverted introvert, if that makes sense:) Now, I love having days at home where I don't have to go out and interact with anyone! The Man doesn't always get it. And I agree that one of the reasons I love social media is that I can control the amount and yet still connect with people!

  5. Thank you for sharing this! I am an introvert and also shy, which is practically a lethal combination, socially. But I loved the myths - particularly #1 & #6.

  6. Well, I think it's no surprise that I am on the opposite end of the spectrum from you. That said, I am glad to have better insight on what you're going through. I have a couple of close friends back home that are also introverts and I know it is hard to continually put on the "happy face" when you just want to crawl under the furniture.

    Thank you for sharing and consider yourself hugged!

  7. This all sounds VERY familiar. As a MilSpouse (or really, just as someone who has moved away from family and friends) I think I have unintentionally offended a number of back-home folks by not keeping in constant touch. As the article says, I don't want talk unless I have something specific to pass on or ask. The "catch-up" phone call, which (let's face it) lasts a long time, seems like a chore I have to push myself through even though I really like the person on the other end of the phone. Maybe other geographically displaced introverts can relate!

  8. Hot topic Jaci!

    This is shedding some light on some lines of thought I've been chewing on for a couple of weeks now. First, feeling like some friends & family don't really know and understand me...thereby leading to expectations that I will inevitably fail to meet. I think I may actually release a little of that guilt load!

    Secondly, I am very conscious of the fact that there are a lot of truly important things that I really want to talk about with some people...but I just go blank on the shallow chit-chat stuff that you have to go through to get to that place. Don't really know how to manage that one. Guess I will continue to have lots of big conversations with myself and hope that others may know that I'm up for it if they really, really need to talk.

    And yes - just hit Amazon books for a new read. :)

  9. I'm more of an extrovert than an introvert. I like being in noisy sports bars, I love BWW because of the busyness, and I love being around people. Don't get me wrong, I crave some alone time once in awhile, but after some time with my thoughts, I need to get them out. Poor husband is an introvert, but he balances me out pretty well.

  10. I think your blog post was fascinating and definitely taught me a thing or to today!

    I have always been EXTREMELY extroverted. I love parties, going out, texting, calling friends, etc. In fact on every personality test I have ever taken I have always come up the extrovert, spontaneous, risk-taking, adventure seeker.

    BUT your blog has allowed me into your perspective which then lets me understand the more introverted people in my life (IE: my mom).

    Thanks for sharing :)

  11. I have both sides, but am definitely more introverted than extroverted. Which surprises most people when I claim that and they don't believe me. To a certain degree, I do thrive off of being in social settings. But only if I'm with a core group of people I feel comfortable around. And afterwards.. I'm exhausted. Key example: Sunday. We had the platoon cookout the night before as well. The idea of getting together Sunday night SOUNDED wonderful at the time (and the next part is going to sound awful, but I promise it's not) but I felt the weight of the world fall off my shoulders when we decided not to do it. It was so relieving to me to just be able to lay on the couch with Trey at the end of that weekend. This article made me feel so much better and makes me realize that you aren't offended by what I just said as well. In fact.. makes me feel even better about our friendship. We could be really honest with each other about how we feel and not ever worrying about offending the other person.
    Trey is even more so introverted than I am. Most of the time, our combination really works for us.

  12. I love this post! I am guessing I am most likely a shy extrovert. I love talking to people, love doing things but can be quite shy sometimes. It can make me nervous to meet new people but at the same time I love to do it. I do need down days but too many days at home and I am like your friend, need to get out of the house. On the flip side I find I can be home and just chill more often than some of my other friends.

  13. I am most definitely an introvert and I too was excited to read this article!! Thank you for sharing. :) I also find that if I have a busy few days I absolutely must recharge or I feel like I'm losing it. I thought there was something wrong w/ that....nice to know it's just a normal part of who I am as an introvert.

  14. That article is amazing!! Haha I never thought of myself as an introvert..just not an extrovert. I'm almost everything on that list, with the exception of adrenaline junkie! hahah I love to feel the adrenaline pumping through my body! I'm glad you shared this! I just might share it on my blog! It's really cool! Thanks! :)

  15. So I read this entire post. . .and I'm thinking, maybe I'm both????

    I know that sounds crazy. But with friends i'm familiar with I am that LOUD girl, laughing loud, talking, hugging, lots of laughing and loudness. But make me walk into a room of strangers. . . I am one quiet/shy girl.

    When I'm with my family I am loud and crazy with my husband's family i'm like overwhelmed with anxiety and so so so shy.

    Is it possible to be both? Or do I just have a personality disorder??


  16. As always, my friend, you made me think. I used to be a total extrovert. In fact, when I took the Myers Briggs (personality test) in college, I was a strong extrovert. Then when I took it a few years ago, I was on the introvert side. I don't know what made my personality change, but I could relate to just about everything in that posts about the myths. And I totally agree with you that I enjoy blogging so much partly because i can socialize on my own terms. I love being around people and my friends, but if I don't have enough down time, I'm not a happy person!

    Great post!

  17. "Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.

    Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting."

    ^^^this 1000 times over. Thanks for sharing this post. Interesting information.

  18. This is so me! I'm a nerd for behavioral research like this, and I love when it's able to explain parts of me, especially ones that other people might not get. I get "overstimulated" really easily- even the TV being too loud, too many things happening at once, my daughter getting too rowdy- all those things can just emotionally drain me almost instantly. And I totally agree that it is a huge reason why I'm drawn to social media. There's a boundary there that I tend to need.


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