I snapped this shot from I-94 on the way back from Montana, heading into North Dakota, last month.
If you look closely, you’ll see a donkey at the top of the hill, and below the donkey, a cluster of horses.
This visual struck me because in it I see the classic introvert (donkey) existing in the same world as her extroverted counterpart (horses). And as one who leans more along the introversion line, I’m not wanting to move on just yet. Or, as one friend once observed of me, I’m “brooding.” And yes, it’s one of the things that goes with the territory, and it’s perfectly okay.
Now back to the photo, I know what you extroverts are thinking. You’re thinking, “Boy, that donkey is lonely.” But wait a sec, hold those horses! She’s likely far from lonely. Rather, she’s probably just doing what she does as an introvert, taking some time to be alone in order to live her best life.
I’ve started a series exploring the topic of introversion, and I’m going to be pressing onward with posts on the topic in the coming months because so many of us writers happen to be introverts, even though introverts comprise far less of the population — around 25 percent according to some studies, and up to one-third according to others, but in either case, far below the majority.
As such, I think it’s important we understand who we are and that the extroverts who share our world at least try to understand us, too. Because by and large, we get extroverts more than they get us. I don’t hold it against you extroverts, but I’d prefer the gap narrow a bit in order for us all to live more harmoniously together.
For example, I recently met with a group of friends, and one of them, very well-meaning but very much an extrovert, said, “You need to loosen up!” In the right circumstance, I can loosen up like the most extroverted extrovert. But the thing is, it’s likely that I’m quite content just as I am; that I’m as relaxed as I need and want to be in that situation.
It’s unfortunate but true that we introverts make our extroverted friends uncomfortable because we thrum to a different beat, and yet, it’s important for you to know, we’re totally fine with it. We don’t hold your ways against you, and hope you’ll offer the same in turn.
I recently discovered an online list of myths that society holds about the introvert. Myth #8 says introverts are aloof. A clarifying paragraph follows, noting: “Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions…It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.”(emphasis mine)
Now please, dear extroverted friends, do not take this wrong but it’s true. I am not saying that your world doesn’t matter, nor am I meaning to be a snob. But the interior world of the introvert is incredibly rich, so we enjoy spending a lot of time in it. We are energized by going deep and, in fact, our best work comes from it. After being “out there” for a time, we seek — crave even — opportunities to dive back into that interior world that provides so much satisfaction.
Here’s the other thing. You’ll find that if we take you one at a time, we become very animated and alive. It’s not that we don’t want to hang around you but that we’re at our best in small groups focused on meaningful topics. Anything short of that actually drains us.
But it’s also true that we need you. It’s important for us to be drawn out from time to time. Just as we help make the world less shallow, we receive life from dipping into the extroverted world and cannot go long without doses of it. But finding a balanced approach is essential to our well-being and productivity.
So don’t give up on us. Don’t think we’re not having fun if it takes us a while to warm up. When we’re up on the hill gazing at the crowd, it’s likely we’re not in torment so much as we’re just observing, processing, taking in the world. We must do this to be our best selves, but living this way also consumes a lot of energy. And yet, it’s a wonderfully enriching life and we can’t imagine it any other way.
Now if one of you horses were to meander up the hill, or meet us halfway, you’d find we are very enjoyable to be with and it’s worth taking the time. If you give us that chance to process first then speak, you’ll find we’re worth having around.
Introverts, I hope this helps you understand yourself better and appreciate the wonderful contributions you make, and what you need to make them. You’re trotting and braying just the way you’re meant to and it’s all good.