Although I think I may have written about being an introvert before, the current circumstances we all find ourselves in has, for some reason, brought up in my mind again. I think it may have come from a question that’s recently occurred to me – are we each born either an introvert or an extrovert, or do the circumstance of our childhood/life make us one or the other?
I’ve never taken any polls, done any research, or even asked anyone why they felt they were one way or the other. Chances are it’s as unique as each of us. So, as I write this, I have only my own story from which to try to answer the question.
It begins with the recognition that I was a very shy child. I’m not really sure why that was either, but I’m willing to bet money it was because we moved so often, especially when I was little. If you’ve been reading my articles for very long, you’ve heard the story of me attending four first grades. Top that off with, after having arrived at the fourth school in the first grade, coming down with whooping cough and chicken pox. I really didn’t have much of chance to learn social skills. I also believe I may have felt insecure in forming friendships for fear of moving again.
Here’s the thing though, shy isn’t the same as being introverted. While an introvert enjoys being alone, in their own company, often feeling drained emotionally, and sometimes physically, after being around other people, a shy person is afraid to interact with others even though they really don’t want to be alone. So, at first, I was just a shy kid.
Somewhere along the journey I’m taking in this life, I became an introvert. Why and how did that happen? Did I lose that fear of interacting with others? To be honest, I’m still really nervous when I’m in a situation where I meet new people. I’ve become quite the actress though (I am a Taurus and Venus is my planet.) and can hide my nervousness fairly well, but it’s still there. The truth be told, I’d still rather be home in the quiet of my own surroundings.
So how did I go from being afraid to achieving some coping skills when dealing with social situations? I think graduating from high school was the beginning. School, especially elementary and junior high school, were so emotionally rough for me. I was smart but I wasn’t pretty. I had bowl-cut bangs and plaid dresses (thanks, Mom) and was the brunt of many jokes with my buck teeth. Kids can be so cruel. That didn’t help my shyness. It only pushed me farther back in the corner of my mind where I hid.
Junior high school saw me start using my middle name to stop some of the cruel jokes and, finally, I was able to choose my own clothes. Still, the hormones were starting to make changes in us all and a number of times when I ventured to make friends, I began to find out that there were those that I called “friend” who weren’t honest and could be very hurtful.
By the time I made it to high school, I would find excuses not to get up in front of class to give reports, for fear of being made fun of, or excuses not to take gym class because I didn’t want to undress or shower in front of the other girls. I usually had one good friend at a time until that friendship fell apart. I mention this not to boo-hoo about it, but rather seeing it as possible reasons for becoming an introvert. The question being, was I starting to just get tired of people back then?
I tried so hard to fit in, even into my 20s, when I had what some might call an epiphany – why was I trying so hard to fit in when all it was doing was making me miserable in the long-run? I seemed to have come to a crossroad where my choices were to either make myself miserable by being someone I’m not, just to fit in, OR, be who I truly was/am and let the chips fall where they may. I chose being authentic. It was rough for a while.
Then I found the spiritual path I’ve walked for 46 years now. That path emphasizes individuality. It also emphasizes working with like-minded people. How can you possibly do that, if you don’t know who you are? That’s when my real journey inward began.
That’s also when I began to realize there would be times when I would have to stand in front of a group of people, because they wanted and needed to hear what I had to say. I did it and, even nervous, I did it well. I became a leader in several areas dealing with my faith, but still longed for my solitude. Asking myself, often, when that might happen, I fulfilled what I was called to do for years. Then one day, I was able to retire from most of those responsibilities.
Want to hear something funny? I missed doing it! I did it for so long, that I now couldn’t imagine not doing it. What a strange turn of events. The truth is, now that some time has passed, the introvert has appeared again and thoroughly enjoys the solitude of my home. I still interact with people, mostly on a one-on-one basis. I leave the house maybe once a week to shop. I have no desire to be in big crowds or large social events. I am content. And still I ask, was I always an introvert, or did this journey of mine turn me into one? Maybe it doesn’t really matter.
So here we are in a time of “sheltering in place.” I’ve seen a few memes on Facebook that say, “I’ve been training for this all my life.” It’s true. I would venture a guess that most introverts aren’t having a bad time of the circumstances of this pandemic. My heart goes out to the extroverts (I live with one.). I have to ask, “How many new introverts will be created from this?” Some may really find they enjoy more solitude. It could happen, you know.