Updated: Jul 11, 2020
In my initial blog last week, I asked four questions:
1) Do you consider yourself an introvert?
2) Do you feel confined by the traditional definition of introversion?
3) Do you want to embrace your introversion to help reach your dreams?
4) Do you want to grow beyond introversion?
Last week, I shared perhaps the first traumatic event in my life that revealed to me I was "different". Only years later would I recognize this, at least in part, as introversion.
Today, we step into the second question. What is this traditional definition? Is it right? One of the objectives of this website is to help de-mystify introversion.
Like many, I grew up subjected to the traditional definition of introversion – that introverts are shy, nervous, anti-socials.
And while society and the definition have generally evolved, there are still many people and websites that consider introversion a bit of an illness or handicap. Hell, even Roget’s Thesaurus lists synonyms for introverts as “person who retreats mentally, egotist, loner, narcissist, wallflower, self-absorbed” while extroverts are “outgoing, gregarious, life of the party, friendly, kind, sociable, warm”. No wonder young people especially have a difficult time coping with this “diagnosis”.
When I was a kid, I was led to believe something was wrong with me because I preferred to spend time alone, doing my own hobbies. My mom was certainly loving and nurturing, but she pushed me to get out and meet people when that was the last thing I wanted to do. My dad was more of an introvert so I think he silently understood, yet even he didn't help me celebrate my more private nature and the gifts that lay below the surface. Meanwhile, I continued to struggle with the traditional definition throughout my schooling. By that time, my confidence and self-esteem were crushed and nearly impossible to resurrect. Instead I found addictive behaviors to cope with the stresses of trying to succeed within the corporate American rat race.
Finally, after years of activity that were both destructive to my health and my family, I started to recover.
Honestly, this journey began in 2013 when I started jotting down stories from my past. Shortly thereafter, I read some great memoirs (How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee, Heavy: an American Memoir by Kiese Laymon, and In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens by Alice Walker. These opened up the gates and I began to delve deeper into my childhood and adolescence through a more mature lens.
Ultimately, I chose to ask myself tough questions, and put the pieces together as I wrote my memoir. By recalling the events, I have now been able to put my life and my introversion into proper perspective.
This isn’t happening overnight, but I’m beginning to embrace the positive aspects of introversion…those that may be overshadowed by the more traditional definition of introversion, for extroverts and introverts alike.
Rather than hide my affinity for planning, writing, organizing, and small group socializing, I’m now beginning to embrace these strengths. Instead of struggling to meet my perception of the successful, outgoing corporate manager I chased for thirty years, I’m just trying to be me! Now I read, I write, I project manage my publishing efforts in detail, and I revel in the comfort, freedom, and fun of family time.
I’m grateful to be going through this journey in my 50’s. I sense I’m not alone. However, I wish I’d had the insight and courage to have pushed back and accepted my true self decades ago. It would have spared my liver a lot of grief! I hope Beyond Introversion may help others to accelerate their own journey.