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 am pegged as an inspiration (because my son uses a wheelchair), which people think means I am always self-sacrificing and engaged, but really I can be a bit lazy and I really enjoy taking time for myself.

    I spend WAY too much time on Facebook. 🙂

  2. I’m pegged as a superhero for being the mother of a child with a disability, which people think means that I’m kind of a ball buster who has no problem talking to doctors and legislators and special educators and insurance companies and giving them the what for. Really I hate conflict, and while I’ve had to do all of those things, I always start out giving them the benefit of the doubt. I try to avoid conflict like the plaque and I’m generally conflicted about how I haven’t done enough for my child. The other truth is that all of the people in this thread who have mentioned cancer and medical issues – I feel most comfortable with them, like they are my people. I want to go grab a beer with them and talk about hottie doctors and which nurses send you home with free stuff and which hospitals have the grossest food and best deals on parking.

    1. Heather, I totally love giving people the run-down on where to eat at the hospital to get something edible and not, well, cancer-causing, love the nurses who gave me stuff for my kids to play with (bolus syringes make GREAT water squirters!), and was both amused and chagrinned to note that one of my husband’s surgeons was handsome, kind and looked like he was about 18 years old which made me feel old.

  3. I’m pegged as an intellectual, which people think means I’m snooty and a grammar Nazi. But really I’m just a normal person who happens to teach college English.

    I’m pegged as an extrovert (because I’m loud), which people think means I don’t need to be asked my opinions or thoughts. But I’m really an introvert and I just want to sit quietly and talk with ONE friend over coffee or beer.

    1. As a fellow teacher-of-English, I agree! People judge me as an intellectual, and so unapproachable, but what I’d really like to do is talk reality TV.

  4. Wait, where is the quiz I take to see if I am an introverted extrovert who loves the 80’s?
    Great article Beth thanks for writing and sharing! I enjoy your blog a lot
    Chad – 97% pure ham extrovert

  5. I’m pegged as quiet, which people think means I’m an introvert, but really I am the exact opposite of Beth. When I am in groups, I usually listen more than I talk, but I am energized by spending time with people. When the time is right, I will share my thoughts.

  6. I usually like to write comments that are upbeat, but I am so empty today, my heart is just sick. I could just plunk my butt down anywhere today and just cry. So skip mine if you’re looking for uplifting. You’d need a forklift to uplift me today.

    I’m pegged as fat, which people think means I’m lazy and must eat garbage food, but actually I work very hard, I’m constantly busy, and our family diet is super healthy.

    I actually really like all those introvert things going around, because I am a “stereotypical” one, as chance would have it, and for whatever reason I always felt growing up like I was wrong somehow for not being outgoing. It is nice to read things that say, “introverts are okay too”. And I totally agree that when they give instructions on how to treat introverts, they can kind of get carried away. And it’s not okay to imply that introverts are the only right way to be either. But I appreciate what they are trying to do.

    1. Jessi, I am praying for a better tomorrow. All of us here have been where you are at times. Thank you for being real.

    2. Sending you love, Jessi. xo

  7. I am pegged as outgoing & friendly, which people think means I am self-confident and self-assured, but really I am shy and constantly worried about what other people think of me.

    I am pegged as a singer, which people think means I am a diva and always try to hog the spotlight, but really I just love music and I love to sing (alone and with others) and just happen to be a little bit good at it!

  8. I’m pegged as quiet, which people think means I don’t talk much, but get me together with my sisters or close friends, and just try shutting me up.

    I’m pegged as a reader who doesn’t watch TV, which people think means I’m some sort of intellectual snob, but most of what I read is mysteries and YA fiction–total escapism.

  9. I’m pegged as Wonder Woman and/or Xena, currently because I am helping my husband walk the cancer road as we raise two young children, which people think means I am handling it all so incredibly well, but really I am keeping Terror at bay with only moderate success and often feel like I am failing at doing either cancer caregiving or mothering well at all.

