We had our school fete today, to be more accurate, we are having our school fete today – it is still on. It’s a big event, there are a large number of people who attend.
This is not my native environment, the noise, the people, the accidental/incidental contact with strangers who repeatedly violate my personal space. I briefly considered decking myself out in the personal space dress (yes it exists!!) in order to cope better …
At any rate these kind of events are not my happy place. Now don’t misunderstand me – it’s not that I don’t like people. Some of my favourite people are people. There are a fairly large number of people who I love… In fact, apparently if there is an introverted type that is likely to be mistaken for being an extrovert it’s the good ol’ INFJ – because we do love people.
Side note: I did the Myers Briggs again this week (just in case something’s changed). The result: INFJ – my preference for introversion was 75% — it was called “distinct“. I guess they try not to use words like extreme …?
This year we did our volunteer time at the fete early and wandered around for a while and then, before the crowd became too large, got outta there!
As we were leaving, my son’s other family were arriving, with my permission he happily leapt out of the car to join them for several more hours of rides, noise, people. He’s an enigma to me, he loves his own space and quiet, yet also loves people, action and places — ambivert? Who knows?!
On the way home in the car I tried to work through how I was feeling. The overwhelming feeling was one of guilt. My inner dialogue was scathing: What is wrong with you that you don’t want to stay? Why aren’t you prepared to stay longer? Why can’t you be more like those other people who’ve been excited about this and talking it up for weeks?
My inner dialogue was really simply synthesising and repeating a number of things many introverts would be familiar with, these are things we’ve been told for most of our lives:
You need to be more outgoing
You need to speak up.
Why are you so quiet? You should talk more.
You need to get out more.
You should smile more often.
You need to learn how to have fun.
You need to lighten up.
You need to be less serious.
You’ll have fun when you get there.
It’s just something you have to get over.
The general feeling that an introvert ends up with is that for some reason you are less because you are different, or worse that there is something wrong with you.
Quiet (read it) – has helped me massively in this quest to be at ease with myself.
As a student, my report card comments would mention how quiet I was .. I’m not sure this was always meant as a positive thing. When I write it on student’s report card, I mean it as a positive thing. At the end of year 12 I received an award entitled “Still waters run deep.” At the time I was offended, of course! Now I’m quite happy about what it said about me.
I’ll be honest, things like fetes/shows/theme parks/even prolonged shopping trips, hurt me after a while. You’ll be able to tell when I’m nearing the end of my tolerance – apparently my eyes grow larger – I will sometimes begin to go pale and I am likely to be zoning out of the conversation, if I am having one. I will be trying very hard to focus on what you are saying to me … which contributes to the wide eyed look. There is a point at which I can hear everything going on around me and I am totally overwhelmed. I’m not loving it and I need to get away. I know it is going to be like this for me as I head into the event – which is why I might just be dreading it while everyone else is getting excited and hyped up about it.
Someone once said to me about a particular social event that was approaching that I was dreading — “Oh come on, it won’t kill you!” And yes it’s true. I thought but didn’t say — “Well no, it won’t, but neither would being quiet for a while, or thinking before you speak, kill you. Yet you seem to be able to avoid doing that!”
My two 1/2 hours at the fete were tiring though not exhausting – any longer and I might have been in strife. After a week of working with people, all of different personality types, I need to recharge.
The truth is, an extrovert arrives home after a big day out energised – I’m not an extrovert. An introvert arrives home totally drained of energy. I may even need a nap in order to recover. I will certainly need to find a quiet spot to sit, preferably outside, preferably with a pet who has a similar approach to life,and maybe have the opportunity to reflect and recharge.
I turned 40 this week, and it was wonderful, mainly because for about the past 30 years I’ve felt as though I was 40 years old – now I’m finally there – I’m home! We had a quiet-ish gathering at our lovely little spot and at the end of it all, I was not exhausted.
In the decade ahead I’m giving myself permission to be me and spend less time trying to explain to others why this is the way I am. I don’t require the same explanation from them – this is just me. I’m quiet – don’t confuse quiet with boring, or stupid, or slow, or think that I am somehow less than you are simply because I am happy to be on my own sometimes, and sometimes I prefer to think rather than speak.
In the words of Paul Simon (Simon and Garfunkel):
I’d rather be a forest than a street.
But if you’d rather be a street, then be a street, just let this forest be a forest.