Confessions of an Extreme Introvert

“The tragedy is not that we are alone, but that we cannot be.”
- Albert Camus

I understand that because of what I have written on this blog, I am looked up to and praised by some people. If it is true that my words (or even outfits) have inspired others to do something great, then this makes me extremely happy. I want to do this more than anything else. However, this pedestal I am placed on may stem from misunderstanding. Nobody wants to know that I spend a large part of my days suppressing a severe appetite for solitude. I struggle against it, I even attempt to meditate my way out of it, but it is futile.

Since I left New York, I have been so severely deprived of solitude… Not a haughty solitude derived from some superiority complex, or the type of ambiverted solitude that constitutes a few hours of alone time everyday. I’m talking about the type of solitude I was blessed with in my last few months in New York. I would isolate myself from people for weeks on end and make up silly excuses not to leave the house just so that I pursue my interests mercilessly. Human interaction was limited to handing money to the delivery man, and ordering my black coffee from the Starbucks downstairs. In retrospect, I’ve learned that solitude is my lifeblood, my motivation, and my inspiration. To outsiders, and even to myself, my introversion is often confused with a case of arrogant misanthropy.

The reality is, I am overwhelmed by most social gatherings. I get irritated whenever my phone buzzes, annoyed by prolonged conversations about nothing. Even my dearest friends understand how much they mean to me when I am willing to emerge from my cave and see them once a month. They understand that my love is expressed intuitively, and they know that my thoughts are with them everyday. But sometimes I hear complaints that I am inept, or that I seem to not care about my friends, simply because I don’t see the point of these strange, extroverted declarations of gratitude and friendships. So I continue to meet with the ones I love, at the expense of lagging behind in all other aspects of my life, because I understand that to some, loving them mandates my physical presence once in a while.

Yet I am terrible company. Those who are afraid of silence cannot bear to be around me (and vice versa). I don’t think there is anything “awkward” about silences. To be able to share a silence with another animate being is a pivotal bonding moment– one of the rare social interactions I truly relish. But when my face is blank and my mouth is not moving, I am always interrupted by a nervous look on the other person’s face. They scavenge for any signs or slips on my face… They do not realize that I am so extremely internally expressed that I have to expend ridiculous amounts of energy to showcase my emotions externally. The silence daunts them. They are eager to prolong the conversation and throw in meaningless speech to fill in the silences. Social graces obligate me to accept these interactions and master the art of small talk. But it is so terribly energy draining.

Sometimes, when I have exceeded my daily caffeine budget (which is frighteningly generous), I do actually run out of fuel. I no longer have the internal strength to channel my inner happiness, frustration, or sympathy into its externally expressive counterpart. At best I manage to maintain a blank look on my face. It confuses them. Does she hate me? Is she annoyed? Is she bored? Is she even listening to me? I no longer have the mental energy to console them. When I arrive home I collapse with exhaustion. Physical activity does not exhaust me, but the mental effort I must dedicate to socializing under extroverted obligations overwhelms me.

To write and to hopefully inspire requires an immense amount of effort. I refuse to mislead people the way in which psychotherapists chose to mislead me. To write something that props people into the right place, to break people out of their comfort zones, requires secluding myself in an absolute solitude for days, left alone to myself and my self-destructive habits. I write better when my surroundings are chaotic, so my workplace occasionally ends up resembling a nuclear war zone. For the past few weeks I have written half a notebook worth of words, probably enough to compile a series of short stories, mostly written at the brink of exhaustion… But then I ended up tearing up the pages and trashing them away. It is so frustrating and disheartening it is to watch my quality of writing deteriorate. I am sick of talking so much about writing but never actually delivering.

I am confessing all of this because a few entries ago, I said I would stop living a lie. I still am. I am still vulnerable and affected by the prejudice that all introverts are subjected to. Sometimes I even find myself wishing that I had been born an extrovert instead. These moments when I try to deny my introverted nature make my productivity lag behind for weeks. This is what has been happening to me since I landed in London. I am failing myself and others around me because I am still trying to prove to myself that I can juggle the best of both worlds- that I can somehow nudge my way into ambiversion. Who am I kidding? My Myer-Briggs personality test lists me as 89% introverted (extremely expressed introvert). This attempt to nudge my way into the center of the introvert/extrovert scale is a waste of time, and I have no one to blame but myself. It is only when I embrace my full-fledged introversion that I perform at the height of productivity.

