Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Put On Your Dancing Shoes...Or Not.

Weddings are particularly difficult events to attend, especially when I know few people. Being assigned to sit at a table full of strangers that I will eventually have to make small talk with is nervewracking, yet I have spent the prior week mentally preparing myself for this so I generally survive dinner.

But dinner chitchat pales in comparison to what inevitably comes next: dancing.

No, it's not talking, but dancing is absolutely a form of social interaction that can be just as problematic for an introvert as picking up the telephone. Don't get me wrong, I love a wedding like most every other girl on the planet. I tear up during the ceremony, critique every ounce of decor, and gossip about everyone in attendance. But when the lights go down and the music starts to play, I would prefer to sit back and watch.

Most of my relatives and friends are perplexed. I competitively danced for 10 years, which required me to get up on stage in front of a huge audience multiple times a year and...well, dance. To me, the distinction is clear. Just as I can flawlessly deliver a prepared speech, I can perform a choreographed dance routine. I used to spend months practicing exactly what I was going to do. The idea of getting up at a wedding and having to dance freestyle puts me in instant panic mode. There's nothing planned about it. I'll happily slow dance because I know what I'm required to do: sway back and forth in a circle. Got it.

As a result, I'm perfectly content with sitting and watching the throng of people Shouting and Love Shacking. This, however, does not sit well with most people. What irks me most is that others attending the wedding just won't stand for my lack of participation. They perceive it as a cry for help, coming over and begging you to dance or even asking what's wrong. They mean well, but it is so frustrating to listen to these comments and nudges to do something you have no desire to do. I'm not sad. I'm not depressed. I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. Believe it or not, I am enjoying myself just taking it all in!

It's my own fault. Sitting there while most people are up dancing makes me a target. From now on, it's obviously in my best interest to get up and keep myself busy when the dancing begins. It's just another example of a situation where I need to learn to adapt as an introvert.

As for my own wedding, I jokingly tell my boyfriend that if we decide to marry, I will be signing us up for dance lessons. I'm not so sure how much of a joke it is anymore.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Amazing Blog

I can't believe I haven't come across this introvert blog before now, but what an awesome post about post-graduate life as an introvert by Sophia Dembling:


I think the best advise she gives is, "Don't ever let anyone tell you that you have to be extroverted to succeed. All that's really necessary for success is a vision, a plan, confidence, and focus. And a lot of hard work. And some luck."

So well said and so motivating.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I'm In Love With An Extrovert

Throughout my life, I have always found myself in relationships with extroverts and I have told myself to seek out someone quieter like me. Yet time and time again, I am with Mr. Social Butterfly, leading me to believe we are often attracted to what we are not.

Per my usual trend, my most recent significant other is a complete extrovert. I often admire how naturally socializing comes to him. While traveling the halls of our law school, he would wave to and chat with almost every passerby, while I awkwardly grinned and attempted (by attempted, I mean failed) to engage in the small talk. Our personality differences were obvious to me, but I never gave it much thought and it had not interfered with our relationship.

And then it happened. After about a year and a half of dating, he finally lost his patience and asked me why I seemed so uncomfortable around his family. Did I dislike them? If things didn't change, he was going to have to think about things, he said.

I had no words for him. All I could provide in response was a complete breakdown. In my mind, I had been making huge efforts and quite frankly, I thought I was doing well. Admittedly, I was quiet when in a small group of his very outgoing family, but I was quiet when I was with my own very outgoing family. After countless heartbreaks, this was the guy I knew I wanted to be with and if I could not change for him, how could I ever have a successful relationship? Why was I so ridiculous and unable to be his outgoing counterpart?

After much self-loathing and thought, I realized it was simple. My introversion would not change, and I was not going to live a life trying to alter something about myself that was no less permanent than my blue eyes. My boyfriend would have to try to understand me, or our relationship would have to end.

I knew I had to try to reason with him, but the explanation would be the hard part. I feverishly searched for articles that I felt best described what it meant to be an introvert, because although I could put my daily experiences into words, I thought it would be most helpful for him to see I am not alone. I went as far as highlighting the sentences I related to most and giving examples from my own life. I e-mailed this information to him and crossed my fingers.

Being the wonderful guy my boyfriend is, he actually took the time to sit and digest the articles. He did not pretend to completely understand or relate, but he acknowledged that introversion exists, and that it is not wrong to be that way. I was not someone to be fixed, I was someone to be accepted. There was no bigger relief for me than to be accepted by the person I love. Now, we are constantly poking fun at each other's personality. I ride him about his political wave and chit chat with anything that breathes, and he teases me about my embarrassing affair with reality television (yes, I just outed myself). The joking eases the tension surrounding the issue, and it is something we would have argued about had we never had the discussion.

Extroverts are far from jerks. They just can not grasp the idea of introversion and its hallmark of socializing being draining. We live in a world dominated by extroverts, so it is easy to see how an extrovert can misinterpret an introvert as antisocial, shy, surly, or even rude. For them, a social outing is as easy and instinctual as waking up in the morning. When an extrovert and an introvert are in a relationship they want to last, it is so so so important to have a frank discussion about who you both are and whether it is something each of you can accept. Your extrovert does not need to fully understand your introversion, but you must demand he/she respect it.

And it is not all on the extroverts. Us introverts need to compromise too. If your significant other will accept that you may only want to go out with a group one weekend night, it behooves you to be as socially "on" as you can when you do attend a function. Your partner will appreciate the extra effort you make to engage, just as you will appreciate the following day of quiet time.

Have I figured out the perfect balance yet? No. I still have a lot of work to do in compromising. Does my boyfriend still get upset when I retreat into myself? Probably. Has he ever given me a hard time about it since our discussion? Never, which tells me he respects me and that is all I can ask for.

Extroverted-introverted relationships are far from impossible. Just have the discussion as early as possible and talk it out. You will likely find out you complement each other well!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Good Read

This article is so on point, it's a must-read for anyone trying to understand introverts. There's a lot of sarcasm directed toward extroverts, but it's all in good fun.

There is too much wonderful content to point out but one of my favorite lines is "This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. "