on being an introvert, a Q&A part one

Today we're heading back to Cannon Beach, but this time with the entire Wilson/Snow clan. So while we're soaking up some coasting, I thought I'd publish part of a post I've been working on for a few days. You enjoy these thoughts, and I'll be enjoying my Haystack Rock crepe, thank you very much.

I'm an introvert, and sometimes I think I'm misunderstood. You know introverts, and you might even be one yourself. You're in good company. If you get overwhelmed by packed social schedules and large groups of people, you're not crazy or antisocial. Chances are, you're an introvert.

So I want to talk about that.

Aren't introverts antisocial and unfriendly?
Mostly false. Introverts are sometimes antisocial and rarely unfriendly. I certainly wouldn't say that unfriendliness is a characteristic particular to introverts. In fact, introverts deal with these misconceptions all the time.

So what is an introvert?
An introvert is someone who derives their mental and emotional energy from being alone. An extrovert on the other hand, generates energy through social interaction. When my calendar is packed with so many places and events, I burn out quickly, especially if I have a hard time carving out time for myself. I have extrovert friends who thrive on a full social life, but I need downtime to recharge my batteries.

Do introverts enjoy social activities?
For the most part, yes! Especially when they come fully charged, they can really enjoy a large social gathering and can even be the life of the party. It's not that introverts hate being social, they just need to be ready for it. As an introvert, sometimes I'm not ready for a big party, even if it's with good friends. Lots of factors go into an introvert's energy well: household responsibilities, work obligations, church duties, and let's not forget parenting littles. Sometimes I'm just so burned out emotionally that I can't bear the thought of mustering nonexistent energy for socializing. When I'm prepared, though, I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to parties and get-togethers with friends.

What counts as "downtime"?
Usually I count downtime as time that I have to myself with no commitments or obligations. Ideally this includes baby-less time with no household work allowed. Sometimes this happens. Sometimes it doesn't. Depending on the week or day, I can recharge while folding laundry or unloading the dishwasher. I'd rather that chores not be a part of my recharging, but sometimes they have to be. Any activity that leaves you feeling mentally and emotionally recharged can count as downtime.

How does family life work for an introvert?
I'm not going to lie, mothering as an introvert presents its unique set of emotional challenges. While my son is usually a ball of chubby delight, engaging with him does qualify as social interaction. Even on our best days, I'm often left feeling socially tired by the end of the day. Most of the time my time with Josh at night counts as downtime, especially if we're watching our shows. But sometimes I encourage Josh to go play his video game for an hour so that I have time for just me. (He's usually quite obliging.) Because my first priority is my family, I sometimes have to stretch out my energy pretty thin. Sometimes your life will be so busy that the time you have available for yourself isn't much. That's okay for a season. Even if you can plan out just half an hour for yourself, you'll know to maximize your recharge time.

How has motherhood affected your introversion?
Motherhood has produced somewhat of an introversion phenomenon for me. While I certainly experience the expected need for a baby-break, I also have developed more grown-up social needs. Just a couple of weeks ago, my girl friends planned a dessert night. I'd had a really rough day with the babe, so introvert logic might demand that I skip the party and stay at home eating ice cream from the carton. But instead, I felt an even greater need to get out of the house for a bit and not have to worry about anything baby- or household-related. I was gone for over two hours, and it was glorious. That girl time was just what I needed to refuel my tank. Later that week I did need to have a quiet, no-commitment evening, but for that night, girl-talk with the girls was exactly what I wanted.

I have a second part to this post that I'll publish maybe next week when I'm in Denver. Are you an introvert? What counts as downtime for you? Are you an extrovert? What is it like to have oceans-full of social energy?


Jessica said...

I relate to this a lot! I am definitely an introvert! Ryan is an extrovert and it can be hard to balance those sometimes. There are things that he wants to do that sound so fun, like to the the beach with all his MBA classmates, that sound awful to me! I think the only time social situations energize me are when they are with people that inspire me, love me and accept me for me.

All Fun Family said...

I am an introvert and thank you so much for this post. I hadn't yet made the connection with being an introvert and the social energy it takes to engage in my children's activities. I have noticed over the past several months that I have a hard time being as involved with my 3 year old as I should and I thought maybe I was just too self-absorbed or lazy, but now I see the true source of the problem (not to mention that while I think my daughter is also an introvert, at the same time she demands a lot of social interaction from me).

michelle said...


Have you read Quiet? It was affirming and thought-provoking.

Jill said...

It's a complicated way to be isn't it? I always thought I was an extrovert, but more and more I realize I definitely am not.

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