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

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 ________. 

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
51 comments
  1. […] I’m having a kickawesome day and I remember how gregarious you can be and still call yourself an introvert, and I flaunt a passing smirk sitting alone in wherever I […]

  2. I’m pegged as smart and maybe judgmental because I have a graduate degree and teach in higher education, which some people think means I think I’m superior or they are inferior, but I don’t feel that way at all. I have so many “issues” of lack of confidence and it has taken me years to grow into maturity. I hate arrogance most of all, so I definitely don’t see myself as superior. Also, I come from a dysfunctional upbringing, so I often feel like I’m still learning how to be “normal,” whatever that is.

    I’m pegged as a homeschooling Christian because I am, which people in my world of education think means I’m an ultra conservative weak thinker whose kids are going to be socially weird, but really I’m a moderate, international-culture-loving, critical thinker who loves literature and ideas. I don’t quite fit in either area–I’m too liberal for some and too conservative for others. My kids are doing very well, have friends of different ages, and love ideas, people, science, books, and Lego.

    I’m pegged as unmotivated because I’m somewhat overweight, which people think means I’m lazy and big eater, but I’m really someone with fat-accumulating genes with low thyroid, which makes it very hard to lose weight and very easy to gain it…and keep it. I don’t eat a lot, in fact, much less than many thin people I know, I do exercise, and I work a lot at homeschooling and my job. It offends me when people who are thin think they seriously know what “my problem” is when they’ve never had similar issues. Oftentimes they seem to think they figured something out when they’ve simply never even had any weight struggle at all. I’ve known many thin people who eat whatever they want and don’t exercise.

    At my church, where many are about 25-32 years old, I’m pegged as old, which people think means I’m boring, but really I’m a very youthful-thinking sort of person. I have no problem relating with people of different ages, younger and older, but I find that younger people particularly have trouble relating to someone older than themselves. Oftentimes, they think they’ve got life figured out, and that their age is just about the right age to be to be savvy and know what’s going on. It’s interesting to observe that older folks, older than me, who really have figured out some things, rarely think that way because they have more wisdom.

  3. […] admitted to you the other day that I’m an introvert who hates the myriad articles about introverts because, while 3 or so of the “25 Things You Need to Know About Introverts” peg me […]

  4. I’m pegged as a SAHM, which people think means I dote over my kids all day, lavishing them all with constant attention, but really I give them a lot of space, and more organize and manage them and the household.

    I’m pegged as a homeschooling mom of 6, which people think means I’m devoutly religious, but really I am an atheist who briefly dabbled in paganism, and my family size has nothing to do with religion.

    I’m pegged as smart, which people think means I have disdain for those who do not feel like they are as smart as me, but really I enjoy seeing how we are all different, and what each person brings to the table, and have no negative judgements on folks who went to other colleges.

    I’m pegged as blonde, which people think means I’m dumb, but really I am smart. Although I *have* made use of the stereotype to my benefit, but not since I was like 30.

    Thanks, Beth! This was fun! 😀

  5. I am pegged as a young stay at home mum, which people think means I am ignorant and inexperienced (because I married young and my husband and I wanted to start our family early) and unfulfilled (because I’m not doing anything for ‘me’) and not contributing to society (because I don’t have a career) but really I am a summa cum laude university graduate who has travelled extensively, is bilingual, and finds fulfillment in my family. I don’t think I’m wasting my education either. It has made me into a better wife, mother, and human being. Just because I’m not out in the work force (props to those mums who are!) doesn’t mean that the work I’m doing in raising my kids is not important.

    I am pegged as happy, which people think means my life is carefree or I’m just very good at coping, but really I have been struggling with depression ever since my son was born four years ago. Some days I feel okay. Other days I feel like I’m struggling to breathe and can barely keep my head above water. I don’t sleep well because I get anxious, and I’m always so so tired.

    I love you Beth. Your writing is such a gift to all of us that receive it. Thank you for your humour, mamaraderie, and for allowing us the space to embrace each other and ourselves as we really are; perfectly imperfect, wonderful, messy human beings.

