I'm an introvert, right?

Or, maybe not. For most of my life I have thought of myself as somewhat shy and introverted. I feel uncomfortable in large group situations and I'm generally not very assertive. I don't like to call people on the phone and I rarely go up to people I don't know and introduce myself or start up conversations. I also really hate being in charge of a group; telling other people what to do gives me anxiety like nothing else--another reason why I'm not sure I want to be a teacher. One of my professors shared with me the letter of recommendation she had written: she stated that I had a tendency to be soft-spoken. I've heard that description of myself numerous times and I would agree that I generally tend to have a "quiet voice".

On the other hand, I think most people who know me in real life would hesitate to call me an introvert. Once I'm comfortable with people, I tend to take over and talk their ears off. When I come home late from visiting teaching or presidency meetings, it's because I stayed late talking to people. As evidenced by this blog, I have no problem sharing my opinions or stuff about my life. Sometimes I fear that I come across as too pushy and opinionated. The biggest struggle I have lately is figuring out how to keep my mouth shut and listen more.

So maybe I really am extroverted in the sense that I like to process information verbally. I like to talk. I'm uncomfortable with silences in conversation and feel a need to fill them in. I'm confident in my opinions. At the same time, I seem to have an overdeveloped sense of social protocol and I don't like to draw attention to myself. Maybe I'm just an extrovert who's in denial.


Kristeee said…
You know, I feel the same way. I'm timid in a classroom setting unless I'm the teacher. I'm actually quite shy and reserved until I get to know someone better, then I don't shut up! I'm afraid as coming off as a snob, too, with my little snide remarks I often can't keep to myself.

The mission made all of this more apparent. I had European companions (2 Germans, a Hungarian, and Austrian & a Russian) for all but 10 weeks, so their sense of what was proper in public tainted me a bit. I was told several times, however, that my reserved nature until I knew people better made me come across as more European than American. Interesting, I thought, but I was very proud of the fact that I fit in better over there than most.
There is a personality test called Meyers-Briggs that evaluates you and four different scales. One of those scales has introvert at one end and extrovert at the other. When you study the evaluation for the test, it basically says that we learn skills all the time to help us adapt. A basically introverted person can become very adept at speaking before large groups and making friends. However, an introvert is a person who takes their energy from being alone, introspection, having one-on-one conversations, or hanging out in small groups with very loyal friends. On the other hand, a person who is by personality an extrovert may learn when it is better to stand back and find solace in looking inward. But even if they learn the introversion skills, they will still take their energy from parties, crowds, attention, etc.

The problem is that too often we see introversion as the negative side of extroversion. (I think I just made up those words?) In reality, they are different personality types, both having positive and negative connotations. Most people are surprised to find that I'm basically an introvert. (In the Meyer's Briggs test, it is nearly the only category in which I score definitively in one direciton.) I tend to be open and forthcoming, I'm very comfortable being both in charge or assertive . . . but if I need to re-charge, I should get as far away from others as possible. This has been the hardest thing for me about motherhood.
Desmama said…
I've always thought of myself as an introvert as well, yet you've seen me blog at times about how I often feel the need to shut up and not stick my neck out too much. (Sometimes, though. ;)). Having never met you, it's interesting to note that your blog does seem to reflect someone who is soft-spoken (which is one of the many reasons I like to read it--you're kind and reserve judgement until you get all the facts, it seems) and yet when you do have an opinion, it's well-researched and it's evident you've done a lot of thinking to come to that conclusion, something I also admire.
I am also very similar. I have serious social anxiety, but once I get to know someone, I basically have no inhibitions. I know people have often mistaken me for being a snob just because I am so uncomfortable talking to people I don't know very well! I am working on coming across as shy instead of snobby, and then maybe I'll work at just being myself. Ha ha. One step at a time.
Yodame said…
I can relate and always find this subject interesting. My shyness and social anxiety has changed throughout my life. I used to be super shy and uncomfortable in most social situations or groups up until about college. Then for some reason I started to relax some. I still would rather listen than talk which also doesn't make me much of a phone conversationalist. Now I can't predict which situations will make me nervous and which won't. What I'm glad for is they are farther and father between.

I think a lot of it comes from situations where I feel out of control or judged in some way. I've also always been told that the older you get the less you care about what other people think, especially after you have children. So maybe I'm showing my age and maybe I need more children. Also, as a side note, I'm already trying to prepare myself for being embarrassed by Sara in public, I know it will happen :) Something else I've heard is that as women age their hormones shift and the same with men, so that men become more docile and women more authoritarian. Well, I guess it will be interesting to see what happens. I would never have guessed that you were introverted had you not said so :)
FoxyJ said…
STM--When I took the Meyers-Briggs test I ended up as an introvert--and I definitely am as far as big groups go. That is also a major challenge as a mom because I feel like I have so little time to be alone and just think. And my daughter is an extreme extrovert who needs people all the time and loves to talk, talk, talk!

Kristee--I've also had people describe me as more European, probably because I tend to be fairly formal with social rules and stuff.

Courtney & Yodame--In the past I dealt with social anxiety by getting silent, but I've realized now that I've switched to nervous talking. I especially do this when I feel intimidated by people or I don't know them well. When I'm uncomfortable I tend to talk even more and say weirder things. Then I go home and feel really embarrassed.

I also think that having more life experience and being a mom has changed me as well. For one thing, I now have to be in charge of someone. I've learned to be confident because if I'm not my kids walk all over me. Plus after a few years I'm slowly realizing that my daughter will be her own person and say her own things and I don't have to be embarrassed about them. Today at church she raised her hand and told the class "Daddys have sperm!". I probably would have died and thought everone was laughing at me in the past, but I'm learning just to go with it now. It's funny how during the last year for some reason I've been able to look back and see ways that I've changed a lot since high school and my first few years of college.

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