The Extrovert Detox
I was born an introvert, quiet, highly sensitive to my surroundings with the purpose of changing the world for the better. These might be at odds and you might wonder how a quiet introvert can possibly take on the challenge of changing the world. The answer lies in the adaptability of life, the life choices I make and the actions I take on the way.
Being highly sensitive means that I take in more than others of clues and information that I encounter every single waking minute of my life. At night I have vivid dreams that seem to overcompensate for the quiet life I choose to live. Because of my highly sensitive nature I can often feel overwhelmed. A simple conversation or group activity can leave me feeling mentally exhausted and ready to hide somewhere alone, just to try and recuperate.
Being like that, however, also has its positives. It means that I spend more time thinking and evaluating what I encounter. I read more, learn more, study more. A self-confessed know-it-all, this is the best preparation to challenge the world to change its thinking. Mainstream doesn’t work with me, not very often anyway. I tend to question, wanting to know the whys and hows and what ifs. Often this approach hasn’t gotten me very far in discussions with others because they either couldn’t understand the complexity of my question or didn’t know the answer. All too often I was told not to ask such silly questions.
Self-doubt has been, and still is with me most days. But again, it helps to evaluate myself, my behaviour and the reactions from others. One might say that it is a lonely path I chose, an idealistic freedom fighter on the way to unknown territory. The fact that only about 20% of the world population is introvert makes it harder for us to prove our validity and to explain why we choose quiet solitude over crowded parties. The majority of people loves to go out clubbing and listen to loud music and to talk exuberantly as if there was no tomorrow. And they have come to understand that most people like that sort of thing. That’s what today’s mainstream marketing is aiming at. At the extrovert fun and action loving people.
This makes it even harder for introverts to stand up for themselves and say it is okay to be like I am, because all through their life have they been told that it is not. That they were too quiet, that they were geeky, that they were boring together with plain weird and not worth wasting time on. But if you ever spent that time on that quiet person in the corner, you will not only find a really interesting personality but also a friend for life that you can trust and who will listen deeply, offering good advice and who would will inspire you to be more like them and less like the actual boring drunken people who scream and shout before stripping off and jumping naked into the pool. I suppose it adds a little excitement to your life if that’s what you need.
Evaluative question: why am I writing about this? Maybe because I feel so misunderstood by society. My whole life have I played some strange copy of Jekyll and Hyde in a weak attempt to adapt to people around me. And whereas there were times when I enjoyed drinking and exhausting laughter I remember mostly that this were times where I wasn’t truly myself. But it is a long and arduous trek to accept that you are simply different and don’t want to play this game no more.
I have all but given up table sugar and changed my diet to a great deal to avoid food groups that I don’t agree with, which was a battle of its own. And I am now ready to give up on that false reality of pretending to be extrovert and wholly accept my introvert and sensitive nature and not so much avoid extrovert groups but more so make choices to participate in activities that I feel happy with and to not just do what others expect of me because it suits their idea of fun.
There have already been times where I declined going for a drink or to a club and had to undergo the exhaustive discussion to explain why I didn’t feel like it without offending anyone. I was often lost for words. The more true to myself I become, the less I begin to worry about the complexity of words. A gentle smile, a grateful word a gentle decline. Not a problem, if you learn how to.
This whole topic on introversion and high sensitivity have been much clearer to me after reading the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain and “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine Aron. It was almost as if I was reading books about myself. All the confusion about who I was and who I was supposed to be settled and merged into a much stronger version of my quiet self. “Quiet” even explained that it is possible to grow out of being shy and to adapt a much more dominant mannerism, something that I had already observed in myself. The more you practice something that causes you stress, the more your nervous system, particularly the amygdala, will calm down.
Reading this reaffirmed to me that it is indeed possible as an introvert to conquer the world. When I was younger people said about me that I was shy. I didn’t like it, but not knowing the difference between being shy and being a highly sensitive introvert I accepted my shyness, maybe even hid behind it at times when I couldn’t be bothered to do something. In recent years, however, have I morphed into this outspoken individual that reaches for as many stars as she can reach and doesn’t stop at a barrier. Instead she carefully dissembles any barrier and carries on with her quest to the infinite answer.
The important clue in this is that you can do anything, however shy or introvert you may be, as long as you are standing up for something that is close to your heart. It’s almost like as if your heart itself will give you extra power to succeed. Try it! The next time you have to do that presentation or lead that talk or whatever else it may be that makes you feel insecure and causes you to go blank and trip over your tongue, make sure there is something in that talk that really inspires you and that you feel will create a positive change in the listeners. And don’t forget to breathe, as this is vital for your brain function 😉
To a happy and quiet life!