I spent the past two weeks with my best friend in London, Paris, and Prague. It was then and there that I realized how introverted we both were, and how so much of my ferocious understanding and love of one another flourished upon that. Our friendship wasn’t shackled by the need for superficial declarations of love. It was purely intuitive. To be able to sit happily at a restaurant with her and not say a word for thirty minutes was pure bliss. We just sat there and observed the passerbys. It took this vacation with her to remind me of how much my feigned extraversion is making me fall behind.

The months of isolation in New York (prior to coming to London) were, in retrospect, the best and most productive times of my life. I was at the peak of my creativity. I learned basic PHP, MYSQL commands, realized that I was capable of grasping all these computer languages with ease. I finished more books than I had in the years prior to my self-imposed isolation. In fact, I created The Stranger, and begun writing several short stories that would eventually be brought together as a book. I was in great shape, eating healthy, and living in a routine that never bored me for a second. I justified my behavior with Camus. If he was so severely introverted, then I could be that way too. Camus was the beginning of the end of my introversion-in-denial. Now I’m on a mission to rediscover this solitude and embrace my introversion with pride.

I’ve notice that the most introverted personalities around me spend so much energy trying to live up to the expectations of an extrovert-dominated world. It bothers me to watch introverts participate in social gatherings and overstimulating activities that exhaust them of energy just because these activities are so adamantly championed by extroverts. If I paint the picture that introverts are unfairly antagonized in this society… It is only because we are. I am tired of watching brilliant ideas being overshadowed by mediocre ones simply because the latter are delivered by people who speak loudly. Introversion is not synonymous to lack of sociability or self-perpetuated pessimism. I believe we need to put an end to all the unspoken stigma behind introversion. Introverts, let your silence resonate.

Whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, I urge you all to watch this TED talk by Susan Cain: The power of introverts. The video is courtesy of Mik, the voice behind Uncover and Writhe for Me and a brilliant introvert who will soon conquer this world.

Special thanks to Yuna Yang for the dress, MyHotShoes for the platform pumpsThe clutch is from Accessorize.

Photographer: Tippy Hung

hi stranger

as usual, you touched my soul with simple words.

I think of Pablo Neruda final words in “confieso que he vivido”/ At the end, what matters is what you think when you’re about to die. Did I live fully? Did I betray? Did I do something great?

I guess that depression moment is not an illness. I truly think it’s a moment of truth, in which you discover again what you aim to be; then what you aim to do (or aime to do in Frenglish).

Anyhow: come back to London and let’s do a great moment of photography :)

xoxo

  • Read Susan Cain’s _Quiet_. It just came out this year and really dissects the extroverted ideal that exists in society and how we introverts need to realize it’s an ideal we cannot (and should not) live up to.

  • This is your best post to date, but it may have something to do with me identifying with everything you’ve written above. Over the years what I’ve come to realise is when you have a group of introverts you have philosophical discussions, but a bunch of extroverts create gossip.
    xx http://camomeetscouture.blogspot.com

    • I know how you feel. I find it hard to converse with some extremely, extremely extroverted personalities. The discussions always seem to center around shallow stories about other people and mundane topics…

      P.S. Thank you dear for your continued support! As always, I love your blog. x

  • I love this post (as of others you’ve written, of course), but this is one of my favorites. As cliched as it sounds, just be who you are. Silence is gold…

    By the way, I miss you! x

  • This is a beautiful, well-written post. I didn’t know there were other people out there who were also introverted. I used to gauge the quality of a friendship on whether I can sit quietly without having to say a word; no awkward silences or forced conversation. I usually get either sleepy or frustrated when I’m around loud conversation and with too many people. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone and you’re inspiring me to embrace who I really am. Thank you for letting us follow you on this journey!

  • I kept on reading this whole article. I feel that I’m an introvert. I sometimes feels that I have to swallow my words. I love any relationship when we can just sit and be quiet. I use to stay away from people when I lived by myself in Spain but I would leave my house to wander the streets. I miss those days.