    I’m pegged as athletic an fit which people think means I feel great about myself but really I am constantly judging my appearance while trying to work on this because I have two daughters and I do not want them to be besieged by this kind of relentless battle with being okay with how they look.

    I’m pegged as artistic and creative which people think means it comes naturally to me and that I am doing it all the time but really it does not and I am not.

    Finally, probably few peg me as an introvert yet I am so few know how hard I work to be social in group settings and how overwhelming it often is for me.

  10. I’m pegged as the cancer patient who’s still in treatment, which people think means I’m brave and strong, but really I’m terrified.

    I’m pegged as the gay activist, which people think means I support outrageous and amoral sexual self-expression, but really means that I have to carefully choose what parts of the movement (to protect her inheritance rights) I can expose my innocent child to.

    I’m pegged as the adoption justice activist, which people think means that I feel guilty about giving a kid who didn’t turn out to be an orphan a good home, but really means that I think she deserves to know the truth about where she came from.

    This is fun! I could go on all night!

  11. I’m pegged as sarcastic, which people think means that I’m mean-spirited but in fact I am a very nice empathetic person who loves sarcasm.

  12. I’m pegged as a priest (which I am) which people think means I’m somehow more ‘Holy’ than they are, or that I’m against gay marriage and abortion, but really I am a progressive, feminist, pro-GBLTAQ rights woman of God.

    I’m pegged as ‘brave’ because I share my struggles and guilty thoughts with my congregation, but really I just over share.

    I’m pegged as being some kind of ‘supermum’ because I can be a Priest and a Mum and a wife/sister/daughter/RE teacher/musician all at the same time, but really I have an incredibly active and supportive husband and two remarkably easy going kids.

    I’m pegged as being confident and in control because I speak well in public but really I have just doubled my anti-anxiety meds.

    Wow, that feels good! Thank you everyone!

  13. Okay, you might guess this one. I’m pegged as serious, which people think means I don’t have much of a sense of humor, but the truth is I get highly amused at some of the most inappropriate times and at the most questionable subtleties and am used to suppressing my giggles.

    1. Sounds strikingly familiar, Judy!!

  14. I am pegged as quiet and sweet and thoughtful when sometimes I talk too much and too loud and think horrendously mean thoughts and forget to be nice and can be self-centered. And sometimes I just want to be heard.

    1. It sounds like you were writing about me.

  15. I’m pegged as a mother, which people think means I deserve every good and bad attribute the kids bring up, but really I am only one half of a parenting team and sometimes enjoy time away from my kids.

    I’m pegged as a homeschooler, which people think means I am this amazing multi-tasking, knowledgeable, superwoman, but really I am as human as anyone and often think about what I could get done if only the kids were not in my care all day every day.

    I’m pegged as a piano player, which people think means I always want to play piano *for them* (read; church, anyone random who comes over, kids, at people’s houses who also happen to have a piano/keyboard/outoftune kid’s xylophone), but really sometimes I want to sing along with everyone else or be known for *who I am* not *what I can do*.

    I’m pegged as a Christian, which other Christians think means I think and believe like them, but really I ask a lot of questions in my head and reject many of their beliefs/attitudes/behaviours. They probably also peg me that way because I don’t tend to talk about these things with them; purely because I actually care about them and don’t want to lose their friendship or familyship (or whatever word encompasses that which I can’t think of right now).

  16. I’m pegged as outspoken which people think means I’m a bitch but really I’m just trying to say the things others won’t to try and make things better. But lately my “give a damn” button seems to be broken.

  17. I’m pegged as confident which means people think I have no problem expressing myself but really I feel like I’m holding myself back all the time because nobody really cares or is listening o anyway…

  18. Oh Beth how I love this!! I’ve written about being an introvert too, and how there’s this sudden odd push that introvert = better. I hope you don’t mind if I link to you as a follow up to my own post!

    Also…

    I’m pegged as always smiling, which people think means I’m a cheerful, happy-go-lucky person, but really I’m moody and struggle with anxiety and mild depression.

