Why introverts wilt in big cities - Introvert Spring

Did you know that it’s not just social interactions that drain an introvert’s energy? Overly stimulating environments exhaust us as well.  With their flashing lights and constant noise pollution, what could be more stimulating than big cities (rhetorical question, please don’t answer)?

Most introverts feel overwhelmed by bustling metropolises.   The towering buildings; the symphony of obnoxious construction tools and cars; the never-ending traffic and crowded sidewalks –It’s enough to make any introvert feel drained.  I’m nauseated just thinking about it.    

The opposite is true as well.  Introverts find quiet refuge in nature and smaller cities.  Personally, I have no idea why everyone talks about being a big fish in a small pond as if it were a bad thing.  It sure sounds good to me.   In fact, in the future I plan to settle in a small village where the residents allow me to rule as their queen (if you’ve found such a place, please let me know).

Another way of looking at it is to use Susan Cain’s (author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking) comparison of an introvert to an orchid: we can grow strong and beautiful under the right conditions, but wilt and fade otherwise.  We’re not like dandelions that annoyingly sprout up anywhere and draw lots of attention while doing so.

Despite my disdain for over-crowded cities, I’ve lived in my fair share of them.  Not too long ago, I spent seven months living and working in Brisbane, Australia.  Brisbane has a population of about two million people – not big by most people’s standards.   The thing is, I had been living in a city about a quarter that size before moving Down Under.

If I’d had a cute little dog named Toto, I would’ve told it, we’re not in Kansas anymore. 

Aussies often asked me why I chose Brisbane as my home away from home.  They suggested I move to a bigger, more action-packed city like Sydney or Melbourne.  No thank you! 

Luckily, I managed to carve out a nice life for myself in a quiet suburb of the city.  I waitressed at a small café about ten minutes walk from home.  Thus, I only had to venture into the big, bad heart of the city for social activities.

After three months, I landed a well-paying job with a large mining company located downtown.  Everyday, I rode a crowded bus along a congested road toward the towering building where I worked.   I felt flustered and overwhelmed before my workday even began.

I tried leaving the house at 6 a.m. to avoid the traffic, but that only helped a little.  I couldn’t escape the afternoon rush, which began around 3p.m. and seemed never-ending.  I arrived home each night resembling a drooping and faded orchid.  I was miserable.

I’m comforted to know I’m not the only one who wilts beneath the harsh glare of a big city.  Many introverts react similarly.  Unfortunately, like loud people, shouty environments can’t always be avoided.  The silver lining is that we introverts are pretty good at finding ways to adapt (how else would we survive a culture that’s hooked on electronic music and neon lights?).

  • Headphones (Check)
  • Extra-large book to bury my nose in  (Check)
  • Cute little dog named Toto who will stick by me and accept me no matter what (not yet, but working on it)