Last Saturday morning I rolled out of bed and made my way to the gym to try out a new cardio dance class. I was looking forward to it.
The instructor was new (to me). She was gorgeous and toned and reminded me of a young J. Lo. But she knew what she was doing, so all was good. Then she (like many fitness instructors do) started encouraging us to whoop and holler throughout the workout. I ignored that part and just focused on the moves.
But then she said, “Find someone you don’t know and give them a high five!!”
Okay. . . um. . . THAT moves outside my comfort zone. But I did it reluctantly, with a scowl.
Then came the final straw.
“Find a partner for this next song!! We’re going to do the bump! Don’t be shy!!! 🙂 ”
It took every ounce of adult strength I had not to walk out of the room.
Clearly this bubbly beautiful girl was an extrovert. She could probably walk right up to a stranger, choose them as a partner, and proceed to “do the bump” with that person all day long.
I, however–and the girl I eventually found to be my partner–were both equally mortified and excruciatingly uncomfortable.
How I wish the extroverted world would take some time to consider the introvert’s point of view.
It was Saturday morning. I was sweaty, no makeup, with total bed head and struggling to catch my breath. Making friends under these conditions is not gonna happen.
As a child I was the classic painfully shy girl.
Although I could talk nonstop at home and with my family, I was practically mute at school. I made few friends, and the ones I had always took the lead. I followed others around, hoping to be included.
During my teenage years, I discovered my talents and gained a little more confidence. Singing and acting on stage helped me learn to “perform” socially, similar to how I “performed” in front of an audience. By the time I entered college, I was quite adept at performing.
But I was still shy. I would never walk into a room full of strangers and start talking to people immediately. I don’t do that even now.
In professional situations where mingling is required, I psyche myself up, put on my best performance face, and make myself go in there and act the part of an extrovert. I can fool people this way. But it’s never going to come naturally. It’s a performance.
The good news about introverts, though, is that once we know you, we aren’t so shy anymore. When I’m around familiar people, especially friends and family, I can talk and mingle all day long and actually enjoy it.
I think this is why some people have a hard time believing I’m introverted. Because I don’t fit the mold of that “painfully shy” little girl any longer.
Marriage Can Be Tricky
I’m married to an extrovert. Any time there’s a group of people around, whether he knows them or not, it’s a party in his mind. Every person on our street is his “next-door neighbor.” He calls people “brother” and strikes up conversation with strangers ALL THE TIME.
He teases me for being scared to talk to the butcher at the grocery store.
It’s a challenge being married to someone so different, because it takes work to understand his point of view. And likewise, it’s hard for him to understand mine. But we keep learning.
And I’m still working on getting to know my kids’ unique personalities, because they’re all so different. Oddly enough, I don’t think any of them are as introverted as I am. They seem to take more after their dad.
That makes me the oddball in our family. The only one who lives as much inside my head as I do outside of it.
What Introverts Wish Extroverts Knew About Us
Extroverts scare me.
They scare me because they’re so “in your face,” but at the same time I admire and need extroverts in my life. Many of my closest friends throughout the years have been extroverts who sought me out. Because I never would’ve approached them. I have dear introverted friends, too, but we always have a hard time connecting because neither of us wants to make the first move.
Here’s what I wish extroverts knew about introverts:
1. Give us time.
We don’t open up and become best friends right away. We are slow to warm up, but once we get to know you, we’re lots of fun, promise!
2. We aren’t as shy as we seem.
Again, we just need time. We can be just as crazy and off the wall – sometimes even more so – as you. But we’re never gonna go from zero to 60 immediately. We have to get comfortable with our surroundings and the people in them before we show our true colors. We really do want to get to know you. We enjoy people. But getting to know them is more challenging for us.
3. Extroverted activities are extremely difficult for us.
All those meet and greets, interactive get-to-know-you activities, and basically any time we’re forced to converse at length with people we don’t know – that stuff stresses us out because we have to work hard at it. It comes naturally to you. We know that, even though we can’t begin to comprehend it. But boy, does it drain us.
4. We are interesting people.
Introverts spend a lot of time inside our own heads. We are idea people who can get caught up in our thought life so much that we forget to interact with others around us. But don’t be afraid to ask us questions and coax us (slowly) out of our shell. We have tons of great ideas and interesting stories to share.
5. We need time alone.
This was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn as a newlywed. I thought I would want to be around my husband all the time. I had been single and lived alone for years, and didn’t realize that all that alone time was fulfilling my introvert needs. Once married, and especially once kids arrived, I learned that without designated time alone, I quickly became a basket case. I would get so stressed out that I couldn’t think straight. At times it would drive me to tears, and I didn’t know what was going on. Truth was, I just needed alone time. And I still need some time alone. . . every single day.
What about you? Are you an extrovert or an introvert? If you’re an introvert, what do you wish extroverted people knew about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!