  • Hello there, I am Belle. I stumbled across your blog when I took the MBTI online today for fun, Im and INFJ and an 89% introverted one too :) Ive read excerpts from Susan Cain’s Quiet (I think there is an online article on The Guardian too!) a few months back and it spoke to me so much. I am comfortable with being in my own skin, alone, but what discomforts me is how people consciously comment on my solitude, as though it is a crime and everyone should be buzzy, chatty, firecracker-people. People wear me out so much :( I read The Stranger too and I really liked it as well (I spend more time with books than people heh) …and it is really cool that your blog was inspired by the book!

    What a chunk, I guess the only time I will be mistaken as an extrovert will be when I am typing….eep.

    Also, I think you are a beautiful person inside out — your pictures are amazing and I really like how honest you are about being quiet. I am learning, everyday, how to be okay with being myself/quiet even amidst a crowd of people who scoff at me.

    Thank you for your post x

    • Hello Belle, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts! A brilliant best friend of mine is an INFJ too. My brother is an INTJ lingering on the periphery of INFJ. You actually have what I consider to be one of the best personality types. The “J” aspect is something I really look up to, and you can achieve so many fantastic things with this quality. Just don’t let the extroverted demands get to you.

      Ignore the people who criticize your solitude. Camus often received angry letters from his friends, complaining that he spent too much time indulging in a “haughty solitude”. He wrote a brilliant retort, which I will make a note to publish in a future entry. They need to understand that you need solitude just as much as they need buzzy, chatty, firecracker gatherings.

      I hope you will come to embrace your introversion and overcome the loud crowd of people who have a problem with it. If it helps, try and seek out friends with similar personality types. If you surround yourself with INFJs, INFPs, INTJs, and INTPs, they can motivate you to accomplish whatever you set out to doing. x

  • I would not call myself introvert, and I love company, I love being around people. But your blogpost gave another look, another perspective and I found it really inspiring. Sometimes silence and solitude is a bliss and I just have to learn to appreciate it and feel love and friendship more naturally and intuitive. Thank you for this post!
    And by the way, looooove the photos, do youe dit them with photoshop curve?

    bisous,
    mia

    HEYLILAHEY

  • Pingback: THE STRANGER | When Extraverts Drive Me Crazy…

  • So happy to hear this <3 If you're not in the mood for fiction, you may love Susan Cain's "Quiet" (The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking). I'm reading it at the moment and it is blowing my mind away!

  • Too much of what your mother might be saying might just be stemming out of misunderstanding. You should definitely have her read some Susan Cain books – it will really give her a new perspective on your introversion and appreciate you for your soft-spoken nature. Please stay true to your introverted nature and never put yourself down because of it. I guarantee you will do brilliant things if you embrace it! x

  • So happy I read this post. I can really relate to it, especially when you say, “Those who are afraid of silence cannot bear to be around me.” I have been told that my introversion has been interpreted as a weakness, or that a I’m rude person. I have stopped comparing myself to others (extroverts) and have realized that it’s OK not to be the loudest one in the room. Thank you x

  • I’ve met many people within the last year and too many of them comment on how quiet I am and that I should talk more and “have fun” more. Because of their words, I am always feeling guilty that I can’t be something that I am not. I don’t want to be in denial anymore. I like being alone. I like who I am. I don’t need to “have fun” because that is not my number one priority. My number one priority is to be content and emotionally stable. Thank you for the nice post. I no longer want to live the lie.

  • Excellent post! It’s really hard in this world to be a true introvert. There really is so much pressure to be more outgoing and unfortunately, there are benefits to being like this. The challenge for us is to balance our needs with what is required. We also need to keep reminding ourself to embrace our true nature in spite of what the vast majority of people tell us about our introversion.

    I think we’re truly misunderstood. This isn’t helped by the fact that introversion is always hijacked by people who aren’t really introverted in the least but do it out of a need to feel unique or special. If you ask a lot of people what they are, they’ll say that they’re introverted, but when you did deeper, they really aren’t. Just because you like a few hours to yourself, doesn’t mean you’re introverted. You’ll find these people are still quite outgoing and love being that way. A true introvert craves alone time, most of the time. The quote at the top of the page sums it up best.

    • Yes, I understand what you mean! If only all introverts come to terms with themselves and pursue careers and lifestyles that are sustainable (in terms of their introversion). You’re very right – I’ve met a few artists type who claim they are introverts just because they want to fit comfortably into the artistic stereotype (regardless of how staggeringly extraverted they are on all dimensions). People should embrace themselves for who they are – lying about introversion/extraversion is just silly.

