Are You Nobody Too

Pro of reading non-fiction, mostly sociological science-y books before bed: it makes me very tired.

Con of reading non-fiction, mostly sociological science-y books at any time that is not before bed: it makes me very tired.

One of the non-fiction, mostly sociological science-y books I’m reading right now is called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” It’s a topic that’s interested me for the past year or two, the time period in which I realized that I was an introvert and most people don’t know what that means.

Everyone thinks an introvert is someone who is soft-spoken, shy, and a bit of a wallflower. By this standard, all introverts are mousy librarian types with no friends and probably many cats. Some of this is true – I would love to be a librarian, and while two cats isn’t really many, my cats are very fat so by volume, I suppose I do have a lot of cat – but really, the definition of an introvert is much more complex than I used to think. According to “Quiet,” an introvert is someone who prefers to live, think, and behave inwardly. They are not terrifically outgoing because they do not seek validation outwardly. That’s an extrovert, which has become the socially accepted ideal:

“We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal – the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight. The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk-taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt…We like to think that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual – the kind who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.” Introversion…is now a second-class personality trait, and somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.”

So that was nice. To be validated, I mean. See, I realize I’m an introvert and a few of the people I know realize it, too, but there are a lot more people (including a few other people I know) who think that’s weird or wrong or antisocial, and to them I say that I am not just weird or wrong or antisocial. I am all of those things and more.

“Quiet” is difficult to digest at times, though, and not because I feel it’s incorrect. What’s unnerving is that because introversion is not the ideal, a lot of introverts (and this includes me) spend their childhoods, adolescences, and early adulthoods being told that something isn’t right with the way they are. In grade school, I was sent to a counselor because of it. As an adult, I have been withheld promotions because of it. I’ve spent a lifetime being ignored by teachers, coaches, managers and peers because it is not in me to behave otherwise; I know this because I have been trying for years and obviously I have never fully succeeded at it.

It’s only within the past couple of years that I’ve been able to put the “introvert” label to myself, but thankfully, I spent a few years before that realizing that I’m comfortable with the way I am. I’m okay with spending time by myself, with turning inward, with finding enjoyment in things that are quieter or offer a greater potential for privacy. Of course, this is not to say that I’m not also punk as fuck (in some ways, albeit very small ones), but overall, I am far more comfortable sitting in the back of the room and being given some space. It’s how I recharge. It makes me feel like a better person.

Courtney put it well the other day when she said that in order to be her best, fullest, most generous self to others, she needs that time to be alone and get herself together, because without that, she’s not playing with a full deck. With all due respect, of course, since I’m the same way.

I have always been this way. No, seriously, I’ve been taking the Myers-Briggs test periodically since I was probably 20 and I always – always always always, across the years and maturity levels and situational chaos – scored an INTJ. It’s one of the rarest types on the profile but, I realize, what I’m built to be. There are and will be hundreds of times when I think about something I’ve done and say, probably aloud on a crowded bus because why wouldn’t I embarrass myself, “what is wrong with me?” but I can usually trace some part of my behavior to something embedded in my personality, something that’s not necessarily defective (although it certainly feels that way at times) but would be a lot less uncomfortable if some people just understood how it worked.

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About erineph

I'm Erin. I have tattoos and more than one cat. I am an office drone, a music writer, and an erstwhile bartender. I am a cook in the bedroom and a whore in the kitchen. Things I enjoy include but are not limited to zombies, burritos, Cthulhu, Kurt Vonnegut, Keith Richards, accordions, perfumery, and wearing fat pants in the privacy of my own home.
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