For the uninitiated, many people view the world from a self-centric point of view… meaning that how they think, act, and feel is what they feel to be the standard and people that walk outside of that realm are considered “strange” at best. The degree of “strangeness”, “weirdness” etc will depend on the degree of the other person’s differences.
These differences are often set up by locale and culture as well as how one is brought up as a child.
There are many personality traits that one can possess or lack, but the one personality trait that we either lionize or put aside are the extroversions and introversions of the world.
I first read up about these personality traits while studying for my degree in psychology, as we had to take a test to determine all kinds of things about our personalities and more importantly what they meant to us and how we perceived the world. I scored high on the introversion scale. I remember in that class that the majority of people scored on the extroversion scale. Psychological studies have shown that upwards of 75% of our population are extroverted.
When growing up, I was always for the most part very quiet in public. Privately, I can talk a lot and go on about all kinds of things that I find fascinating, but in public I prefer to watch and interject as needed. During my time in the army, my introversion was frowned upon and often in our monthly reviews that we had to undergo it was cited that I was too soft-spoken and that that was not a good trait. It denoted someone who was “up to something” or “untrustworthy”.
When in college and professional development classes it was hammered upon that your professional success hinges on your being friendly and outgoing. Extroversion is what we as a culture lionize. Professionally, you will often be judged on the merits of your work which is absolutely true, but you will also be judged based on how well you get along with your coworkers and how you fit in with them socially.
For an introverted person, this can be a daunting and challenging set of obstacles to succeed.
Personal relationships are also similar to professional ones; those that are quiet and keep to themselves will obviously not be in positions often to meet others and will seem to be assholes, rude, and too direct. These are all things that I myself have been labeled over the years and as one of my traits is to constantly analyze everything, I have spent many hours trying to figure out exactly what I have done to be considered as such.
Let’s look at what introversion means to me.
Introversion and Extroversion
An introverted person is simply a person that prefers to spend the majority of their time either away from people altogether or with a select few people. The reasons for introversion can vary from past trauma to neural connectors that make up the brain where people simply prefer being away from others. Really there is no one defining reason why someone is introverted.
An extroverted person needs to be around people or they lose energy. They get depressed. Negative energy surrounds them.
An introverted loses their energy when they are around others. They get depressed. They need time to recharge.
Were you always introverted
Growing up, I think I had a fairly normal child hood until roughly junior high. I was fairly outgoing. I played soccer, had sleepovers, liked to run with the other boys, all of that.
When junior high hit, life suddenly got real. When you are little, you tend to not notice as much the things that don’t matter with your friends. If they are poor, rich, wear clothes that are in fashion, etc… those things don’t matter. When you are little all that really matters is that goddammit I pew pewed you and you didn’t move out of the way fast enough and you should be playing dead right now and I took the hill!
Junior high was the time that kids started to take note over which of the group were not dressed a certain way, which of the group did not have a lot of money, which of the group were “unattractive”, and at that point kids can start to get really mean.
We were very poor growing up. When I watch south park, I am always likened to Kenny. To top it off, as a kid I inherited horrible acne that started from when I was 12 all the way through high school and a month before I left for basic training. Being extremely poor and with horrible acne set the stage for my introversion.
I had a brief time of normalcy while in the army. It was a good time to restart. I left my hometown, never to return, and joined a group of guys where no one knew each other. In school, I had learned to stand up for myself from bullies by doing what boys do… getting into fights. I got into a lot of fights growing up. When I say a lot of fights I mean if there was a day I wasn’t chased after by a pack of assholes throwing rocks and boards and shooting slingshots and beebee guns on my walk home from school, it was a good day.
This translated well in the army. Soft-spoken as I was, you had to stand up for yourself and I was not afraid to do so. I made a few friends and I went from being soft-spoken to understanding how to communicate with others.
I had a bad marriage following the army which contributed to a lot of trauma that helped finalize my view on people as a whole.
A question I ask myself daily is had I been born into a family that was not poor and/or had I not gone through a bad marriage, would I have continued to be the extroverted little boy that I was when little? I can’t go back in time, but I think in my case that introversion developed on my part as part of a coping mechanism.
Does being introverted mean you dislike people?
