Friday, November 23, 2012

Introspection and Introversion

I've been feeling more introspective than usual, and this introspection was caused by a letter to an advice columnist that I read a couple weeks ago: A mother, who along with her husband was a self-described party-loving extrovert, didn't know how to help her daughter, whose personality was seemingly diametrically opposed. The daughter wanted to quiet holiday instead of dealing with 45 others for Thanksgiving because she found it overwhelming and draining; the mother simply couldn't figure out what was going on or why her daughter was like this, since apparently every other person in the family was an extrovert who'd wanted to go all out.

(My family was not like that, but for a while when I was little, we did have a lot of people over for Thanksgiving and Christmas - nothing like the 45 people over, but perhaps a dozen or two.)
The response included a link to Quiet, which I read this past week, as well as Introvert Power, which I'm currently reading. Both these books have gotten me thinking about how I interact with people around me, what I need for social fulfillment, etc. I was reminded of being talked to a number of times when I was a kid about not reading so much, about going out and playing with other kids, which I just didn't want to do much of; then, as now, I wanted to be left alone to ruminate. There was (and is) always so much going on in my head that I needed a lot of time to think; I needed a lot of time to recharge from school, which at least in elementary school was a great experience, and reading and writing were the best ways for me to do that.

Of course, I didn't know how to explain that as a kid, and I probably should have played more with other kids on the weekends than I did, but it also possibly wasn't necessary. I was social enough, and I didn't need more; I needed time away.

In any case, it was this quote that jumped out at me: "Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the "real me" online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally. The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend those relationships into the real world." -- from Quiet by Susan Cain.

Maintaining a presence online when I did was absolutely integral to "finding" myself, more than I think my parents may have realized. When I began playing around online, they were afraid of something happening ot me; it seemed that nearly every week my parents found stories of young women being kidnapped and assaulted by perverted men whom they had met online. My computer time was limited, by password or other means; ultimately, it didn't stop me from maintaining an online presence anyway. (In the end, all my boyfriends weremen I'd met in the same chat room - as was the fella I eventuall married.) I felt then, as I do now, that learning to navigate one's presence online is exactly like learning to naviage the physical world; it's absolutely necessary to learn, otherwise you will get taken advantage of and hurt later, but again, thse are skills that need to be learned - how to "read" people both online and in person. It was that online presence that allowed me to figure myself out and extend those relationships to the outside world.

And this, too, struck me: "What constitutes an introvert is quite simple. We are a vastly diverse group of people who prefer to look at life from the inside out. We gain energy and power through inner reflection, and get more excited by ideas than by external activities. When we converse, we listen well and expect others to do the same. We think first and talk later. Writing appeals to us because we can express ourselves without intrusion, and we often prefer communicating this way." -- from Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe.

I think before I speak; I react sometimes much later, especially if something has upset me. Writing is so much better than speaking, because writing allows me to figure out what I actually feel and think, more than speaking aloud generally does.

It's so nice to know that this is an actual thing, that a lot of other people do this.

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