Telling others you are an introvert is often more difficult than it sounds. Despite the recent surge in books, websites and articles about this topic, many people still have no clue what introversion is. Or worse, they have bought into unflattering introvert stereotypes.
Many misguided souls still believe that all introverts are shy, antisocial weirdos who don’t know how to interact with other humans. So. Not. True.
The fact that there is such widespread ignorance about introversion makes the task of telling others we are introverted more intimidating. Despite this, I remain a strong advocate for spreading the word about introversion.
I regularly tell people I’m an introvert either in conversation or by directing them to this blog. Reactions have ranged from, “oh, cool” to “a whosa-whatsa-vert?” to “maybe I can help fix you”.
Lately I’ve encountered a new and very interesting response. Some of my most extroverted friends have replied by stating that they think they are introverts too. Umm … no, definitely not, but nice try.
I find this reaction encouraging because it means that they don’t think introversion is an inferior orientation. They actually want to be part of the introvert club.
Of all the times I’ve told people I’m introverted, one occasion will forever stand out in my mind. While I was traveling through New Zealand a few months ago, I joined forces with a posse of friendly travelers.
For two days in a row, I played the role of hardcore tourist with my new friends. We explored, we wondered, we saw sights and chased adventures. Every hour was enthusiastically saturated with new experiences.
By the end of the second day I was utterly exhausted. Feeling drained and irritable, I began to withdraw into my own inner world. I didn’t have a single ounce of energy left for chit chat and social pleasantries.
If I were to draw a diagram of my energy levels, they would have been in the dangerously low, about to self-destruct, red zone.
While en-route from a local hookah bar to a dance club, one of the other travelers questioned my behavior. He pointed out that I wasn’t talking to anyone and I seemed to have put up an invisible wall.
I tried to explain to him that I was an introvert. Big mistake. This man came from a highly extroverted culture where introverts are likely burned at the stake (okay, I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea).
Introversion was a completely foreign concept to him. After a brief pause accompanied by a look of disdain, he continued to press me about my behavior.
Then it happened. Beep beep beep self-destruct sequence initiated. Without even the hope of stopping them, tears began streaming down my face.
And there I was, balling my eyes out in front of a near stranger while four other near strangers watched from about 50 feet ahead.
Despite the mortifying outcome of this situation, I don’t regret trying to explain my introversion to my new friend. My big mistake was attempting to do so while in a fragile state.
In fact, this experience is what inspired me to start Introvert Spring. Because the more people know about introversion, the less often we will have to feel alienated and misunderstood. Then hopefully, one day, we won’t have to explain ourselves at all.
That will be the day that the quiet introvert revolution is won, and we can ride off into the sunset with the spoils of respect and acceptance in hand.