All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware

Sometimes it’s hard being an introvert in an extrovert world.

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This year I sort of ‘discovered’ that I’m an introvert. Of course, I have always been one, but it was only by reading the book The Introvert Advantage, this year that I actually realized that lots of those funny little quirks I saw in myself were in fact the natural characteristics of an introvert. It was like fully recognizing a part of myself for the first time. I guess it’s what Oprah would call an ‘Aha moment’.

I finally understood why I often felt reluctant to go to parties, even though I would often have a good time when I eventually pushed myself to go, and why I found them quite draining. I now knew it was perfectly normal, as an introvert, to prefer more intimate gatherings of friends where I could have deep and meaningful conversations as opposed to battling away at small talk with people I don’t know, and why I would often be happy to have weekends in the comfort of my own surrounds, reading books, watching DVDs.
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I had always just assumed I was maybe a bit antisocial, shy, slightly retarded. I would wonder what was wrong with me. My mum (an extrovert) would nag me about going out, or get concerned that I was a Ngaire No-Mates if I stayed home on the weekend. (I do have friends, Mum. Promise)

The Introvert Advantage explained how I was not socially retarded, (whew!) only introverted, and that a lot of the difficulties lay in the fact that only 25% of the population are introverts, and those skills that we generally tend to associate with extroverts – social butterfly, good at small talk, being a ‘people person’ – are thought of as desirable.

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I have to admit, though, that after reading the book, I’m not precisely sure what the introvert advantage actually is. That’s not to say there aren’t things introverts do well, or even do better than extroverts, such as forming deep and meaningful relationships, but I don’t see how it’s actually advantageous to be an introvert in a world geared toward extrovert success and where extrovert characteristics are the measuring stick for normality. But advantageous or not, the book definitely helped me understand myself more.

Anyway, I was reminded of some of the difficulties of being an introvert this week when I was invited at the last minute to an impromptu dinner out. I was kind of thrown by the invitation and had to really think about whether to accept or not, which is silly in some respects, as most of the people at it I knew well, but I wasn’t sure of that at the time. It annoyed me that I wasn’t the type of person who would just immediately say yes to something that was slightly out of my comfort zone, or that I felt better once I knew who was attending out of the people invited. I had to give myself a little pep talk about it, and even had a look online, googling ‘deciding on whether to go out for introverts’. It helped to go through the reasons I maybe didn’t want to or shouldn’t go, and also the reasons why I did want to and should go. It made it more of a logical decision. Anyway, the whole thing ended up in me deciding to go, and despite being apprehensive, I actually had a great time.

I was invited out for drinks on Friday night, again at the last minute, but ended up not going, which I also think was the right decision, as I only would have known one person there for sure and I was also really tired from going out for dinner and a movie the night before, which is not the best frame of mind for me to be going into a situation like that.

I think it’s been useful for me to be able to think about these things from a more measured and rational position, rather than just immediately reverting to my introvert nature and saying no, or completely ignoring my nature and saying yes to everything. It’s given me tools for really considering things, such as how much I’ve been out already, how much I’ve seen these people, how I’m feeling at the time, how important it is to the person who invited me that I go, what kind of social situation it is – is it a dinner, is it drinks, is it a party etc – as all of these things add to the stress of it. I know that I can end up isolating myself if I indulge my natural tendency to spend time alone too much. I can also become inflexible, and that was something that was really highlighted for me this week – the importance of allowing spontaneity into your life. I’m fine when things are planned in advance, as I guess I feel I have more control over it – I can plan for it; when it’s spontaneous, there’s less room for that, but beautiful things can come from spontaneous events.

The idea of spontaneous versus planned makes me think of a scene from one of my favourite movies of late, (500) Days of Summer. There’s a scene with a split-screen of Tom’s expectations versus reality of a party he’s going to at Summer’s apartment.