  • Thank you for writing this post! I have taking the MBTI many times and am an INFJ, testing 100% in the introverted category. It’s so nice to read this post because I have never met anyone who could understand the genuine exhaustion I feel after forcing myself to interact with others. I’ve been lucky enough to have a best friend since I was 3 that is also an introvert, and who I can have long comfortable silences with (sometimes we’ll just sit in the same room and read books for hours), but even she does not fully understand just how much energy talking to someone takes. It’s like I have to physically remove myself from my own world and my own head in order to concentrate and satisfy other people’s desire for chatter.

    Having just started at university, residence life has forced me to be constantly social and surrounded by people. The tough part of being an extreme introvert when meeting new people is that they don’t understand why you don’t want to talk all the time and why conversation doesn’t flow as smoothly as they’d want. I’m tired of people asking me why I’m so quiet, as if it’s a fault in myself that I need to fix, and I’m so glad that I have finally read something that tells me this is okay. Thank you!

  • Thanks for sharing “The Power of Introverts”! Great insights on this topic. I am quite the opposite of my friends, I really appreciate having alone time when my friends tend to like to be around people all the time. Nothing wrong with either, but I agree society needs to erase the negative stigma attached to introverts:)

  • The great thing about being an introvert is that when I was a bad child my mom would send me to my room as punishment, although she hardly knew that I was perfectly happy to go there and be by myself .. lol.

    Monica
    http://www.pear-shaped-gal.com

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  • This was brilliantly articulate and a pleasure to read. I only learnt the true meaning of introversion four years ago. I am also an extreme introvert and have always known that my way of being is completely natural to me but often wondered why everyone else seemed to be so different, and also why they wouldn’t just accept me for who I was or let me be my true self.

    I was so excited when I first heard about Susan Cain’s book coming out as it was the first book about introverts to get so much media coverage, thanks to Susan going out of her comfort zone as an introvert to promote it. Social media is so prevalent nowadays and a Mecca for extroverts, so I prayed that the word would spread like wildfire.

    Naively, (and hopefully, after a lifetime of oppression) I thought this would bring about a change in society very quickly. Though watching a recent interview with Susan has brought me back down to earth with a bump, as she mentioned it could take some time before understanding and balance is restored.

    Extroversion is now so deeply ingrained in our culture that it’s going to take a while yet to shift the balance back to how things once were a very long time ago. I have to admit that hearing Susan say this herself has depressed me, as it means that there is a lot more suffering to come.

    Generations of introverts will eventually reap the benefits of her work but for all the introverts who have been, and ARE being forced to be someone they are not right now, it really is just terribly sad, and not to mention incredibly draining to top it all off!

    Can you imagine if extroverts were forced to be quiet all day, every day, for the rest of their lives? How would that make them feel? Like us, that’s how! It is so unfair, especially as the introverts that I know are lovely, gentle, kind people who shouldn’t have to feel like second-class citizens just for being who they are.

  • That was good. Thank you for writing this.

    For most of my life I didn’t know what introversion was. I just thought I was overly shy. I would see others loudly promoting themselves, talking a lot, and being heard and I would wonder why it was hard for me to do what they were doing. I would think that you had to be outgoing to be a success in this world. It made me sad.

    I am not very talkative and have never been good at talking to anyone and/or everyone. I am good at creative tasks, particularly art and music. I practice music in solitude. I need it to concentrate on what I am doing. I also do my art in solitude, and when I am in art class, it is quiet the whole time. This is when I concentrate best and use my talents the best.

    I think it can be very hard to keep up with our busy lives and make time for quiet at the same time.

    I can relate to what you said about your phone buzzing and you getting irritated. Noise like that can get me aggravated. I also many times don’t like talking to people I don’t know on the phone or going up and taking the initiative to talk to someone I don’t know. I like close friends better.

    This was very good. Reading this and books has helped me understand myself better.

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  • I love your blog!! You have explained me to the T. Its so exhauting trying to explain and make people understand you. Before I started researching I was always so frustrated with myself wishing I could be more like other people. Introverts are so few in a extroverted world. I am inspired by your words of encouragement of embracing your true introversion!! Thank you

  • Thank you for sharing. It’s sad that many of these personality characteristics that make us wonderful and unique are considered episodes of mental illness or disorders rather than non-pathological temperaments that foster creativity and produce visionaries.

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