The One Thing You Need to Know About Every Introvert

Besides not taking our need for alone time personally


The death of someone close to you can be such a redefining moment in life. Particularly for those who define themselves in terms of their relationships, as was the case for my mother. She was a wife to her husband for over thirty years and prescribed herself to that identity — everything about her life was essentially about him. For me, the co-dependent dynamics between them meant very limited time alone with her. As an introvert, the situation suited me just fine.

The thought of spending every other waking hour with either of my parents again is enough to cramp my stomach, and not because they are horrible parents. I just enjoy my life without them in my back pocket. Shoot me if that sounds harsh. I still love them to the extreme.

Things changed when my stepfather died in early 2018. Big time. His death meant that my mother had to learn to be in a world without him. It also meant that she suddenly had a lot more free time on her hands.

You know where this is going.

As well as that for the first time ever, mum had to learn how to pump her own fuel, pay her own bills and handle other aspects of finance. She has figured out how to interact with corporate people, negotiate deals and assert herself in the world. Mostly, she’s been forced to sift through her many layers and discover who she is without her husband.

We can’t run from ourselves forever, right?

Hmm…Maybe some of us can.

My mother is not into being alone. I am.

I spend hours at a time without interacting with people and I am happy doing just that. Introspection is my thing — almost to a fault.

This might sound weird to extroverted people like my mum, but I love thinking, reflecting and delving into the deepest zones of my mind. And I often lose myself in a world of my own making; analyzing, daydreaming, over-thinking situations and playing futuristic conversations and scenes in my head.

Talking to the stars even…

Ah, cerebral heaven. Is it wrong that I would rather spend my time in this reflection mode than to engage in meaningless, no-point conversations?

This is something else my mother has had to learn since she’s been on her own — she has had to learn about introverted-adult me.

This from Lifehack:

“There are several popular misconceptions surrounding introversion and extroversion. And because of this, introverts, in particular, are often misunderstood. They are often branded as shy, aloof, and even antisocial. While extroverts are described as bubbly, friendly, charismatic, and fun.”

Okay, I admit that my preference to living in my own head might sound a little aloof or unfriendly, but it’s really not. It comes down to need and sanity. I need space — lots of space. It’s the way that I process the world, my life and feelings.

Now that we spend more time together, my mother struggles to understand this about me. The fact is that I require solitary time in order to recharge, while she gets her energy from being around people.

Another fact: If I’m denied this reflection time for extended periods, I tend to get irritable and edgy. Maybe even a little grouchy.

More from Lifehack:

“In social situations, the extroverted brain is stimulated. It views social interaction as rewarding and responds as such. The thought of positive social interaction floods the brain with dopamine and drives the extrovert towards interaction as it is seeking to be rewarded.”

My mother likes to talk … a lot.To the point that it drives me crazy and then begins to deplete my energy. She likes to tell me about people — what they’re doing, where they’re going and snippets of their conversations.

Suffering, that’s what that is. I don’t want to know why so-and-so is going to Timbuktu and how the old buddy is getting the whatchamacallit. In the politest sense possible, I don’t give a fuck.

But I digress, it’s not that I don’t care about my mother and her life, I do. It’s just that I am wired differently. Like, introvert-majorly differently.

Lifehack, continued:

“The pleasure center of an introvert brain functions the same way — but with one very distinct difference. Extroverts have a more active dopamine reward network than introverts — meaning extroverts need more dopamine to feel pleasure. When dopamine floods the introvert brain, introverts do experience the feeling of excitement but it is accompanied by the feeling of being overwhelmed.”

It’s worth noting that compared to the more outgoing among us, we quieter folk are usually much less motivated and energized by “adult” rewards like money, social status and social affiliation.

We just don’t care.

It’s as if extroverts see big, juicy steaks everywhere, while to introverts, it’s mostly overcooked hamburgers. We don’t need the glitzy perks or high social status to be fulfilled — we just need what’s close to our hearts, whatever that looks like.

It gets worse. Well, from an introvert’s perspective.

My mum wants to know stuff that I know too. About people. A few days ago, she asked about a friend of mine who is planning to move farther north. He and his wife are considering an island life.

Mother took it upon herself to have a rant about this decision — farther north means cyclonic weather. Island life means …. erm …. the probability of encountering unsavory-type people.

So?

I didn’t understand why she would bother wasting brainpower on other people’s life choices; she really meant that shit. I was utterly baffled.

Then came the question:

“Which island?”

Which island? Was she serious? Does she not know me?

I responded with a shrug and the truth.

“I don’t know; my brain doesn’t retain that information, mum.”

“In other words, you don’t give a fuck?”

Ding, ding! Now we’re getting somewhere. She really said that by the way. I might just be elegantly corrupting her a smidge.

Elegantly. There’s a word. It just rolls off your tongue, does it not?

We introverts like words and small talk drives us elegantly crazy in a not-so tastefully refined way.

Deeper conversations are the place where we shine like the stars we so often ponder. Julie Lombard nails it when she says:

“The general small talk chit-chat grates on my nerves ― I don’t like it and feel awkward trying to engage in it. However, discussions on more meaningful topics truly catch my interest and I can ramble on and on or listen at length with keen interest.”

Every now and then, I find myself reminding my mother that we don’t actually always need to talk. Not in a mean way, but in a “being” way.

The greatest intimacy between two people is found in comfortable silence.

That’s my take, anyway. To just “be” and share space with the people I love. There really is something in those moments when you become attuned to and connected with someone special in silence.

Anyway, my mother is still not comfortable with silence, but she is learning to redefine her understanding of what constitutes the one thing that every introvert on earth knows deep in their soul:

Sometimes silence is golden.


Also published by Living Out Loud on Medium