Today is World Introvert Day! Usually at least one or two of my friends will share this information with me each January 2, because it’s no secret that I’m an introvert. I’d guess most of us introverts are excited to celebrate today individually in our own homes. (Ha!)
While information about introverts abounds way more these days than ever before (seriously, as a kid and teenager I had no clue why I behaved the way I did and why many others didn’t understand me), people still get confused about introversion. We still get mistaken as being people who are shy and quiet. And sometimes we are. Most times, we just come across that way to other people (usually extroverts). We are really just people who re-energize with time alone and quiet rather than with other people and talking. We can get worn out, irritable and moody when we are with people too long.
But what does introversion look like? I can’t speak for every introvert, but I can speak for myself. One of my best examples of introversion happened the past two summers. An amusement park a couple of hours away offers a package for families of four to camp in their park overnight. Campers arrive just before closing, have some time to do things after hours, sleep in their own tents and are served breakfast before the park opens. We did this in both 2017 and 2018 and had fun.
Amusement parks are noisy and crowded. They’re an environment in which I can get easily overwhelmed and overloaded. In fact, at events like these I usually end up exhausted with a headache after a few hours. Both years, I felt a bit stressed as we arrived, lugged all of our stuff to the area where we could camp (right in the center of the amusement park!) and kept track of the kiddos. After we decide where we’re pitching our tent, we get it set up and I head into it to get the beds all made up and ready. Both times going into the tent gave me a strong sense of relief, and my stress began to dissipate.
And that’s because inside the tent, I can still hear all of the noise outside. I can still hear people talking as they walk by and other campers setting up their camp sites, but I am out of sight of them, and they are out of sight from me. I get to be in my own little bubble of sorts with my family, and it’s wonderful. I immediately relax.
That’s introversion. We don’t want to shy away from experiences or other people. Introverts don’t want to always be quiet and aren’t anti-social, but we do relax best and become our true selves when we are in our own space. We replenish our energy by being alone. If I could take a tent with me to every large event or gathering, I would. (But I’m not trying to be a freak, I promise!) I wouldn’t stay in it the whole time; I don’t at the amusement park either. But I would go in when I just needed a few moments alone to decompress.
I can’t take a tent in places, but I have found other escapes. When we go to a gaming convention in a nearby city each year and are exploring the exhibit hall packed with booths, vendors and other gamers, I get on overload. I have learned to avoid a headache and utter exhaustion, my best bet is to take about 20 minutes here and there to sit out. My husband will keep going through the booths and I’ll go sit on the side of the convention hall (most often on the floor) and just close my eyes. I don’t usually fall all the way asleep (though I totally did the year we went and I was eight months pregnant). I just have my eyes closed and am able to be in my own head space for just a while. I can still hear the noise, but it gives me a chance to regroup and go inside of myself rather than be totally involved with all that is going on around me.
Other times I can’t sit on the sidelines with my eyes closed without seeming like a crazy, anti-social person, so I find other ways to regroup. Sometimes it just means going to the bathroom and staying in there an extra two minutes alone. (This is where having bladder problems comes in handy, because I really do have to go to the bathroom a lot!)
And this is life as an introvert. It’s not bad. It isn’t weird. It’s just how I’m wired, and it’s not all that different or unique. There are quite a few of us around. We tend to understand extroverts perhaps a bit more than they understand us, but that also may be because we tend to be quieter and listen more. It could also be because our world and culture are geared very strongly toward extroverts as the norm.
So when your introvert friends say that they just need a few minutes away or when they head to the bathroom at a party and don’t return for five minutes, just leave them be and know they are going into their own tent, their own bubble to regroup. They don’t want to be away from you or not be part of the group. They just need a minute of downtime to process information and relax. It’s not shy or weird. It’s OK. That’s just how they’re wired.