It has been a few weeks since I posted the first part of this series, but I think that’s a good thing. Introverts like me are usually pretty deliberate in what they do, and I don’t want to rush my thoughts on this topic! Here are a few more highlights from Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. And don’t worry, I’ll get to the birthday Facebook mention later on down below.
A PREFERENCE FOR STIMULATION
I covered this already in the last part of my first post, but I’m taking it a little further here. I think the most fascinating thing I’ve learned so far is that introverts highly dislike loud, highly stimulating environments because their brains don’t process stimulation the same as an extrovert. Babies, for instance, who are mild and calm tend to grow up to be extroverts. Why? Well, think about it. They’re mild and calm. They’re taking a lot of stimulation in as they awaken to the world and much of it doesn’t bother them in negative ways. One baby might wail in confusion and fear if someone jumps in front of them and does peek-a-boo, while another might calmly smile and laugh. The one who wails in confusion and fear? That’s the natural-born introvert. Of course, this is a high generalization. I gave birth to a daughter who was an extremely sensitive infant, but she’s clearly an extrovert.
In highly generic terms, all of this means:
INTROVERTS = don’t need as much stimulation because their brains already get enough from everything, even small things. Drop an introvert into a party and the loud music and constant chatting can feel like a wave of noise and confusion.
EXTROVERTS = need more stimulation because their brains don’t get enough from everyday living. Drop an extrovert into a party and they’re in heaven, feeding off all that stimulation to keep them at a comfortable level.
Here’s where I really come into play in this section — I’m not only sensitive and an introvert, I’m HIGHLY SENSITIVE and an introvert. I wrote an entire post on this subject, which I continue to get emails from random people on the Internet who run across it, surprised to have found something that answers so many questions for them. Needless to say, I was very pleased to find that the woman, Elaine Aron, who has coined the term “HSP” or the “Highly Sensitive Person”, was featured in this Quiet book. In fact, Susan Cain (the author of Quiet) even went to a HSP conferences hosted by Elaine Aron herself just to find out more about the whole HSP thing. The interesting thing is that Aron has found only about 70 percent of highly sensitive people are introverts. The other 30 percent are extroverts, like my daughter.
So what does all this mean? It simply means that if you’re an introvert, you’re most likely sensitive to all sorts of stimulation, and that if you’re sensitive, you could possibly be highly sensitive (HSP), as well, meaning you’ve got even more to deal with when it comes to interacting with the rest of the world and all that stimulation. Knowing this, however, is definitely powerful. It means you can not only stop blaming yourself for being shy and embarrassed and anxious and frustrated all the time and you can start making more informed decisions such as planning ahead:
1. Stake out a party/social event when — or even better, before — you get there and decide where you can retreat when it all gets to be too much. You’ll have the confidence that a twenty-minute break might give you an hour or two more of socializing without killing yourself. Or you can leave early without apologies to yourself or anyone else.
2. When someone invites you to another party that same week, you can explain to others that while you’d like to go, you’re booked up already. What are you booked up with? YOURSELF, because if you need to recharge, you need to recharge. That should always come first for an introvert — WITH NO GUILT. It’s not a selfish thing, by any means, which many extroverts may not understand in the least — so don’t explain it if you don’t need to. Everyone has personal needs they’re not obligated to explain, so don’t.
3. If you do end up panicking in a social situation, you don’t have to add guilt on top of all those feelings. Simply excuse yourself and find a quiet place where your brain can get the least amount of stimulation possible until you can get yourself together again. A dark, quiet, non-confining room is what works for me. Sometimes that’s not possible, so I’ll find whatever I can.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM NOT POSTING MY BIRTHDAY ON FACEBOOOK
This might sound off-topic, but it’s not. For anyone not on Facebook, let me explain. On your profile, you have the choice to mark your birthday as public or private or only visible to friends. If you mark public or visible to friends, you usually get a wave of HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!! posts on your wall on the day of your birthday — from everyone and anyone. Most people, I’ve seen, seem to enjoy this. It’s special to receive anywhere from 15 – 150+ posts from people wishing you a happy birthday, right? It’s nice to know so many people are thinking of you! For most people not like me, yes, it’s awesome. For me, however, I’ve found it overwhelming. It’s like walking into a room and having fifty people surround me all at once to tell me nice things about myself — and feeling pressured to answer every single person with a “thank you, you’re so kind” remark … because I really am thankful and touched by all that thoughtfulness. But to have that happen all at once makes me want to run away.
This year, since I had read this Quiet book and was starting to understand myself a little better, I decided to mark my birthday as private only to me on Facebook, meaning nobody would get notifications that it was my birthday. I wanted to see how I would feel at the end of the day, if anyone would even remember on their own if it was my birthday, and if I’d be crushed if they didn’t.
Result? One person posted on my wall about my birthday. I thanked her and went on my merry way. It turns out that on my birthday I was also sick and had to go to the doctor and have some pretty horrible, painful stuff done on my tonsils. It turns out that if I had received a slew of Happy Birthdays on my wall, I might have totally lost it that day — more than I had already because of the doctor visit. In truth, I did feel bad for myself that hardly anyone wished me a happy birthday, but then I realized it was okay and better that way.
I think introverts often feel the need and desire to act like extroverts, even when we don’t want to. I think introverts can often crave the ego-boosting attention extroverts naturally get from just being extroverts, but if we do get it somehow, it can set us back in ways we didn’t expect. Turning off my birthday on Facebook taught me something valuable — I may want that sort of attention, but as soon as that time passes where I could have received it, I’m usually happy I didn’t seek it out. If it comes along anyway, great, I’ll deal with it and be grateful for it in my own introverted ways, but seeking it out is usually never a good thing for me.
It’s not that I don’t want to be wished a happy birthday. I do! It’s just that Facebook can feel like an almost too impersonal and overwhelming place to do it … for me, anyway. Awhile ago I might have thought I was crazy or weird or stupid for feeling this way, but now I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one like this out there. How about you?
**all quotes belong to Susan Cain or people she has quoted within her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.**