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That scene really spoke to me, as I’m someone who tends to run through possible scenarios or build expectations a lot, which can often be very different from the reality. With spontaneous events, there’s less time to build up expectations. You’re heading into something without expectation, which is so often the best way, as you’re more open to the endless possibilities that the evening could bring. So I’m hoping I can start to live life with a bit more spontaneity.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware

  1. June

    I think we’ve talked about this before, but when I was reading this post, it was like you were talking about my life. I’ve always been an introvert — shy, antisocial and, yes, most probably socially retarded as well! Lol. My mum tells me I’m antisocial when I opt to stay home and drink tea and read instead of going out when I’ve been invited somewhere, and maybe I am, but why should I go out when I know that it will be awkward and I’ll just wish I was back home? Like you, I als0 prefer quiet, intimate settings with a couple of people I know well, or even just one person I know well. That way, I know that I will enjoy myself, which is the point of a night out, really.

    I also like things to be planned in advance so I can spend all week thinking about whether or not I really want to go, which is kind of pathetic, really. Lol. And the guest list definitely plays a big role in my decision.

    I don’t know. Perhaps I should also try to change; be more social and less of a recluse and live life with more spontaneity, but then again, I’m not sure that I CAN.

    Hmm… maybe I need to read this book.

    • I don’t think it’s necessarily about trying to change. You should do what makes you happy. But I guess it’s good to push yourself sometimes, when the situation is right. I think the quest for spontaneity for myself is just a way to ensure I don’t rely too much on planning and control, as that could seep into other areas of my life maybe.

      And yes, I totally know what you mean about being able to think all week about whether I’ll go or not. I even did that with the dinner – I said that I had other plans but would try to make it, so that I was giving myself an out if I ended up not feeling like it. Which is not actually a lie, as I did have other plans, it’s just that the plans weren’t for going out. It was stuff that wouldn’t sound important to an extrovert.

    • Steph

      Ha, I thought you were talking about *my* life too! I can’t even count the number of times I have pushed myself to go to a party and mingle with people I don’t know – it’s the ‘normal’ thing to do, so why shouldn’t I enjoy it? Well, I hate it. Yes, I usually end up having a good time, but after a couple of hours I start looking forward to going home. I think I’m just a natural homebody, and the older I get, the more I realise there’s nothing wrong with that. Also, the older I get, the more comfortable I am becoming with small talk, last-minute invitations, etc. I just care less what people think of me now, so I think that gives me more confidence. Hmm, I don’t know if that’s a good thing! Introverts aren’t necessarily shy or social phobics (although they often are) – they just need to reenergise by themselves; extroverts need to reenergise with other people. I am happy being an introvert, but I will say one thing – it’s no good for my love life! 😛

      • thetinkerbella

        This is a good post! Although I think in some ways I’m a bit extroverted, I think I’m definitely an introvert at heart – I’d much rather stay home and read books than go out and mingle with people I don’t know that well. And when I do have something planned, I spend ages thinking about – what I’ll wear, who will be there, what I’ll say, what I’ll be doing. It’s much easier and less stressful to stay home and be comfortable!

        I don’t like spontaneous things if I don’t know what to expect. If I know what to expect, I’m fine.

        I think it’s all about getting to know yourself and your limits, but also making sure you challenge yourself to put yourself out there.

  2. Christel

    “I felt better once I knew who was attending out of the people invited”

    This is totally me, I won’t commit to something unless there are going to be a couple of people there I know that I can talk to. I hate small talk so feel better if I can linger around the edge of other people’s conversations at parties and chip in witty banter as I feel comfortable doing.

    “I’m someone who tends to run through possible scenarios or build expectations a lot, which can often be very different from the reality.”

    And I’m glad I’m not the only one who does this. I’ve often thought I’m a bit crazy for all the scenarios and possible outcomes I run through in my mind before doing anything.

  3. This is like my life story 😛
    I’m terrible at being asked to parties/nights out when I know there will be mostly people I don’t know, I’ll spend all week agonising over whether or not I should go and going through all the things that could happen. Small talk also just kills me, it’s actually quite exhausting being an introvert!
    hopefully as I grow out of my teens, I’ll grow out a little of introversion as well

    • I’m not sure if it’s something that you really grow out of, but hopefully with age, you become more comfortable with yourself and also learn better strategies of coping with things you find difficult 🙂

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