So I often have a fun conversation. It goes like this:
Me: Well, I'm an introvert
Them: No, you're not. That's impossible. You speak in front of people and you don't mind talking to groups.
Me: That's because I'm not shy. But I get my energy from being alone or with a very small group of people. I don't get it from large groups or being out at all.
Them: Well, I don't know....
It almost always cracks me up. I get it. They have these preconceived idea of what an introvert is and I don't fit that preconcieved idea. But it's because they have introvert and shy confused.
Last week my family and I went to Chicago. My daughter won an essay contest and the trip there was free (ish). So we packed everyone up and trekked off to the big city.
It was cool. I was so excited to spend time with my family. I was extrememly proud of my daughter.
And yet, I don't know that I'll be in a hurry to go back.
A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to go on a camping trip with a bunch of guys. Parts of it sounded really cool.
Sitting around a fire. Reading. Time for reflection. Doing "guy" things, whatever they are.
But I didn't go. Why?
Well, I was driving down this one road on my way home one night from work (I do a lot of driving) and I realized that the idea of being on a camping trip with that many guys sounded awful. Why?
Because I'm an introvert.
My wife and I attend a faith community in our town that we really enjoy. The fabric of our community is woven into and through the fabric of our family. But we do this one thing that drives me crazy. I mean bonkers crazy. I have to be creative in how I get around it.
We do this thing called forced community. We take a few moments from singing and they want you to hug or high five or shake someone's hand.
I don't like touching people. I don't like people touching me. Unless, I know them pretty well. Why?
Because I'm an intovert.
You want me to talk to strangers? No problem. You want me to teach to a large group of people? No problem. You want me to build relationships with strangers. No problem. Almost every third place that I end up in, I end being known by name and knowing many people name. (By the way, third place is just my attempt at being cool by calling a coffee shop a different name in modern parlance).
Now, I get it, there are a lot of people that would really love the big city (even introverts).
There are a lot of people who dig "forced community" and would love going camp with a ton of other guys. There are people who would get all sorts of energy out of standing in front of people and that doesn't make them worse or better than me.
It just makes us different.
I know it's kind of considered "cool" to be an introvert right now and I'm not trying to wade into that mess.
What I am trying to do is clear up a few ideas.
First of all, not every introvert or extrovert is exactly alike. Even in these subsets of society, there are subsets. It's just how it works out.
As people, we want things to be easy and simple. Clear. We spend most of our energy fitting people into labels and boxes. I'm not against labels, my wife has too containers that look exactly alike; one is used to clean your oven, the other is used to keep food from burning in a pan. Mix those labels up and people will die. That's bad.
Here's a really simple test for you. What energizes you? The answer to that will help you understand whether you are an introvert or an extrovert.
Secondly, we need to stop confusing shy with being an introvert. Yes, some shy people are introverts, but so are some extroverts. Whichever "vert" you are, it isn't a disease and it really shouldn't be all that limiting. I am afraid that too often we are more concerned about labeling ourselves so that we can figure out what we can't do as opposed to better understanding what we can do.
Some people are never going to like going to some big events (the idea of concerts just grosses me out) and that's OK. Some people will always love them. Fantastic. Good for them. I'll look for them on the TV from the relative quiet of my living room.
What about you? What "vert" are you?