Thursday, January 30, 2014

Finding the Real Me

 At age two and a half with my little brother Matt.

This post will be a bit self-indulgent. 
To my handful of readers, please feel free to stop reading and wait till the next one.
I rarely expound or write much in this space,
and in fact, there really is no rhyme or reason to my blog.
It has always been a hodge-podge collection of random things in my life.
I mainly write for myself because I find it rather therapeutic.
But recently I have discovered something about myself
that has been very profound and actually very freeing.
It has taken me over 50 years to realize this, accept and embrace it.
I actually owe this to my daughters who brought this to my attention a few years ago.
And yet at that time when they mentioned it to me I was actually quite defensive
telling them very strongly, 
"No! I am not!"
Then I came across this book and realized most certainly,
"Yes! I am!


Front and center at a 6th grade party

 Introversion may be one of the most frequently misunderstood personality traits.
So of course, my defensive reaction was due in part to that.
 I'm not shy, or a hermit, or anti-social.
Isn't that the description of an introvert?
Apparently I was wrong.

 Seriously, I can't believe I am posting this photo.
Who has a photo taken of themselves in a bathtub??
The back of this photo says I was in the dorms at Snow College
at an LDS youth conference (age 14).
I sure must have thought that tub was awesome or something...:)

During my youth I did all the typical things that would signal to those who knew me
that I was a very social person. 
I'm sure if you were to ask anyone who knew me back then they would perhaps
describe me as being very outgoing, friendly, involved.
And I was.
When I was little I recruited neighborhood kids to be in plays I directed on my front porch.
My brother even sold tickets.
Like many teenagers I was active in many things:
Sports, student council, plays, choirs, church activities, volunteering,
an after-school job, seminary council, dating, school assemblies, community events...
You get the picture.
But in the back of my mind I couldn't put my finger on why I always longed to be alone
after these activities and why I always felt so mentally drained. 

 In the dressing room at Sundance before a performance of 'Gypsy.'

These feelings became magnified as I headed off to BYU where I majored in Theatre.
Why would an introvert major in theatre and study to be a teacher?
Why would an introvert become an actress?

 How on earth could I be an introvert and sing and dance in front of thousands of people?
Why would I choose to put myself in those exhausting and daunting situations when all I really wanted to do afterwards was to be alone and read a good book, watch television or play the piano?

 At college I had several fun roommates and guy friends.
It was the era of 'The Disco' and the hot spot in town was The Star Palace.
During my first year in an apartment my very social roommates always wanted to go 
dance there and often they would even bring the disco to our living room.
I went a few times just to be nice, and even though I was a dancer, I never really enjoyed it.
It was loud, and flashy with strong smells of perfume and body odor. 
I smiled and tried to have a good time, but all I could think about was going home,
taking a hot shower and crawling into bed to read a good book.
If I wasn't in a play rehearsal, at work, or at the library,
I often felt trapped if I was at the apartment and they were pressuring me to join them.
Using 'homework' as my excuse I would hide out in my room.
At the end of the semester they made me a tee-shirt that read:
'Apartment Party-Poop.'
Yep, I guess that was me.
Truly, I couldn't figure out what my problem was.
Large social groups stressed me out.
I always felt most comfortable in one-on-one situations
or with just a few good friends.

 At the Rooftop Concerts where I ran the greenroom for the bands for two seasons.
Here with artist Caitlin Connolly, founder Courtney Kendrick (CJane), and photographer and founder Justin Hackworth.
(I absolutely LOVED this experience, but seriously I couldn't function for a week after each concert; partly because of some physical health challenges, but mostly because of this personality issue.)

My introversion has magnified and actually become more challenging as I've gotten older.
Sometimes it takes every bit of mental energy I can muster to attend a social event.
I would beat myself up and be frustrated because I didn't understand why it was so hard for me.
Ironically, several of my close friends would be considered extroverts
as is my dear husband who has patiently dealt with this for over thirty years.

Now, I haven't meant to make this sound like some awful curse. It isn't. 
In fact, I am so grateful I read this book because it has helped me understand why I am the way I am.
And I am okay with it.
And, apparently I am not alone and in some pretty good company:

 Some well-known introverts.

Here's what Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame) has to say about it:
"I'm an introverted kind of person just by nature, it's not like a conscious choice I'm making necessarily. It's genuinely who I am. Have you seen 'Quiet' by Susan Cain? discusses how if your anything other than an extrovert in our society you're made to think there is something wrong with you. That's like the story of my life. Coming to realize that (being an introvert) about myself was very empowering, because I had felt there must be something wrong with me, because I don't always want to go out and do what all my friends want to do."

Some things the book helped me understand:

Extroverts tend to gain their energy in social situations 
while introverts typically recharge through solitude and often feel drained
from too much stimulation.

The idea that introverts are anti-social or don't want the company of others
is completely false.
Introverts simply tend to enjoy social interaction in a different way.
Introverts DO like people, but they typically choose quality over quantity in their relationships,
choosing to focus on creating a smaller circle of close friends rather than
a large network of acquaintances.

I am especially relieved to have this enlightenment not only for my own peace of mind, but for more understanding of my children's personality traits. 
I have been guilty in the past of trying to push a few of them to be 'more social'
while being completely ignorant to their needs.
Now I am more empathetic.
No longer do I think I am strange or that something is 'wrong' with me.
I feel much more content to be my authentic self.
Thank you Susan Cain.
(And thanks to my 'daughters who shall not be named' for bringing this to my attention.)
"...and a little child shall lead them."


Rain Coyote said...

Introverts Unite (Individually)!

M-Z-T said...

Love the post! I've read that too and I am an introvert; I totally gte it!

Jakob. . . no way.

Hugs Mumma Cope!

Cookie Doe said...

Court- I laughed out loud!

Trilby-wonderful post. No question about what I am, and I am now comfortable with it. Thank you :)

Sereia said...

This post was beautifully expressed. And I totally relate. :-)