Thursday, November 8, 2012

The life of an introvert

I know I have talked about this before and I am not quite sure why it took me so long to come out of the introvert closet. I think for much of my life, I have been super involved. Whether in student government, athletics or as a volunteer. I have always liked staying busy. I think that many times my desire to stay busy could very well come across to some as a tendency of an extrovert. Interesting, because this could not be further from the truth.

My involvement has caused me to really feel like I needed to be an extrovert. I realized I could play the part. I could make myself kind of an extrovert, when necessary. Like much of my personality, I am able to have on-demand traits when appropriate, necessary or when no one else is filling that "void." I think this comes from always feeling like I need to balance out those around me.

It was not until I attended a Wheaton workshop led by the wonderful Luanne Daley that I realized how to best explain my introvertness. Luanne often talks about things that "drain you" versus things that keep you energized. Luanne also discusses the importance of gravitating towards things that energize you and trying to focus on those, all while limiting those things that you can feel drain you and drain your energy.

While personality test after personality test told me I was an INFJ , it wasn't until I had Luanne describe my struggles that I was able to put into words why I am actually an introvert. It isn't that I don't love people, it isn't that I don't love my friends and family, it is just that being around a lot of people, at one time, truly drains me. I feel like I have to puff myself up. I feel like I try so hard and worry so much that I pay attention to myself way too much. I am constantly saying to myself "Patty, could you be any more socially awkward."

It is so interesting because my personality thrives off of helping people, and really trying to make a difference. My soul requires me to have a cause and fight for something, yet what drains me the most is having to act as an extrovert. I think this is why I prefer to be behind the scenes. I am kind of like the elves that do all the work while the cobbler sleeps. I am happy to put the energy and effort in to get the results and make the difference, but I don't want attention called to me and I don't want to have to be out in front.

My involvement whether it be in the Rhinelander Advisory Board or in my numerous volunteer roles with Wheaton if you put me in a social setting with a group of people and I will make a v-line for the nearest chair or a wall. I will find a way to stand next to something. It is almost like an anchor. I need to anchor myself in these types of settings. It is why I most often become a clinger. I hate being this person. I try not to latch on to people I am comfortable with in group settings, because lets face it, most of these events I am talking about are mingling and networking events. How easy is it to really network or mingle with Patty the clinger next to you. Even at family functions and when I am with friends, when the group gets more than a few people, I gravitate towards walls, chairs, etc. That and a glass of wine always helps.

Greg and I have actually learned that when it comes to networking events, we shouldn't go together. Greg definitely isn't an INFJ, my guess is that he is a ISTJ, but we are both I's so we definitely cling to each other, because lets face it, we are comfortable with each other and as introverts, prefer one-on-one.

Being an introvert is a real challenge. It can be hard to be someone who gets overwhelmed by people. It can be challenging because I often feel like I may come across as rude or disengaged. I am often fearful that my introvert tendencies send the wrong messages to people around me. I am someone that isn't so good at making the first move. That can be in social situations and even with friends. I often feel like I am bothering people and I get uncomfortable approaching people. I also am often fearful that my introvertness comes across as really awkward. I am very self conscious of it, so it probably doesn't help. All of this makes me really nervous about my wedding, I have to be honest. Don't get me wrong, I am so excited, but as an introvert, I am really nervous about the draining factor the day will have on me. I will need to be "puffed up" and be outside of my natural state for a few days. I am grateful that I am able to play the part of extrovert when necessary, but I guess that is where champagne will come in.

While being an introvert is challenging, I am also very grateful to be an introvert. I have no problem spending time with myself. I have no problem doing things by myself. I love learning, reading, writing, coloring. I have no problem going to things by myself and I honestly feel more anxiety and pressure when I am involved in groups. I would much rather sign up for something by myself than with a friend.   Even when I raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through Team in Training, even though there was a real opportunity to socialize and make friends, I was the person that would show up for our team runs, chat friendly with folks, run and then head home by myself. I get so much of my energy and recharge when I am able to be with myself. I always miss Greg dearly when he leaves, but I enjoy the opportunity it gives me to just be, and to have alone time. I really love my alone time. I am just sorry it took me so long to realize why certain situations make me feel so much more comfortable thank others. I don't want people to take any of this personally. Just like some people out there would much rather hang out with friends and in groups, I am much more comfortable by myself, or with one, or two people.

I think overall, society really rewards extroverts. I think it is really hard to "make it" especially in a place in New York, as an introvert. In a city where it is all about who you know, it is hard to be the person that needs to be comfortable networking in groups. I am always really happy and comfortable talking with people one-on-one. I would always prefer to sit or stand off to the side and have a conversation. I have no problem with this and feel quite comfortable, I just, once again, am not good at making the first move.

It is so interesting because once I am comfortable, I am witty and funny and can carry on intelligent conversations. Once I am comfortable, I am more than happy being the center of attention or telling stories. It just takes me awhile.

I struggle with all of this. I struggle because my instinct is to apologize and to try and be something I am not. My instinct is to try and force myself to be more comfortable as an extrovert. Part of me is really sad because I feel like sometimes to accomplish what I want, I need to become an extrovert. It is stressful. It is stressful to realize that in order to do what I want, in order to make the difference I want to make, I need to become someone I am not, naturally. I want to be comfortable with myself and find a way to do what I want, while still getting to be an introvert. It is exhausting to be someone you are not. I am trying to remember all that Luanne says, and I am trying to remember that everyone is different. Everyone has different strengths and different weaknesses. I like to think that even though I may not be the loudest, or as "out there" as much as I would be if I were an extrovert, through my writing, blogging and one-on-one interactions, I will find ways to lead by example and hopefully make a difference in this wonderful world of ours.

Growing up, I think I found my place and my comfort zone. Katey and I talk about this all the time and find it so fascinating. Katey kind of became the outgoing, funny, louder person and I became the quieter, shyer person. I think while sometimes I want nothing more than to have that spotlight on me, I got exhausted trying to compete with Katey. I couldn't compete with her. I didn't have the energy. It was so much easier to be me, to be introvert Patty than it was to try and compete with loud (sorry Katey), funny, Katey. It is funny because Katey now says that she doesn't even necessarily like having to be this "loud/funny" person. I find it all so fascinating.

This really makes me think of the roles we all take on. The roles we take on in our family, and with our friends. Looking back at my childhood, I can very easily name the roles I played within my family and within each group of friends. Even now, when I head home or when I find myself with certain people I find myself falling back into those "roles" even though that isn't who I am anymore. I am an introvert, same as I ever was, but otherwise, the roles I fall back into, truly aren't me.

I guess I have to continue to accept the fact that I am an introvert and find a way to do what I want while being able to maintain the most energy possible. I also want others to know that I love you all dearly, I just am not so good at being in groups. I get anxious and my social anxiety often kicks in. I also joke often about not knowing how to make friends any more. I feel like after you get passed like 2nd grade it gets harder every year. A huge chunk of my friends today are from growing up. I have some great friends from college and some great friends from other types of situations where I had the opportunity to get to know and work with people one-on-one. I am not the type of person that can just go make friends. I am not the type of person that can "find friends" in a place like New York City, unless an opportunity lends itself to one-on-one situations.

I guess I need to stop feeling like something is wrong or missing and stop apologizing. I am often envious of those who are extroverts by nature, but I guess I should really try and appreciate my introvertness and embrace those activities that drain me least and keep me most energized. Thanks for giving this introvert a voice and an outlet.

And that's all she wrote...

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