I’ve been reading the book Quiet recently, by Susan Cain. It’s about introverts and our place in the world, as well as how we came to be. It’s a good way to distract myself from what has been happening recently, and it’s a topic I have some interest in. what with being an introvert and all. I guess one of the big things that comes to me is that being an introvert has nothing to do with being shy; being shy means that one is nervous or apprehensive about being around and talking to other people. Being an introvert means that, in general, one prefers a life of the mind rather than a life out in the world; an introvert likes to spend time thinking and contemplating, exploring thoughts and feelings. They tend to prefer solitary activities – things like writing (like I’m doing now), research, using a computer, creating art, to things that involve working on teams. They prefer to concentrate on a single activity at a time, and tend to pursue that task single-mindedly and doggedly until done. They don’t tend to seek leadership positions, being content to remain out of authority, though they’ll accept it if offered. They prefer quiet settings – a few close friends, or remaining solitary, over large groups of people who they may or may not know. That is seen as one of the defining characteristics of an introvert. Some people who are introverts may not even realize it, though, because there’s more to being an introvert than just being quiet and solitary, as this article, 23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert, explains.

Susan Cain’s Manifesto for Introverts

1. There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much”: thinkers.

2. Our culture rightly admires risk-takers, but we need our “heed-takers” more than ever.

3. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.

4. Texting is popular because in an overly extroverted society, everyone craves asynchronous, non-F2F communication.

5. We teach kids in group classrooms not because this is the best way to learn but because it’s cost-efficient, and what else would we do with the children while all the grown-ups are at work? If your child prefers to work autonomously and socialize one-on-one, there’s nothing wrong with her; she just happens not to fit the model.

6. The next generation of quiet kids can and should be raised to know their own strength.

7. Sometimes it helps to be a pretend-extrovert. There’s always time to be quiet later.

8. But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is the key to finding work you love and work that matters.

9. Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.

10. Rule of thumb for networking events: one genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.

11. It’s OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.

12. “Quiet leadership” is not an oxymoron.

13. The universal longing for heaven is not about immortality so much as the wish for a world in which everyone is always kind.

14. If the task of the first half of life is to put yourself out there, the task of the second half is to make sense of where you’ve been.

15. Love is essential, gregariousness is optional.

16. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Gandhi

I find it interesting, because of my own experiences, and those of others I know. It can be easy to withdraw from a lot of people as an introvert, because we just don’t have the same need to for personal contact that some people do. I think in some ways I’m an exception there, because I try to keep in touch with a (for me) relatively large circle of friends – people from high school, college, and quite a few from Menninger and that I have gotten to know in Houston. I don’t make a lot of effort to go out and meet new people, necessarily, but I make sure to try to keep up with the friends that I have. When that circle gets disrupted, I take it pretty hard. But I can understand the drive to withdraw; it can be very tiring at times to keep up with everything going on, and especially as someone with depression, as well, that can take a pretty big toll. I know that puling away from the people who care for us, or who we care for, can be dangerous for us, because it can lead to bad places. I have also seen what a mess things can be when an introvert and an extrovert come together; one wants to pull away for silence and time to think, while the other wants to come together to talk and be together. When both are trying to get what they want, eventually feelings will get hurt, and it is painful to watch. It’s one of the times I think working for compromise is important, because there has to be a way both an introvert and an extrovert can get some of what they want without driving the other person away.

These are the things I think about when I’m sitting by myself. Sometimes it’s deep, and sometimes not, but it is how I often choose to spend my time. I like to spend time with friends and loved ones, but too many people and I’m exhausted within the hour. The only way I can survive in a retail job is because most of the people I see are there for only a minute or two, and then gone. When there are too many people clamoring around, like at a book signing, an author speaking, or other event, I can feel my stress meter slowly tick upwards until by the end of my shift I don’t want to smile at people but snarl at them. I have to spend most of my breaks at work just unwinding, calming down from the sheer weight of people who come through the store. And yet right now, going to work is one of the best distractions I have from the things I am going through, and I find that a lot of things that I feel are hard to process alone. So even though I know I’m an introvert, I know there are times – frequent times – that I need to find company. My introversion makes it hard for me to seek people out, but managing my depression means that I know when I need to talk to others. It’s an interesting road to walk.


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