I am an introvert. I didn’t realise there was such a thing – or that I was one – until fairly recently. When I figured it out, suddenly everything fell into place. I’m sharing this because I feel like learning these things about ourselves can help us in many different areas of our lives.
Not All Introverts Are Shy
Many people think that if you’re an introvert, you’re shy and that extroverts are outgoing people. That is the case for some people, but introverts are not automatically shy, and extroverts are not automatically outgoing.
Being an introvert or an extrovert is based on how you feel refreshed and recharged. I feel rejuvenated by spending a couple of hours alone reading a book; social encounters drain me. No matter how much I like someone and enjoy their company; no matter how great a party or event is, I get to a point where my ability to socialise has run out and I need to be alone. I love to spend time alone reading a book; I’m easily distracted by the presence of others. Being around other people drains my energy.
An extrovert on the other hand, recharges their batteries with other people. They love to attend social events and spend time with friends or just generally around people. They don’t necessarily want to be the centre of attention, but they like to feel the energy of those around them. Being around people lifts them up.
One way of explaining the difference is this: introverts need to think in order to speak, whereas extroverts need to speak in order to think.
Where an extrovert might ask a friend or two to come along with them on a car journey, an introvert would relish the chance to spend some time alone with their thoughts.
It’s Not Changeable
I was shy all my life, until fairly recently. I was scared to speak to people in the street, even if I knew them. Over time, I’ve worked on my confidence and my shyness and social awkwardness have taken a back seat. I work hard to conquer shyness in social situations; last week I spent all day in a conference centre in Coventry with 400 people I’d never met. Not only had I never met them; I’d been booked as a speaker at the event, so it wasn’t even like they were fellow bloggers or fellow something-else-s; we had nothing in common. Lots of them knew each other but I’d never even met the lady who booked me. Still, I did it and I had a great time. I think it’s safe to say that for the most part, I’ve overcome the crippling shyness that once had me darting across roads and into shops to avoid having to speak to people!
You can overcome shyness with simple techniques and ongoing work. As far as I’m aware, you can’t change the fact you’re an introvert or extrovert, any more than you can change the colour of your eyes or your height. It’s just a part of who you are, and all you can do is learn to work with it.
For so long, I thought there must be something wrong with me. I remember one specific relationship I was in several years ago, where we would spend the whole weekend together – and by Sunday evening I was about ready to explode; I just wanted to be on my own. I couldn’t understand it; I loved this person, so why didn’t want to be around him? I never realised that I’m just an introvert, and I just need my space.
Now I know that I’m just an introvert – and not necessarily a freak – I don’t feel like a weirdo when I run out of steam and feel the need to leave an event or party early. I can also take steps to ensure I have dedicated time on my own to allow me to recharge my batteries.
Being an Introvert and a Single Parent
Being an introvert isn’t selective; as you saw in my example above, even this man I loved so dearly, I didn’t want to spend all my time with. Similarly, as much as I love my child more than I ever thought possible, I still need alone time. Being a single parent, alone time can be somewhat lacking.
Being a single parent though, I am the only person S has to care for her – so it’s just not good enough if all of my time with her is spent with me frazzled and fed up, wanting to be on my own, not wanting to be touched or spoken to. It’s important that I don’t use up all of my “sociable” energy on other people, leaving none left for the most important person in my life.
Coping Strategies for Introvert Single Parents
When I first returned to work after having S, I had no time to myself. I would drop her at nursery in the morning and go straight to work, take a 30-minute lunch, and then leave work and go directly to nursery to collect her. It was draining beyond belief. I knew this could never be a long-term solution – for this and many other reasons.
I know that I need to protect my alone time so that when I am with S I am not already frazzled from spending time with others.
Now I am self employed, this works really well for me. I work from home, and do my best to ensure I have at least one day at home alone each week. When I have training clients, workshops, meetings or other appointments I spread them out so that I still have plenty of time alone. Of course, I am doing work during that time I spend alone – it’s not leisure time! I love to run workshops and get a buzz from training clients – but I can’t do it every day.
I guard my alone time; it is sacred to me. S goes to bed earlier than a lot of her friends, and we have a set routine that works well for us and ensures I get an hour or so to myself once she is in bed. I also get up early in the mornings in order to have some silence before she gets up. We have an agreement, now that she is older, that if she wakes up and I am not there, she knows I will never be further away than the living room – and that she is free to play with her toys or a game on the tablet until I come upstairs. It works well for both of us.
I use social media and messaging apps to stay in touch with friends and family, but I don’t visit with people much. Yes, I am incredibly unsociable – but it is more important to me that I have enough energy left at the end of the day to be kind and patient with S.
Now that S is a little older, she’s able to play independently and will often go to her toy room to play alone. When she does this, I take the opportunity to make sure the TV is switched off and I can have some down time.
S has a LeapPad which she is allowed to use occasionally. It’s a special treat for times when I need a bit of time out. We sit side by side on the sofa, her playing her game and me reading a book. She usually has her feet in my lap and will occasionally ask for my help with her game, but it’s a good break for both of us.
For me, the most important thing has been in learning that I am an introvert. Now that I know about the concept of introversion, and the characteristics of introverts, I know I’m not just an unsociable weirdo; instead, I know that I just need to ensure I have dedicated quiet time in my day, in order to recharge my batteries. I know that if I’m attending an all-day event, I’ll probably be one of the first to leave. I know that when I’m feeling stressed and unsettled, I just need to have some down time. That’s just who I am. I’m an introvet, and I’m okay with that!