    I’m pegged as a teacher, which people think means I’m endlessly happy to watch their kids, teach Sunday school, and have a toddler attached to my arm (and sometimes I am) but really I want to be an adult, actually ATTEND Sunday school, and not always be worrying about that unsupervised small one over there…

    I’m pegged as young, which people think means I have plenty of time to do all.the.grownup.things, but really I’ve been a functional adult since the age of 18 and got married at 21. Really, I don’t feel that young, just tired.

  19. I’m pegged as outgoing, which people think means I want to be with people all of the time, but which really means being with people energizes me, except for when it doesn’t and then I want to eat lunch by myself and watch movies, tucked in my bed, alone in the dark.

    I’m pegged as strong, which people think means I haven’t flipped out in front of them because I have two small children and a husband with cancer, but which really means I am very good at compartmentalizing and that I have firm faith in God’s plan for my family.

  20. I get pegged as someone who is strong and capable, which people think means I don’t need any help, but really I could desperately use a shoulder to cry (or even just lean!!) on.

    I get pegged as a single mom – which I am! – which people think means I am a scary momma bear who is fine doing it all alone, but really I wish there was a decent guy willing to step up to the plate for me and my son.

    I get pegged as someone mentally healthy, which people think means I either have no issues to deal with or handle the issues I have without difficulty, but really I miss my psychologist and wish there was a way for me financially to go back to him, because depression sucks.

  21. I’m pegged as stubborn and independent, which people think means I never need any help and expect I can do it all, but really I can’t.

    I’m pegged as loud, which people thing means I’m outgoing, but really I am an introvert who is volume-ally challenged.

    I’m pegged as opinionated, which people think means I’m judgmental, but really I just care a lot and want to help and don’t know how to keep my mouth shut.

    =)

  22. I’m pegged as someone who is an incredible sweetheart, which people think means I never, ever, once in a hundred years could say anything mean, or say no, or hurt a fly, but really I just keep what I really think locked away in my brain’s filter feature.

    I’m pegged as a Christian, which people think means I am closed minded and never drink, but really I like dirty jokes and drinking beer and listening to Tool.

    I’m pegged as a hipster mom, which people think means I only feed my kids food I grew myself and I never spank, but really I am excellent at doctoring up top ramen, I let my kids run around for a whole week covered in marker because baths are hard work, and we cosleep because I put my dirty laundry on the baby’s bed.

  23. So, basically, we’re all of us beautiful, complex, alarmingly human beings who need to take more time getting to know and less time pigeon holing. I LOVE this.

    I’m pegged as an extrovert, which people think means I’m too loud and talk too much, but really I’m an introvert who talks too loudly and too much. As you so perfectly said, it’s about how I spend energy and how I refuel. 🙂

    I’m pegged as healthy, which people think means normal, but really I have too many chronic immune disorders to list and I’m tired, tired, tiredtiredtired all. the. time. Tired on a good day tired. Oh so exhaustingly tired.

  24. Hi Beth, long time reader but I’m only just finding the courage to quit luiirking and comment! I’m not a mother, but I am a sister, a cousin, an assistant for a child with special needs, a youth group leader and so many of your posts speak to my heart.
    I’m pegged as a doer, which people think means I am totally capable and fine, but really I sometimes struggle.
    thank you for writing the way you do, and for giving Grace to so many!

    1. Luiiirking? Goodness knows. Should say lurking, obviously 🙂

    2. I too am not a mother, and enjoy lurking on here and laughing and nodding at all the truth. I’m a teacher, baby-sitter, former day care and church nursery/kids church teacher, and summer camp counselor. I’m also one who is in a rut of working with kids and sitting at home watching TV with very few friends. So I need to get out there and meet new people.

    3. YAY! Thanks for delurking, Naomi. Welcome here!

  25. I’m pegged as someone who is open about her mental illness, which people think means having a mental illness is no big deal to me, but really I’m embarrassed and don’t want to talk about it much – I’m just sick of people’s judgemental crap when it comes to people who have bipolar disorder.

    1. I’m pegged as a conservative Christian, which people think means I am judgemental and hateful. But really I am gracefilled and kind, accepting and loving.

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