Monday, February 22, 2010

Introverts Unite...Or Not

Happy Monday. Did you recharge over the weekend? If you did, how was it accomplished? Did you party with friends or hide out at home?

My weekends consist of time with the husband, dinner out, reading, watching movies, writing, and finally washing socks so my feet don’t freeze. Did you notice all of those are relatively solitary activities? It’s not that I dislike people. I like people. Well, I like 99% of people 99% of the time, but I am a shy introvert.

I dub myself misanthropic because it was the title applied to me by people who didn’t understand why I brought a book to all public appearances. I went through years when family, teachers, and coaches harangued me about my preference for solitude. “Socialize with my teammates,” they’d say after I’d already been on the softball field with those women for twelve hours. Literally. The last thing I wanted was to go back to a shared hotel room or out on the town. But I was kicked out of the door and was thoroughly miserable the entire time. It wasn’t because of the other people. It was because of me.

At first I blamed myself for the perceived defect. It was, after all, considered negative by many people. School graded us on participation, but I went an entire semester in a college class without speaking, which cost me half a letter grade. At my wedding, despite being ecstatic I was marrying the best man on Earth, I was terrified of so many people. I told the photographer to stop taking photos of me. On the wedding video you can see me balk when I walk into the reception and see so many faces. I never did the wedding speech though many people insisted I should. With these judgments and social snafus, naturally, I thought I was messed up. Some chip was missing in the design.

Only in the last few years have I accepted that being a shy introvert is a normal personality, one that doesn’t require shock therapy and celebrity telethons. I found a career in museum collections that lets me be alone for hours a day. I write, which is an introvert’s dream. My husband mercifully understands the anxiety attacks before social gatherings.

The internet lets us introverts find each other without fear of hives or hyperventilating. Shrinking Violet Promotions is a fantabulous blog that affirms Myers-Briggs “I” are not subhuman and destined for career failures. In fact, the featured authors are pretty kick-ass. I also love their Introvert’s Bill of Rights. I wanted to stand up and sing “Hallelujah,” but that would have attracted too much attention.

I met New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater at her book launch for Ballad. She was gregarious and captivated the crowd. I was shocked when she admitted she’s an introvert. She even did an interview with Shrinking Violet Promotions. We introverts have good company, if we decide to accept it.

Are you an introvert or extravert? Shy or outgoing? Whatever you are, embrace it. Don’t force yourself to change. You are magical the way you are.

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