I just read this article in Scientific American about introverts. It is a great article and everything about it resonated with me. I’ve always been an introvert and I’ve always felt like it was something that was a disadvantage. As the author said, this world really is aimed at extroverts and we encourage people to be “go-getters”. I’ve become pretty good at faking extraversion. So good, in fact, that I got my last job because my boss mentioned that he thought my extroverted personality would be the best fit for the work environment. Faking it is draining though. I wish I could say I was an introvert without people thinking that I was an anti-social pariah.
It sucks that introverts are under appreciated. I actually think being an introvert makes me much more productive at work. Unlike most people in the office, I’m able to concentrate on a project for a few hours without needing to have a conversation with someone every twenty minutes. Many people I know look at introversion as being a character flaw. People always tell me that I don’t go out enough or don’t socialize enough. They don’t realize how exhausting doing those things are for me. I enjoy the company of my close friends and family but I’ve always found it difficult to go to office parties for example. There are too many people there I don’t know well. It’s like sensory overload for me. It feels forced. Fake smile, fake conversation, just for the sake of appearing like I’m having fun and fitting in. I usually don’t go to office parties and I inevitably get asked why. It’s always annoying to have to come up with an excuse because you know that saying “I just don’t like parties” is not acceptable. Also, I’ve always preferred having boundaries. I don’t know if that has anything to do with being an introvert, but I was always reticent about getting too personal with people at work. It seems like everything can be held against you nowadays and I am pretty opinionated about everything so I usually avoid talking about anything of consequence with colleagues. That means that I stay away from religion, politics and my personal life at work. It’s difficult to discuss anything that might be controversial, like science or skepticism, since so many people have weird beliefs about these things. That doesn’t leave much to talk about. To be honest, I actually prefer it that way. I see my job as the necessary thing I need to do in order to have the means to do the things I want to do. I want to go to work, do what I need to do, and then go home and do things I enjoy. I want work to be about work. Most people are not like that. They see work as just another opportunity to socialize and that’s difficult for me. I prefer to concentrate on work with co-workers. If possible, I usually prefer email over the phone. It allows me to address the issue in my own time and compose a complete answer without the pressure to think of everything instantly in the moment. I can think it through. I also don’t require much praise. As long as my superiors are happy with what I am doing and I get paid, that’s enough for me. I don’t need to have my accomplishments published in the monthly newsletter. As my family says, I’m a behind-the-scenes person. I just wish it was more widely accepted as valuable instead of being seen as a character flaw.
I enjoy solitude. There is no one I have to fit in with when I’m alone. I get to do what I feel like doing without being labelled boring or anti-social. I like to read. A lot. I am a perpetually curious person and I enjoy learning things. So I spend a lot of time reading science blogs, the news, books. Sometimes, it seems like there are not enough hours in one day to look at all the interesting things that are going on. I always feel like I am probably missing something interesting. Reading is an activity that is really done better alone. Especially if you are reading something that’s a bit complicated. It’s difficult to concentrate when someone is there and interrupts you. So I spend a lot of time alone reading. It’s not that I don’t enjoy connecting with people. There are also people I enjoy spending time with. I see my family every week. I enjoy their company. I have friends I make a point of seeing on a fairly regular basis. I am comfortable with my circle of friends and family. I just don’t feel the need to make a connection with every single person I deal with. If I don’t have anything in common with someone, I think that should be OK.