Guilty as Charged

Over the weekend some extended family decided to attend a small community event, and I opted out. Folks immediately offer suggestions (such as how to get a disabled parking placard), but this time I explained, not too articulately, it’s not a lack of mobility but that I need some alone-time.  I think, at worst, I hurt some feelings, and at best, confirmed I’m quite peculiar and possibly standoffish.

I really don’t mean it that way.

As they drove off, I felt guilty and realized for my own peace of mind I need to find a better way to explain to them why, as an introvert, I need quiet time to recharge. After that, if they don’t understand, I can let go of the guilt and know I have done my best.

In those dreaded workplace personality inventories, I often tested in or near the middle of the scale – in a vague area between a never-alone extrovert and the living-alone-in-a-cave side of introversion.

When I worked in a busy office with lots of noise and people flowing in/out, I enjoyed the ebb and flow, the challenges, and the opportunity to help. The chaos had a purpose. Then I came home to quiet.

I didn’t play the radio or need a television for background noise.  I came home, showered to clear away the day, cooked a meal, and took some time for silence. On weekends I learned I benefit from one day going nowhere and doing not-much, engaging in what my dad would call “piddling around.”

I know folks sometimes confuse depression and introversion, but they’re not the same. Having worked in a community mental health center, we asked if folks felt hopeless, helpless, irritable without a reason, felt sad (without a loss or explanation) for weeks or months, experienced fatigue and/or thoughts of worthlessness, or even considered suicide. However, I’m not sure people understand Introverts aren’t depressed or personality disordered or shy.

Jung, who seems credited with the personality theories that use extroversion and introversion, felt everyone had both sides, with general preferences in one direction. For some, a big loud party feels like heaven; for others a gazebo in a quiet garden feels the same.

Now that I’m thinking about it, someone once explained the difference between extroverts and introverts as this:

  • extroverts feel energized by being around people, sometimes the more people the merrier they feel, so they often prefer to be with others (that’s where they recharge);
  • introverts feel energized by spending time alone or with a few trusted folks, so generally prefer small groups or alone-time (that’s where they recharge).

To me, that seems a simple but sufficient explanation. Think I’ll try it soon as part of my self-care practice of taking time to recharge in my own way.

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