Thursday, January 16, 2014

Being an introvert is not a disease

My mother is an extrovert. She NEEDS to be around people, she tends to get depressed when she's alone too long. Considering she's an extrovert that never leaves the house, you can imagine the effect that has on her.

And yet, she's always on ME that I need to get out more. And the interesting part is that she uses the fact that I'm an introvert as her reason for why I need to get out more. I think that she thinks that getting out more would somehow "cure" me of my introversion. I find this hilarious. The fact that I don't like to be surrounded by a bunch of people, and in fact NEED time alone in order to recharge is exactly why I shouldn't be given that time alone? She also worries about one of my nephews because he's also an introvert.

In her defence, it's probably a case of she knows what being alone does to her, and doesn't quite understand that it doesn't do the same thing to me, or to Justin. That in fact, we are the polar opposite in this. There's also the possibility that introversion could be seen as a form of social anxiety. It isn't, and I'll get to that in a minute. First, I want to explain the real difference between extroverts and introverts.

So, what is the actual difference between extroverts and introverts? It's simple, really. It's a matter of how we get and expend energy. Extroverts are energized by being around other people, introverts are energized by being alone. Being alone is mentally and emotionally taxing to an extrovert. For an introvert, being around too many other people is what drains us. Honestly, to look at it from an introvert's perspective, extroverts are a type of psychic vampire, draining our energy for their own use.

End result? While extroverts need to be around other people, because being alone is tiring for them. Introverts need time alone because being around other people is tiring for us. That's it. If you think of your own energy level as a rechargeable battery, it comes down to exactly how we recharge that battery. My mother needs to talk to people to recharge her batteries. End result is that she talks almost incessantly. Silence is one of the things that drain her batteries. I, on the other hand, recharge my batteries by reading, or playing online. For Justin it's reading or playing his Nintendo DS. One of the end results of this is that my mother's constant chatter just exhausts me. A recipe for disaster, I guess.

Now, back to the social anxiety thing. While social anxiety can be a serious issue, it is not the same thing as simply being an introvert. While most people with social anxiety are introverts, the reverse is NOT true. Being around other people doesn't actually stress me out, or make me anxious, it just makes me tired. And that is really the difference between social anxiety and introversion. The actual effect that being around people has on us.

And while introverts are often seen as shy, that is also not always the case. Though the differences can be much more subtle. And harder for me to explain, since in my case, I AM shy as well as being an introvert. It's a bit harder to explain the differences between two different parts of your own personality than between one thing that does describe you compared to another thing that doesn't. And... I'm not even going to try. If any of you are introverts that are not shy, please feel free to explain the difference in the comments. Or if you're one of the admittedly probably rare shy extroverts, you can also try to explain the difference.

I just want to leave you with a plea to the extroverts of the world. We introverts do not have a disease. We do not have to be "cured". Please, try to think about how you would feel if we tried to make you more like us. Dragging an introvert out into social situations without allowing us to get time alone to recharge is the exact same thing as if we decided that YOU needed to be "cured" of being an extrovert and put you in solitary confinement to force alone time on you.

And that is my Wednesday ramble for this week. (Admittedly a day late, but oops...) Come back on Friday to meet William, who eventually becomes Catie's best friend other than Eli.

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