I sometimes wish that I could say this out loud. These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of group meetings at work, family get togethers to meet the new baby, training courses that require participation, going away and retirement parties, and the list goes on and on. I don’t like networking, small talk or talking about the weather….
Honestly, after work or weekends, I would rather go home, read a good book, go for a run alone, contemplate whether my next painting should be mainly red hues or blue, or just stare at grass growing in my garden.
I do not think I am shy or anti-social. I am not shy as I do not have a fear of negative social judgement. On the contrary. Since I started my mindfulness journey, I have learned social judgement does not carry as much weight as it used to. Neither am I anti-social. I do go out (albeit rarely) for after-work drinks and when I do, I prefer to go with one or two colleagues instead of a large group of people.
I actually did not know exactly how to describe this feeling of “withdrawing” until recently when I saw a passionate discussion by Susan Cain on TED Talks about introversion. Susan Cain, a self proclaimed introvert, argues that modern Westernized culture sometimes misunderstands and undervalues the power of introverts. Based on research and interviews, she argues that our schools and workplaces are designed with extroverts in mind. In fact, to some extent, we have always extolled the extrovert ideal in the workplace and in the process, does a grave disservice to introverts. Check out her excellent TED Talks on the power of introverts. It’s actually quite compelling.
As an introvert, I prefer lower stimulation environments and so prefer quiet, less noise, less action. Extroverts, on the other hand, need more stimulation to feel at their best. Don’t misunderstand. Some of my best friends are extroverts. I used to think they have superpowers of unlimited energy. They always seem to be in the middle of the discussion, have the most charisma and people immediately gravitate to them. Sometimes I jokingly call them my “DIVA” or “High Maintenance” friends….and we share a good chuckle.
As I was reading more and more about being an introvert, I was transported to a memory of attending a party that my brother and his partner were hosting at their new condo. The party was in full swing when my husband and I arrived and there were a lot of new people to meet, hands to shake, hors d’oeuvres to enjoy. After a few minutes of networking, I searched for my brother and found him in his study, going through some digital pictures he had just taken with his new SLR. To this day, I remember spending more time in his study than out where the laughter and loud lively conversations continued until the wee hours of the morning.
Large family get togethers are particularly exhausting, I find. Funny how I don’t find get togethers with my side of the family as trying. It’s likely because my side of the family is made up of introverts….my mother once yelled out jokingly “Anyone here?” as she found the house way too quiet (my father, brother and I generally spent numerous lazy afternoons reading…!).
My husband’s side of the family is a different story. I do believe they are the exact opposite. Family gatherings are loud, lively and almost always revolving around critiquing the food (their family owned a restaurant once and so they know good food!). I love these gatherings…but only in small doses.
I realize now that being an introvert IS actually OK. Of course, I can honestly say that I could NOT have said that in the beginning of my accounting career–I had to impress, had to have super human stamina during audits, be the super social, networking freak. Sure, it was exhausting but had to be done, a rite of passage. The person I am today is older AND hopefully a little wiser, more mindful, more comfortable in my own skin. I paid my dues and have really nothing to prove. Introvert or not, I like who I am today.
So, I do think the next time I get an invitation and I’m wishy-washy about attending but eventually succumbs… I will be be honest…
“I’m sorry I’m late…I did not want to come.”