In a world that seems to be dominated by extroverts (of course, because introverts don’t generally have as much of a desire to fill the limelight) it is hard to be an introvert without feeling like there’s something wrong with me.
Let me start by explaining what an introvert is and what an introvert isn’t.
An introvert isn’t just someone who is shy and doesn’t like people.
An introvert is someone who very much loves people, has a great deal of compassion and affection for others, but who also is physically and emotionally drained by spending time with other people.
An introvert isn’t a shut-in who avoids the world at all costs.
An introvert is someone who, although he/she enjoys spending time with family and friends, desperately needs to spend time alone to recharge and relax.
An introvert isn’t a rude person who simply doesn’t want to talk to you.
An introvert is bad at small talk and finds small talk tiring and uncomfortable.
I am an introvert and I also have social anxiety. Social anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness, dread, or apprehension about social interaction and presentation. Introversion and social anxiety, when combined, can be a toxic mix.
The weird thing about me, even though I am a socially anxious introvert, is that I enjoy public speaking and performing. I love talking in front of people (as long as it is planned out and practiced) and I love performing worship on Monday nights at Celebrate Recovery. But as I say I enjoy these things, that doesn’t make them any less emotionally draining on me. I need quiet, alone time to emotionally recoup from this level of interaction.
If you know me at all, you’ll know that I HATE talking on the phone. If I don’t answer my phone when you call or I don’t call you back, don’t take it personally. If you text me, or contact me any of the other 10 ways I can be contacted through my iPhone (technology humor, lol) that don’t actually require me to talk to you, I’ll probably send you a pretty speedy response.
Here’s another thing about introverts, we communicate much more effectively through writing or other non-verbal forms of communication. I have some friends and family who get frustrated by this, but what you need to understand about me (or whoever the introvert is in your life) is that I love and I care about you very deeply, but I will never be able to express that in the same as my extroverted counterparts.
Due to my social anxiety, I also find it hard to make true and lasting friends. I get anxiety at the simple thought of making a phone call to someone I don’t know…and sometimes even to people I do know. I have anxiety about going to the grocery store, going to church, attending Bible studies, taking my daughter to school, going to family events at my husband unit…you name it, if it involves being around other people (especially people I don’t know) it causes me anxiety.
Now, combine my introversion and social anxiety…what you get is a lot of anxiety attacks and tears.
So we’ve already covered that introverts have a desperate physical NEED for quite, alone time…away from ALL other people. Let’s talk about how hard this is as a wife and mother.
As a wife and mom, I spend almost all day, every day with either my kids or my husband. I have very little, if any, time to tune out the world and refocus myself. What happens when days, weeks, or even months, pass without being able to find that quite time to recharge? Anxiety skyrockets and tempers soar. Social anxiety becomes exacerbated and social interactions become fewer and fewer.
An introvert who isn’t able to fulfill the very deep need for alone time becomes a ticking time bomb. My husband, and most of my family, has seen this side of me on many occasions. I try to hold it together and do things like normal, but with each passing day, my heart beats a little faster and my head pounds a little harder. I can, physically, feel the effects of it in my body. An introvert CANNOT be expected to function like an extrovert, at least not for very long.
It’s hard though, to explain to the people I love the absolute most – my husband and children, that sometimes I just can’t be around them. Sometimes I need them to just leave me alone so I can pray, cry, write, think, read, take a bath…just recharge my heart, mind, and soul. But one BIG lesson I’ve learned in recent months is that it’s better to apologize to them for retreating to the back of the house or out on a run for an hour or so than to have to apologize for angry words that cannot be taken back. You are not a bad parent or spouse just because you take time off to take care of yourself – in fact, that makes you pretty awesome!
Introverts, my advice to you is to accept who you are as an introvert. We cannot be extroverts, we never will be. God made us this way for a reason and the world needs us just as much as it needs extroverts. Take pride in who you are. Learn to know your limits. Know when it’s time for you to spend time alone, but don’t use it as an excuse to shut out the world completely.
Extroverts, don’t try to pressure your introverted loved ones into being an extrovert. Acknowledge that we have different personalities and be okay with that. The world needs us both.
But whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, that’s not your identity. Although your personality is one or the other, our identities are still all found in Christ…after all, that’s what truly matters.