I’m an introvert. This is probably why I enjoy writing. Only someone comfortable with being alone can spend hours brainstorming, researching, and drawing up plots and sub-plots for crime fiction novels—while not becoming mentally exhausted. Unfortunately, being an introvert also means being misunderstood all the time.
If you’re an introvert, then you already know about being misunderstood. Being misunderstood is a way of life for us. We’re accused of being stuck up, aloof, or unfriendly. Usually, we’re just the opposite.
Everybody understands extroverts. Just get them around people, invite them to parties, and let them talk about themselves. They’ll be happy. In our society, extroversion is the preferred trait.
Introverts are constantly encouraged to be extroverted. We’re prodded to mix and mingle, to smile and be engaging, and to get out there and dance all night long. We’re urged to show we’re not wallflowers and that we can enjoy life as those normal, outgoing people do. And I guarantee every introvert has heard this at almost every party—“What? You’re leaving already? You just got here! Can’t hang?” It could be 3am and we’ll have been at that party for hours. But we’ll still hear that mess and be labeled party-poopers. Sometimes, it makes me want to channel my inner Samuel L. Jackson, but I refrain. After all, I don’t want to end up on Do-Not-Invite lists.
For years, I felt like something was wrong with me as I struggled to fit into a constantly outgoing lifestyle—until I realized that the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is simply how we get our energy. Introverts are givers of energy. Being around people drains us, so we recharge by being alone. Extroverts recharge by being around people. One could say that they are like vampires, sucking energy from others. That’s why introverts can only stay at parties for so long. Being drained all night by other people leaves us depleted.
Lots of people don’t understand this simple difference, which is why we’re always misunderstood. So if you’re an extrovert, let’s clear up some misconceptions you may have about us weird introverts:
We do like people
- We just don’t like being around them 24/7. We need breaks once in a while.
When we want to be alone, that’s usually all it means
- Just because we want to be alone doesn’t mean we’re upset with you. We just need to recharge our batteries. Especially when we come home after work. We’ve been getting drained all day.
We aren’t shy or timid
- We have no problem telling you what we think. Especially if some of you hardcore extroverts can stop talking long enough to let us get a word in.
We aren’t boring
- We like skiing, zip-lining, scuba-diving, and other fun things. We even like parties. But when it’s after 2am and we’ve been at it for hours, we’re going to ignore your pleas to check out that other party on the opposite side of the city just to see if it’s still ‘jumping’. We’ve got a home to get to.
We aren’t arrogant or stuck-up
- Chances are, when you meet someone acting standoff-ish, the person probably isn’t intending to appear that way. He’s just in his own world.
- I’m accused of being arrogant all the time because I may not greet people when we approach. It’s not intentional. Usually, I’m deep in thought about something. I may be preoccupied with a situation on the job. I may have spotted some weird-looking dude nearby and I’m wondering how to incorporate his traits into a character in my novel. I may not even notice someone trying to get my attention, and if I do, I may not remember to smile and say hello (yes, I actually have to tell myself to do those things when meeting strangers because it doesn’t come naturally to me). But if I’m aware of my behavior and concentrate on being sociable, I can be as engaging as anyone. Just don’t expect me to do it for long. I only have so much energy to give.
Of course, I envy extroverts at times. While I can easily isolate myself and write for hours, I wish I could sustain that energy level when promoting my book. Meeting strangers and striking up conversations is taxing. For example, I can go to a book festival and work the crowd for about four hours, max. I’ll have fun doing it, but I’ll be so drained that I’ll need to be alone the rest of the afternoon to recover.
I’ve gotten better at managing my energy levels, though. If you’re an introvert who needs to mix and mingle with the crowd (particularly you writers who hate promoting your books), make sure you have plenty of personal time beforehand and consider gulping an energy drink (5-hour-Energy, coffee) or eating whole fruit a couple of hours into your social events. It will give you enough energy to share with others for at least a few hours. That way, you’ll avoid having to recharge by retreating into your personal shell and being misunderstood by everyone you meet.
For you fellow introverts out there, what are some ways you prepare for your big social events?