  6. I am pegged as a homeschool mom which makes people think I live on a farm and bake all my own bread and helicopter parent my kids and judge everyone else’s educational choices, but the truth is I am a city girl who cooks stuff from boxes and enjoys the this extra time watching my teens prepare to leave the nest. OH, and I DON’T hate public schools; I used to work in them!

  7. I’m pegged as “standoffish or stuck up”, which people think means “I think I’m better than you”, but really I am just quiet and reserved until I get to know you better, then I’ll totally overshare. I just hate small talk and have no idea what to say. Don’t judge me until you take some time to get to know me. Have you seen the “bitchy resting face” video? Yeah, I laughed hysterically at it ‘cuz it’s me!

    I’m pegged as “not easily amused”, which people think means “I’m lacking humor”, but really it’s that I have a very dry sense of humor and when I am amused, I do laugh, a lot, and then cry laughter-tears because I laugh so hard at things that just make other people look sideways at me like I’m crazy. I don’t find the obvious or painful stunts funny like my husband does, I find puns and straight faced humor hilarious. My son has had this dry humor since he was little and he is a great source of fun for me.

    I’m pegged as a “crazy person because I believe in a spiritual life and walk a different path” (ie not one single religion), which people think means “I have got this all wrong”, but really, I have found a deep connection to my soul and to Source/God/All-That-Is/Choose-A-Name. As a result, I found a new love for myself and my fellow earth travelers. I honor each person’s journey and it’s not my place to judge anyone or anything. People don’t get that I don’t need to judge others wrong to make me okay. I got enough on my plate figuring out my own self! So, I must be crazy. Nope. I am happier now.

    Love your blog and humor and how you write, Beth. Thanks for this.

  8. I’m pegged as a serious person, which people (including family) think means I’m boring, but really I enjoy a good time, hanging out, laughing at silly things and occasionally being spontanious. Please let me be me – don’t put me in a box. 🙂

  9. I’m pegged as bossy which people think means I’m a mean, self-centered and don’t listen to others but really I just like being organized and my day job IS about telling someone what to do and I can’t help it if that runs over into my home / night life.

  10. I’m pegged as ‘a force’, which people think means I can take unlimited swings from a wrecking ball. Really, I just want to build a sheet fort and hide.

  11. I am pegged as quiet, which people think means I’m shy, but really means I observe & take things in before sharing or not sharing my thoughts etc with you.
    I am pegged as soft-spoken (I have a voice I’m told sounds more young girl than woman), which people think means I am a pushover, but really means you will take me all the more seriously when I need to take a stand/command obedience from dogs or children/argue my point. p.s. I have a “Big” voice & I’m not afraid to use it 🙂
    I like this exercise 🙂

    1. and P.P.S. I love your blog! & your 15 min./day strategy for lent!

  12. I am pegged as a loner, when really, I suck at making friends. I have limited energy (due to health reasons) and can’t find a group of people to fit into. I didn’t have kids so don’t fit into mommy groups and am now old enough to have grandkids but no kids means no grandkids – leaving me out of all kinds of groups. I also don’t drink alcohol or do group sports, two more things that leave me out of groups. Guess I will stick with reading books and going for walks!!!

    I am pegged as a Walt Disney World fanatic, oh wait, that one is correct.

  13. I want you to know I am loving the 15 minute projects! I didn’t take pictures because honestly I didn’t think I would finish. But I did! Not in 15 minutes but my husband was off and I was able to clear a couple of pesky messes that were not huge but darned persistent. I will try to keep up but how do you say.. HAGE? We’ll see 🙂

    To answer your fill-in:
    I am pegged as quiet which people think means I am calm but really there is circus going on in my head and I am trying to keep my crap together

    I am pegged as a per diem employee which people think means that I am wealthy enough to treat my job as a hobby but really I am struggling financially and with maintaining my skills in order to be as close to a SAHM as I possibly can and keep the lights on.

  14. I’m pegged as a ‘bookkeeper/good at math person’ which people think means I just looooove numbers and want to answer questions about taxes or solve equations for them. But the truth is that the only thing I like about bookkeeping is making order out of chaos, and I’d really rather never work with numbers again.

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