It often astonishes me to see just how different one person can be from another. As an introvert in a world dominated by extroverts, the sight of an extrovert just being himself (or herself) is often a wonder to me. Where they get the energy to go about excitedly partying, participating in long animated conversations and social activities in general, will always remain a mystery to me.
I like connecting and socializing with other people. But unlike most extroverts, I have a low tolerance threshold for such experiences. When I’ve reached this threshold, I feel a strong urge to just separate myself from all the noise. I just want to be alone and quiet. Any further activity in the social group is liable to bore me to tears.
In many ways, this aspect of my personality has been the cause of much distress in my social life and misunderstanding among my friends.
In my days in the University, after a stressful day at school, I would retire to my comfy room and occupy myself with what introverts do when they’re alone: reading, writing, listening to music, audiobooks or just enjoying my exclusive company and the sound of the quiet. Then suddenly to my horror, I hear a knock at the door.
“Oh no, I was having such a beautiful time, don’t let anybody interrupt it,” I murmur to myself as I walk to the door.
I open the door and there stands one extrovert friend or another. He looks around and finds that I’m alone. Next thing I see is a benign smile on his face; the sort of smile that seems to say, Ta-da! Now you don’t have to be all by yourself. I’ll be here for a while to keep you company and save you from this “loneliness.” And by doing this he would think he is doing me a heroic service.
While me, on the other hand, would feel a strong desire to just slam the door in his face and go back to doing my thing. But we live in a world of human beings where we are expected to be courteous; so I drop my fantasies of rudeness and return his smile (an artificial one, mind you) and ask him to come in and make himself at home. What else can I say?
Well, to be truthful, I could just be candid and tell him that this is not a convenient time and ask him to call me next time before coming to my house. I have never said this to any of my friends though; I have a vague conviction that the day I ever say this to a friend will be the last day that friend ever shows his face at my house again, and that is not the outcome I want.
There is some quirkiness to things I love and the way I love them that I believe has everything to do with my introversion. I love things deeply, and the kind of things I love might bore you to tears.
I find so much joy in simple things. And because our world is overflowing with simple things, the world becomes practically limitless to me. A good song to me then is a whole universe. I listen to it hundreds and hundreds of times and grow only more interested in the song. I extricate the rhythms, the melody, the rhyme and the poetry in the lyrics.
Such things stir up memories: Favorite songs from long ago, an old picture, the right smell, a book I enjoyed reading sometime in the past, and sometimes, even just a word will place me on the wings of memory, and then I would ride down memory lane to those good old days, the memories of which electrify me for their beauty and nostalgia.
Sometimes it is the trickling sounds of streams, the chirping of birds, the hissing of the trees as they sway softly in a gentle breeze; all this is music to my ears.
At times when I step out on the streets after a prolonged moment of quiet and solitude, it is the roaring of locomotive engines and the general noise from an agitated city that fills me with a thrilling sensation and makes me feel very much alive. I guess this is the sensation that people seek in drugs like cocaine and the like. And yet sometimes the very next moment, these very sounds are a nuisance to my ears and I just want to take refuge in the quiet of my room.
There are also such hobbies as Reading, writing, software development, art. Each gives me a feeling of deep joy and each demands that I court her and her alone with all the time that I have.
This is all beautiful but at the back of my mind, a faint voice questions the normalcy of this way of life: Is this how a “normal” human being is supposed to be?
I recognize that voice. It is the quiet but imposing voice that makes itself heard when something feels “too good to be true.” And this solitude, my dear reader, feels dangerously beautiful, and so I try to listen to that voice and try to answer its question: I don’t think this is normal. I don’t want to grow into some kind of beast who can only live alone and isolated. I am supposed to spend more time with others and socialize.
You see, as much as I glory in solitude, sometimes when I’ve had enough of it, I just can’t bear any more of it.
Past this point, I begin to ask myself why I’m so different. This curiosity soon gives way to an undertone of angry dissatisfaction with myself for not being like other people who are all buoyant and lively all the time.
It has taken me years to come to the understanding that this is only a problem if I worry and beat myself over it. For I have known many of those extroverts whom I admire and want to be like them, who also look at me and long to be the person they believe me to be: calm and collected.
Sometimes the storm that is within us is only visible to us, and this storm seems to have only as much power over us as we have made it the center of our worries.
As introverts, it appears to be our lot in life to get misunderstood quite a lot. For extroverts, their idea of a good time is hanging out with at least half a dozen friends in animated discussions for hours on end. For me and most introverts, things are not that straightforward.
Sometimes I enjoy such company very much.
Sometimes I don’t. When I’m not enjoying it, I feel my energy drain the longer I stay in such gathering, especially when I have to do some of the talking, which doesn’t come easily to me. I feel like my “lifeforce” is being sucked away. It feels like I am receiving a “Dementor’s kiss.”
Sometimes, I just like to be with someone I can trust enough to say anything and to have long deep conversations in a quiet, serene atmosphere.
Sometimes, I prefer a company of three so that I can conveniently shut my mouth while the other two do all the talking. On some such occasions, it soon gets too quiet and I know the silence is having an awkward and unsettling effect on the others. But instead of going through the drudgery of thinking up something to say to fill the silence with, I just shut my mouth and be myself. At such times, veiled beneath that silence is an undercurrent of a petty but satisfying vengeance that I exact on a world that is so unwelcoming to my kind.
In almost every social setting, more often than not, every word I utter or every minute spent listening to others is hard work. And sadly enough, most people glorify these qualities above everything else. So at times, I want the world to endure my own world, one of silence which the world has an unfounded problem with.
The funny thing is, you might expect me to know when I prefer to be alone or in a company of two or three or half a dozen, but this is just as oblivious to me as it might be to you.
Consider the case of the friend who visits me at my inconvenient hour of solitude. After enduring his company for a quarter of an hour or so, I begin to enjoy it very much; even more than I enjoyed my solitude before.
Sometimes it is only after they have left that I realize that I really needed company and that my solitude had not been as beautiful as I initially thought.
This is my account of introversion by the way. I know there are many kinds of introverts. Some will easily relate to what is said in this article. Others will not. And if I take a bird’s-eye view of my life and the role introversion has played in the making of me, I wouldn’t say I am flawed. I wouldn’t say I have a superpower either.
I don’t believe my life would have been any better or worse than it is now if I’d been an extrovert instead of an introvert. If I ever deserved blame for any particular failure in my life, then it is probably because I screwed up and not because I am an introvert. On the other hand, if I ever deserved praise for any worthy achievement, it could be because I paid the price (or maybe just good fortune) and not because my introversion gave me superpowers.
I’m not glorifying introversion over extroversion. Both have their strengths and their shortcomings and it would serve you well to know who you are and how to leverage your temperament to your advantage.