The “I” Word

I am an introvert. And these days, I’m cool with that. But I haven’t always been. For many years I wished that my results would come out differently on any assessment I took, be it the Myers-Briggs or a quiz in the latest issue of Marie Claire. I wanted to be outgoing, daring, fun, the life of the party. It seemed that extroverts had more fun. And who wouldn’t want to have more fun?

My other problem with always coming up introverted, was the fact that I do a lot of non-introverted things. In high school and college I participated in competitive public speaking. Later, as a young professional I led workshops and taught classes. I studied Psychology and Counseling. I make a living talking to people. How could I possibly be an introvert?

It turns out that my problem with introversion for all those years was a simple misunderstanding; a matter of buying in to an image of “The Introvert” (huddled in the dark corner, nose in a book, terrified to speak to anyone) instead of seeking to truly understand the term. In the very first graduate class I enrolled in, we took the Myers Briggs and somewhere deep inside I cringed just a little, thinking here we go again with the big “I” label. Sure enough, a week later there were my results, that “I” looming right there in the forefront.

Except this time, something magical happened. My professor explained that the introversion/extraversion scale has to do with where we get our energy, not necessarily our proclivity to be social. An extrovert draws energy from interaction with others. They “re-fuel” their low reserves by spending time with people. On the other hand, the introvert draws energy from quiet reflection. So introverts often need to recharge by spending time alone, but they can and do enjoy social interaction as well.

Now this I understood. It was totally me. I often need a little down time between a busy, people-filled work day and a post-work gathering of friends. When I don’t get in my quiet, reflective writing time each week, I feel a little off-balance. And sometimes I do really, really like to sit in a (well-lit) corner and read a book. This in no way makes me antisocial. Quite the opposite, when I’m getting the quiet time I need, I can be quite fun, quite courageous and maybe even the life of that small group of people I am talking to at the party.

So I no longer shun the idea of being an introvert; instead I seek to embrace and nurture this aspect of my personality. I am happy to be truly and authentically introverted.

(For more on the awesomeness that is introversion, check out Susan Cain’s TED talk!)

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