I’m an Introvert (and I Hate Articles About Introverts)

Mar 9 2014

I spent the day yesterday at the Faith and Culture Writers Conference, speaking ostensibly about blogging but really about the importance of Story and Community and Truth and Love, and about the strange things that happen when Life takes you off the beaten path and helps you forge a more authentic, albeit very, very muddy, path through the wilderness.

I love speaking at events like this. I love crafting words into sentences that must be spoken aloud. I love interacting with people in the session during the final Q&A time and meeting them afterwards to hear their stories. I love the aspect of vulnerable confession; that none of us knows everything, that we’re in this together, that we’re all afraid and fearless, and small and big, and quiet and loud. All of us so much more complex than we’re used to saying.

But, let’s be honest, conferences are, in many ways, tough for an introvert.

Now, I hate all those articles circling the internet about What You Need to Know About Introverts, because, while some of the things they say are true for me, not all or even most of them are.

I just abhor, for example, the idea that introverts are Socially Awkward; I like to think there are myriad extroverts AND introverts who can boldly claim that title. And I’m not at all a fan of the idea that we introverts are likely to Push People Away Because, well, We Like Quiet Better Than We Like You. 

I detest the message that introverts are, somehow, Subtly Superior, and the one that says You Must Tread Carefully to Enter Our Bubbles, lest, I don’t know, we pop or something.

The message I hate most of all, though, is the one that implies You Must Change Who You Are to Be With Us. Because no. No. And no. And also, sort of, yes. The truth is, we all must change who we are to be in meaningful relationships with others, and we all must hold steadfastly to ourselves, communicating what we need when we need it. We are all fragile and resilient. All of us. Give and take. Push and pull. So much more complex than we’re used to saying.

Introversion for me is simply this: I receive my energy from being alone, and I give energy away when I’m with others. Which means conferences, like being with my huge family, equal long, long hours of pouring out energy without a way to immediately refill it. And that is exhausting. It’s depleting. It’s tough. But hear this! It’s a willing gift, and I am not sorry when I spend my energy currency on other people.

We have to stop pigeon-holing people. If we’re going to hope for a world full of people who are striving to be the most authentic, real versions of ourselves we can be – perfect and imperfect, beautiful and messy, magical and mundane… and FREE – we have to stop boxing people up, packaging them, and reselling them to the public as known quantities.

This is what I wish all those articles on introversion would say:

Some introverts are quiet. Some of us are LOUD.

Some introverts are thoughtful. Some of us excel at being thoughtless.

Some introverts are intense. Some of us are happy to sit at the bar over a beer and gab about inanities. 

Some introverts are logical, concrete, organized thinkers. Some of us are creative, artistic and messy. 

Some introverts are brilliant; intellectual superstars. Some of us struggle academically.

Some introverts are temperamental and brooding. Some are even-keeled and easy-going. 

And most of us are ALL those things in different places and at different times. Horrible, heroic humans. Full of failure and ferocity. Fearful and fearless and fabulous. Weird and wonky and wild and wonderful.

And we can substitute extrovert for introvert in each of the previous sentences and they would be equally true. All of us, so much more complex than we’re used to saying. Neither better nor worse than the people of all types who surround us. 

So here’s what I’d like us to do, as a quick act of truth and of vulnerability, a quick way to dispel assumptions and lose the labels, a brief way to unpackage ourselves, just for a moment. I’d like us to complete a very brief sentence. As many times as you like. This sentence:

I’m pegged as ________, which people think means ________, but really I ________. 

My answers are at the bottom of this post. 

 

……….

LentFor those of you following our 40 Days of Lent: 15 Minute Projects, today’s 15 Minute Project is rest.

Rest, however you define it.

For me, it was an entire cup of warm coffee all by myself, the quiet and time alone filling me with as much energy as the caffeine. For you, it might be calling a friend. Or writing a letter. Or reading a chapter of a trashy vampire novel. Or reading your Bible. Whatever it is, this is your excuse. Your reason to take 15 minutes, however you can find it – including locking yourself in the bathroom with noise cancelling headphones – and rest.

Here’s my Before:

photo 1 (69)

Here’s my After:

photo 2 (75)

And congratulations to Eileen of The Energizer Mommy for completing our 15 Minute Bathroom Counter project, not because we need more to do but because we desperately need less. Before:

IMAG0718

 And After:

IMAG0721

Have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE YOU WILD TRUTH-TELLERS? I do! Thanks for being real, Eileen

If you’re wondering what happened to yesterday’s installment of 40 Days of Lent: 15 Minute Projects, you can find it on Facebook here. Anytime I’m not here on the blog with an installment, like tomorrow when we get to announce the winners of our First Writing Contest (!), I’ll have our project on Facebook. I would’ve told you about this ahead of time, but I just made it up. Welcome to my real world. 

……….

OK, ready? Here’s what I’d like us to do, as a quick act of truth and of vulnerability, a quick way to dispel assumptions and lose the labels, a brief way to unpackage ourselves, just for a moment. I’d like us to complete a very brief sentence. As many times as you like. 

I’m pegged as ________, which people think means ________, but really I ________. 

Here are a few of my answers:

I’m pegged as an introvert, which people think means quiet, but really, as soon as you get to know me, I’m very LOUD.

I’m pegged as a Christian, which people think means hateful jerk, but really I care Love and Safety and Grace.

I’m pegged as a mommy blogger, which people think means I’m an over-sharer and that I use my family as fodder for faint fame, but really I’m a freedom fighter and a grace giver and a mud sitter… and an over-sharer from time to time, as well, but about myself and never, ever at the expense of my relationship with my kids

Now it’s your turn.

I can’t wait to read your responses. 

I’m pegged as ________, which people think means ________, but really I ________.