Last week a new friend invited me to a very cool Friday night event that sat right at the intersection of two of my interests and would require little more of me than showing up and enjoying its coolness with a free drink in my hand for however long I pleased. Sounds like a dream in party form, right?
And yet, when Friday’s 3PM hour rolled around, there was an inexplicable weight on my chest that was shaped a lot like that invite. My feet were dragging both physically and metaphorically and as a deadline started to push my work day into the evening I was presented with an easy out. So I did the logical thing and spent two full hours splitting my attention between trying to eliminate the out (so I could go) and toiling over whether to take it (so I wouldn’t have to).
It didn’t make sense. The party sounded fun and I knew it probably would be and yet there I sat, two hours later, sending a text that brought on as much regret as it did relief.
Maybe I could chalk my reluctance up to being worn out by the end of the week, or the introversion several Myers-Briggs tests have confirmed is coursing through my veins, but the shame I felt about bowing out indicated it might be something else. Something Leandra might call an addiction to my comfort zone.
The blurry line between listening to myself — forgiving myself, even, for being introverted — and craving, perhaps problematically, what’s easy and comfortable is something that sits in the back of my mind like an anchor. One that sometimes keeps me from introducing necessary and beautifully-novel friction into my life.
On the same day last week, The Atlantic published a story about social energy and what it means called “Make Room, Introverts—Everyone Needs Time to Recharge.” It acknowledges and then explores how glorified — and consequently muddled — the concept of introversion has gotten.
I’d say it felt serendipitous if that Friday scenario had been at all uncommon. The excitement-to-dread cycle often incited by social invites is as familiar to me as my own hands.
But it wasn’t always this way. I distinctly remember the sense of relief that washed over me when I first discovered — and then identified with — introversion after years of thinking I was an extrovert because I had been a chatty kid. The catalyst was an article from 2012 that told me there was a reason I never answered the phone when it rang unexpectedly. I’d never felt more understood.
But introversion has become synonymous with a lot of things that actually aren’t related to it at all. And I’m not talking about the first wave of introversion confusion — when people thought it meant you were quiet and subdued — but the second wave: where people think it means you’re intellectual and superior. That’s exactly what Julie Beck unpacked in her Atlantic story. You should give it a read.
All this has had me inspecting both what the trait means on its own and what the trait means when it mixes with my other ones, and I’m still left with a lot of questions. Is my dread of otherwise lovely-sounding social events a product of my introversion or something else? Fear? Laziness? Addiction to comfort? If I’m only in the mood to be social twice a week and I honor that, am I being myself or being complacent? At what point does “doing me” become “doing me a disservice?”
Is introversion a crutch?
Illustration by Emily Zirimis.