Happy World Introvert Day!

I am going to hole up at home so nobody talk to me today!!

Hah just kidding. As an introvert, I am NOT shy, quiet, reclusive, sensitive or anti-social (okay maybe sometimes anti-social because I am kind of selectively social)— I have no problems meeting new people or starting a conversation with a random stranger on the street. The world needs to stop labeling us with stereotypical traits. I am an “outgoing introvert” and I have friends who are “quiet extroverts.” The problem is that nobody really understands what extroversion and introversion is.

I love socializing and going out but I prefer to spend the majority of my time alone, and that is the only way I can handle all my social engagements, which ironically, I cannot live without either!! It’s a delicate balance maintaining the life of an outgoing introvert. Sigh.

As an introvert, I tend to burn out quicker from too much social interaction and NEED my alone time to recharge. Note that I said “need,” not “want,” as in I may kill someone if you don’t let me go sit in a dark corner by myself so I can be alone. This is why I make sure to take preventative measures— me time, where I don’t have to interact with a soul, such as my solo bike rides and workouts at the gym with headphones on (even when there is no music playing), so no one will talk to me.

When I am having an introvert burn out, YOU WILL KNOW… because as I get older, I care less about what people think and will shamelessly make no effort to be social, even at a party filled with people where I will sit in the corner by myself until I can escape. I’ve been known to disappear from parties and then to show up and hour later… I was probably hiding so I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I can’t begin to explain how overwhelming and draining social situations are if I am not mentally prepared. As dramatic as it sounds; the noise, the crowd, the heat… sometimes it is so suffocating that I feel like the world is going to fall on me. Is it weird that I give myself time outs? Yes probably, but they are necessary and they work. When I come back to the party, it’s as if I am on my second wind and all is well again. No shame!!

Love yourself, respect yourself, withdraw when you need to. You do not need to live up to the ‘extrovert ideal‘ where you must be sociable and ‘up’ all the time. “We don’t go away, we go within.”

Most of my closest friends are loud, chatty extroverts and when I was younger and didn’t understand psychology, I constantly wished I could keep up with them and it was distressing when I realized I always ended up being one of the first ones to perform the deplorable act of tapping out. Sigh!!! But I want to stay out and party too! Sigh again! I mean, I can be loud and chatty, and I wanted to go out all the time but I lacked their energy to keep on going… and going and going. These days, I’m grateful for my extroverted friends because I realized I am a slight empath and I can absorb their energy to mimic their liveliness (of course, as long as I continued responsibility of gifting myself plenty of alone time). This unfortunately means I am sensitive to energy so if I am surrounded by low energy or negative people, I experience excessive stress. If there is going to be no meaningful social interaction, I’d rather be off in my own world. Alone. Riding my bike, contemplating or hibernating at home.

As an introvert, I am selectively social and have no problems turning down social engagements if it means being around people who don’t contribute positively into my life, meaningless conversations and small talk (yuck). I think I have mastered the art of small talk but it is the most agonizing thing in the world. Life is too short to not be surrounded by people who matter and to not have meaningful and fulfilling conversations. I’m not rude… I’d just rather not waste my breath than partake in small talk! Hah.

Us introverts tend to ponder before we speak or react. We are great listeners and rational decision makers. We don’t need constant praise or attention. We are low maintenance and do not need to be entertained… I am never bored when I’m alone.

I am not implying our extroverted-counterparts do not exhibit any of these traits, because in fact most of us lie somewhere on the middle of the spectrum— as ambiverts, manifesting traits from both sides. BUT we all lean closer towards one side of the scale, either as an introvert or an extrovert. Yes, you came into your world either as an introvert or an extrovert because that is how your brain was wired!

Different areas of our brain are activated depending on various circumstances. An extroverts’ reward system in the brain responds differently to stimuli than those of an introvert. Extroverts are less sensitive to dopamine (a neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure systems), hence craving more stimulation which explains the stereotypical qualities such as risk-taking and constant need for socializing and challenges, which keeps these extroverts happy, fulfilled, and most importantly, stimulated.

The same dopamine causes over-stimulating effects on introverts because our brains are already so active, hence our heightened need for peace and quiet, and tendency to seek out time alone. We also have more grey matter in our prefrontal-cortex, which is linked to abstract thoughts and decision-making, which is why we tend to spend more time pondering before reacting. Information traverses a longer pathway to parts of our brain that processes taste, touch, sound and sight whereas it does the opposite in an extrovert’s mind, and this explains why we may sit quietly during meetings processing information in deep thought, while our extroverted, live-in-the-moment colleagues just shout out what is on their mind.

Not one side is right or wrong… it is simply how our brains are wired. Isn’t that fascinating? Introversion and extroversion will never black and white matter because we need both types of people to maintain a balanced state of homeostasis in the world we live in.

Are you an introvert?

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