Have you noticed the sudden prevalence of news articles, quizzes and other social media discussing the qualities of introverts vs. extroverts?
Yeah, me too. For years, I thought that being an introvert denoted a shy (even anti-social) wallflower. Someone who is outgoing and confident in a crowd has to be an extrovert, then, right?
Not so much.
A friend who has done some pretty extensive research into the nuances of the two “verts” recently explained to me the basic difference between them, and it’s not what I expected. The divergence apparently lies in the way that each one recharges his or her batteries: An extrovert needs to go out amongst the throngs to refresh his spirits, while an introvert seeks out quiet time alone to rejuvenate herself.
Hmm. Well then, despite being self-assured, friendly and unafraid to engage random strangers in conversation, by this definition, I am an introvert at heart.
I’ve always been aware of my own personal threshold of over-stimulation in crowds, both small and large. In either situation, there comes a definitive moment when I have to get the hell out and retreat to the safe haven of seclusion. At least for a bit.
But two recent situations have really reinforced my new-found self-awareness.
I mentioned in last week’s post that I attended the Crosby Stills & Nash show at the Louisville Palace. I joked on Facebook that the band sounded awesome for a bunch of old dudes. In all seriousness, though, they gave a kickass performance.
But I tell you what, I was VERY disappointed in the logistical clusterfuck that preceded the show. I have seen tons of other acts at The Palace over a 10-plus-year period, and I never experienced the level of irritation and idiocy that I did at the CS&N show.
The doors to the venue opened at 7 p.m. But the genius organizers at The Palace did not open the inner doors to the theater until 15 minutes before the 8 p.m. showtime. The lobby was so crowded, my friends and I ended up standing up against a wall while we all waited.
When the doors did finally open, the ensuing mayhem was not unlike herding cattle. It was loud and excruciatingly slow progress. And I was hot, both physically and mentally. My inner soundtrack on repeat was screaming: Come. The. Fuck. On. Already.
The usher had to check every single ticket before letting us in the narrow entryway. What the fresh hell was that about? They had already been scanned at the front doors, and seats were assigned. Plus the fact that we were not a crowd of raucous teenagers. Everyone in the audience was my age or older. CSN is in their friggin’ 70s for God sake’s. Let the grownups seat themselves, you morons!
My 6'4" concert companion was unaffected by the chaos, and he kept trying to carry on a conversation with me as we slowly advanced to our seats. But with him talking to me in one ear, and other drunk patrons yelling in the other, I was so over-stimulated that I couldn’t process a word he said. By the time we got to our chairs, I had to do some Lamaze breathing just to get my heart rate down. (Once the show got underway, my equilibrium was restored, and I was able to fully enjoy the music.)
Then this past weekend, my son and I met some friends up at Wick’s Pizza & Pub to watch the Highlands St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The weather was beautiful, so we were among thousands of other folks out to enjoy the festivities.
No joke, it was wall-to-wall people. I was SO grateful that my girlfriend owns the joint and was able to secure tables on the patio. If I had not had a seat in all that madness, I would have immediately turned around and gone home. As it was, I lasted about two hours before starting to feel the bile rise in my throat. Thankfully, I had to park a mile away, so I was able to calm down on the walk back to the car. If not for that, I would have been ready to cut a bitch.
(Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed spending the afternoon with my son, and catching up with a few girlfriends. And the festival atmosphere was exciting, for about 15 minutes.)
See? Introvert. Being around swarms of people does not recharge my battery. It does the opposite and sucks the life out of me.
Part of my problem is that I am a short girl, so I tend to get very claustrophobic in crowds. I can’t see over peoples’ heads, so I feel like the proverbial walls are closing in on me. It’s like a brick is sitting on my chest, and I can’t breathe.
After both events — the CSN show and the parade — I was so relieved to get home to my quiet house and my dogs that I did not venture out again for a full 24 hours each time.
But even in social circumstances that are not so extreme, I have clear limits. I can only take about two hours of business networking in one session before I have to get the hell out of Dodge. I last the longest in small gatherings of close friends, but even then, I feel palpable relief when I walk in my own door.
If you’ve read many of my blog posts, you’ve probably noticed that I am all about self-awareness. I believe that knowing myself is an important element in my ongoing efforts to be a better person.
This latest piece of my personal puzzle — the realization that I am introvert (and that there is nothing wrong with that) — is surprising, but it shouldn’t be. I mean, I’ve acknowledged for years that I get a lot of joy out of going out to eat alone, going to movies alone, and spending hours reading a book on my porch all by myself.
Here’s why this new definition has been such an unexpected revelation: I am not shy anymore, but I was SO agonizingly timid as a child — that’s what I thought an introvert looked like. My negative self-image had me believing that being an introvert was a bad thing, and I never wanted to go back there, ever again.
But thanks to my own re-imagining of the introvert vs. extrovert debate, it turns out I don’t have to, thankyoubabyJesus. I like being around people (well, some of them) but I now know with certainty that I have to balance activities requiring social interaction with the peace of solitude to keep my sanity.
On that note, I’m looking forward to getting out and about this week, but I am just as excited about the day or two where I have no obligations beyond the walls of my house.
And I am beyond thrilled that there are no more concerts or parades on my calendar in the near future. Book of Mormon on June 8 is PLENTY soon enough.
And just a friendly heads up — don’t come a knockin’ on my door on June 9. This girl's "battery" will be on the charger.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After 10 years, she's still just saying.