I get asked that question a lot or I read that question a lot. The answer is no I do not dislike people. Introverted people want to be included in socialization as much as extroverted people do. The difference is that introverted people need a lot of time by themselves to recharge from social events.
Unfortunately this can come across as an introverted person not wanting to be around others and it doesn’t take long for people to stop trying to include them. This is the farthest thing from the reality of the situation, but is very hard to reinforce and get across, as an introverted person is often perfectly fine sitting home on a friday night reading a book or watching a movie, whereas an extroverted person sees that as a waste of a night that could be out at the club hanging out with friends.
Big Groups, Small Groups, One on One
My most difficult environment is when I have to interact with someone on a one-on-one basis outside of a professional setting. I have a very hard time with small talk and knowing how to conduct it. Quite honestly, I do not know how to do it, and want to get to the point of conversations quickly. The same can be said in a school environment for me; verbose instructors that rattle on and on without getting to the point are hard for me to cope with as I’d rather get to the solution of the problem and learn what it is I am supposed to be learning.
I actually prefer groups in my interaction with others so that the onus of small talk is not entirely on me and others can continue with the small talk while I can sit back and not feel pressured to provide what I consider are trivial answers.
Now put me in a one-on-one conversation with someone on a topic that I care about, and we can talk for hours and the entire situation is pleasant for me and I come away with it actually feeling pretty good. The problem with me is that as I recognize things, small talk and pointless talk are a big part of socializing and I have to get better at being able to do it. The other area that I probably need to work on is being able to care about topics that I don’t really care about and be able to contribute to a conversation.
Being Direct and Construed as an Asshole
Wow that was rude! You intimidate me! I can’t believe you just said that! These are phrases I’m quite familiar with. As I said above, I dislike beating around the bush and prattle that gets away from the point, and I prefer people being direct with me as I am with them.
The problem with this is that this is a social and cultural no-no. It only takes one time of saying exactly what’s on your mind to someone to self perpetuate being an introvert because its not common or acceptable to do.
I found that this is a trait many introverts share. From a personal standpoint, I value directness. From a sociological standpoint, directness can be detrimental to social health. A conundrum to be sure.
Introversion and Work
I found it important to select a field of work where I can largely be left on my own. It is not an accident that I ended up as a software developer, because 90% of my work is done by myself. When selecting a field to get into when I was still in school, all of the paths I had looked at were introverted in nature.
Despite that, the software development and IT industry as a whole requires some extroversion just like any field. The more outspoken and friendly people will tend to be more successful and land jobs easier than the introverted people will. A good article I found on the topic of whether or not you should target extroverts or introverts can be found here:
Quite plainly, people are more at ease around others that like to talk a lot. People that internalize or keep to themselves are a lot more difficult to understand and that can be uncomfortable.
How can you sit at home?
Another question I have heard a lot from people who don’t understand how someone can actually like to sit at home. First, I have filled my life with a good half dozen projects that range from musical to art to writing to just sitting and listening to music and thinking.
There is a keystone in all of those subjects. They all allow me to focus on a task and my mind spins while the task is being worked. When I say that my mind spins what I mean is that it does not ever go quiet. I am constantly thinking about something. Being around others in a noisy room does not stop my mind from spinning. What it does do is prevent me from thinking clearly as I have other distractions I must respond to. This is where my own internal exhaustion comes from and why being around a lot of people can exhaust me. Its like a computer multi tasking between several programs at once.
When I lay down to sleep at night, often I lay there for a good hour just staring at the ceiling while my brain cycles down. Often I am awoken at night while my brain activates and starts thinking and I can’t go back to sleep.
Writing, art, and music are all forms of therapy for me. I enjoy doing all of those things with other people. Sharing those things with other people is actually a way you know that I appreciate you and wanting to do those things with you means that I value your presence and is my primary way of connecting with people. The opposite, having musical, artistic, or literary friends exclude me from their group activities, is very hurtful to me. This is why I have such a desire to be in a band, and why I like painting with a group of people. This is why I enjoy gaming so much, because playing a game like D&D is writing a story with other people.
This is an example of how an introverted person such as myself needs socializing and connection as much as an extroverted person does.
This is how I view the world and the people around me.