It is 2014 and I am on holiday in Maderia, with my family, Iris isn’t quite yet 4 and Floyd is gestating nicely inside Natalie, ready to unleash his own brand of fury onto the world.
I have made a conscious decision to only check my email once in the week long trip and when I do my life changes forever.
I get an email from a blog I subscribe to that says something like “Hi, my name is Tony and I’m an introvert”.
Seems a bit odd, I know what an extrovert is, not quite sure what an introvert is, maybe someone a bit shy?
From this one article I went online and bought a kindle book he recommended by Susan Cain called “Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” and in the meantime watched a TedTalk she did:
This video spoke to me, in a way that is hard to articulate.
It validated who I was as a person.
For years I had desperately wanted to be an outgoing person, confident in new situations with people I didn’t know.
I thought I should have more friends than I did, and go out more.
I even went to Unleash the power within with Tony Robbins, I did the fire walk, made my “move” and jumped around a bit, cried a bit, and whilst it was a good experience in many ways, it wasn’t me per se.
I wanted to be something, an extrovert, that I simply am not.
There are lots of subtle differences between extroverts and introvert but at the root of is the level of outside stimulation that they need to function well.
Introverts feel “just right” with less stimulation, as when they go for leisurely walks, have coffee with a close friend to two, read a book, or, in the case of me,
snuggle with a blankie watch a movie alone.
Extroverts are the exact opposite and tend to gain energy and re-charge by being around more people, meeting new people, and seeking out stimulation.
Introverts are more sensitive to the stimulation coming in, so at a certain point, they reach a threshold and need time alone to decompress.
This is one of the reasons introverts make great therapists and healers, they can pick up on subtle things from other people.
(Note for extroverts, we are not saying you are insensitive, stop being so sensitive, FFS)
It is also the reason we can burn out if we don’t look after ourselves.
My wife (and Floyd) are both very extrovert, they absolutely love a party.
When we had a house warming, Floyd was in his element and Natalie was the host with the most (chat).
Iris and I, not so much.
We enjoyed it, to a point and then after about an hour or two, I found her reading in her bedroom, frankly I was jealous that I couldn’t join her.
My head hurt and all the chat and stimulation from noise everywhere was just too much.
This initially created challenges when Natalie first moved in with me.
After a full day of practice and constant thinking and assessing (plus some chat), I was ready for zero chat and some serious downtime. Natalie was ready for some serious chit-chat and could not understand why I was being such a grumpy bas**rd.
Now she knows sometimes all I need is just need 30 minutes on my own, just as Iris does after school (schools and workplaces are set up for extroverts, all that open workspace….not for me).
I do wonder how many people are convinced they have (and on medication) for “anxiety”, when what they really need is some low stimulation wind downtime and not constant social media/internet surfing, alcohol, SSRI’s or benzodiazepines.
Anyhoo, having read the book I can now look back at my life and friendships and clearly see the pattern.
I have a relatively small circle of friends I am very close to.
I love one to one chats where I can really focus and listen.
I am fiercely loyal to the people I let into my life.
I am quite nervous in new social situations (the idea of “networking” aka going up to total strangers and having chat fills me with horror) and always will be.
I am very happy on my own (for relatively long periods) doing low stimulation things to relax.
So I can look back at my life and feel happy that I am me, an introvert to the core.
It has also made me a better father.
Iris and I are very similar, and when we went to kids party’s she would stick to me like glue for the first 30 minutes then slowly get into it. By the end she was all over it, the life of the party, refusing to leave.
I felt painfully guilty she had inherited my “weakness”, now I understand and we try to arrive at new places early to let her get used to the new surroundings and talk to her about how she is feeling in advance.
Us introverts are not the most chatty and gregarious on the first meet, but once you get to know us, well, that is when the fun begins, we can unleash our personality.
Once you have watched the video/read the book it will be pretty obvious if you are an introvert or extrovert (and there are lots of introverts pretending to extroverts).
If you really want to get into it you can do a meyers-briggs personality test, it is fascinating stuff.
I am an INTJ – Introvert iNtuitive Thinking Judging
I have bought many, many books in my life, but I cannot think of one that changed my life so profoundly as the concepts in Quiet.
ACTION TO TAKE
– If any of this resonates with you, watch the video, read the book and then please email me back and let me know how it changed your life.