Misunderstood Identity

I can’t tell you how many times I hear someone say or imply that people who are shy, awkward, or socially inept are introverts.
It makes me want to punch a small animal.

Okay, maybe not that bad… but it seriously gets under my skin.

To me, introversion is one of the most misunderstood labels.
I understand that it can be hard to pinpoint in someone, but the blanket stereotype that connotates social malfunction or people phobias is just taking it way too far.

About 10 years ago or so is when this all started for me.
I remember being “diagnosed” as an ENFP at Teen Mania through the Myers Briggs Type Assessment (ENFJ at first, but that was later amended).

Looking back, I think I chose some answers that leaned more towards Extroversion because being an Extrovert in our society is deemed more acceptable, and I so badly wanted to be accepted. If a question on the test asked if I preferred “going to a large party” vs. “staying home alone or with one friend” I probably falsely chose “going to a large party” because I wanted to make friends in this new season of my life.

I struggled constantly with this tension between loving my friends and being around people vs. all those people and friends driving me crazy after about 4+ hours of their company. I wondered why I was so difficult? Everyone else was fine if we hung out ALL DAY doing loud and crazy things. Everyone else was fine if the chaos never ended and people never went home to their own beds. Why was I so cranky all of a sudden? Why did it make me so tired to have to fight for a word in a conversation, or to be constantly interrupted?

After too much social effort I would become withdrawn, irritable, and snarky.
And I didn’t know why.

Fast forward 3 years …

I was literally browsing the self-help section of the Barnes and Noble in Tyler, TX for answers to my problem.

The first book I picked up was about HSP syndrome.
HSP = Highly Sensitive Person
I felt like I fit some of the criteria, but not all of it.
I put the book back on the shelf and kept looking.

The next book I picked up was called “The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World” and was written by a bunch of doctors.
I didn’t think I was an Introvert because of the stigmas attached to that title, but as I browsed the Table of Contents (always a good indicator of a book’s relevance!) Chapter 6 caught my eye… Chapter 6 was titled: “Socializing: Party Pooper or Pooped from the Party?”

As I began reading it my life was LITERALLY changed.
I quickly realized I was a closet Introvert.
I quickly knew I wanted to read and buy this book.
I knew I had to re-take that Myers Briggs test again. (I did, by the way, and I was a full blown INFP!)
I finally had answers to my questions.

The point of all this is this:

I had to know myself to figure out how to thrive.
Introversion was not a shyness or social phobia, but a way of coping with stimulus.
I did love my friends.
I did love a good party.
I did not have a social malfunction.
I simply became emotionally and mentally and physically drained from a certain degree of activity or commotion.

I learned that some people in my life did not drain me at all.
Some people I can be around all the time for as many days as you can count and I am totally fine.
Other people I can only be around for about 30 minutes and I need to get away.
I love quieter environments and non-obnoxious people.

I watched this video tonight that talks about the way our society has oriented itself around an Extroverted audience.
This video is what prompted me to write this post and share my story.
It is worth watching, though kind of long.
I highly recommend it.

I also highly recommend getting to know who your friends, significant other, co-workers, etc really are.
Don’t assume that just because they didn’t want to go to that loud bar or concert with you that they don’t like you and don’t want to be your friend.
Chances are they do, but the thought of such an event leaves them exhausted.
Don’t assume that because they are quiet or non-charismatic that they are awkward or insecure.
Chances are they so confident and secure that they don’t need to fill the silence all the time. 🙂

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p.s. – If you’re an Introvert, use the comments to give a little  shout out for yourself. (It doesn’t have to be a loud shout.)


6 comments on “Misunderstood Identity

  1. Colby says:

    Enjoyed the video a lot.
    I am tempted to spread it around work, actually.
    4 out of 5 parties I attend, I leave angry that I contemplated enjoying them in the first place. lol
    Well, 4 out of the 5. =P

  2. Courtney says:

    Thanks for your honesty! I love it. You’re right there was a huge social stigma on introverts around those parts. I need to take that test again, maybe I’m more introverted than I thought. Most important is understanding yourself, which it sounds like you are doing good on! Good thoughts.

  3. Jennifer says:

    I totally get this 🙂 Thanks for sharing! I have also often wondered what was “wrong” with me that I NEED my personal, alone time in order to function and (even though I love people) would many times choose being on my own rather than being in a group. But I understand that I need this to recharge my batteries.

  4. Good video….I don’t know what I am….I like creating by myself….but I also like to teach what I have created. I am not a great public speaker, but can do it when needed without dying on the spot….but I have found that the more I do it, the easier it seems the next time. I love being with people…and sometimes think I am a real people person, but also like alone time occasionally as well. I create best alone. I find that I like one on one the best. I can handle one friend or person at a time, better than crowds. I don’t like pushy obnoxious people. I am a real planner….I like to know what is coming up before it gets there, but I like surprises too. I am a real puzzler I suppose….or maybe I’m both and in the middle of the road….hummm….love your thoughts though….you spark me to think…..

  5. Amber Montgomery says:

    INFP FTW! I read the highly sensitive people book trying to figure myself out btw. 🙂

  6. Yes, it is kind of discouraging to be an introvert when extraversion is what current society favors. Even parents fret over their children if their are not acting sociably — having sleepovers with friends, playing team sports, etc. Fortunately, more people are realizing that their are advantages of introversion and that the issue is not so “black and white”.

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