The Freedom of Self-Discovery: Introvert Version

I can be really self-critical, so when I make new discoveries about my personality, a part of me worries that I’m being self-obsessed.

Most of the things I’ve learned over the past weeks, however, have not only helped me better understand myself, but helped me connect with others and even helped some of them better understand themselves. So now when I get that little voice telling me that I’m being self-obsessed, I just tell it very kindly to eff off.

The biggest relief in exploring my introversion, and my personality in general, has been a loss of guilt. Learning more about how and why I do things makes me feel less like a horrible person. Learning that other people feel and do a lot of the same things has made me realize that I’m not alone, and not as much of a weirdo as I thought.

(I feel obligated to point out that of course that is never an excuse for taking anything too far and being selfish, or being rude, or deliberately hurting people’s feelings. A proclivity toward something does not always excuse that something.)

What do I feel less guilty about?

1. Surprises: I was led to believe that not liking surprises meant that I was uninteresting, that I was a stick-in-the-mud who needed to get a life, that I didn’t know how to have fun. Turns out I just … don’t like surprises. Even if it was well-intended (like … oh dear god … a gift), there’s a really good chance the person guessed wrong. There’s also a 100% chance that I had a specific idea in my head of how things were going to go, and if a “surprise” is involved, that throws me off and I need time to readjust, but of course surprises don’t allow that.

2. Christian Community: I wondered if I was not only a generally terrible person, but not a true Christian because the concept of “intentional community” make me nauseated and exhausted and misanthropic just thinking about it. I am not at all exaggerating when I say that it doesn’t sound like an opportunity to develop as a Christian; it sounds like nothing short of hell on earth. Turns out I am an individualist introvert who was created to need her space and also is genuinely terrified of anything that smacks of groupthink.

3. Dating: My hatred of traditional and/or casual dating has given rise to a number of terrible concerns. These range from fears that I was antisocial to being incapable of fun to being a broken sociopath, to being a dude in a woman’s body. I loathe the concept of dating—which, in this context, means “dinner and a movie* with a near-stranger to have fun and get to know each other.”

Firstly, the early-stage “getting to know you” part is my least favorite part of any relationship, mainly because it involves a lot of stupid small talk. This is not fun. This is anxiety-inducing. If I had a remote control for my life, I would constantly be fast-forwarding to the parts where we talk about deep philosophical issues, or exchange details about our tormented pasts, or talk about nothing and instead spend five hours laughing at YouTube.

Secondly, it uses up my social energy and, as an introvert, I only have so much to go around. And as an INTJ, I don’t like to expend that energy on pursuits (including people) that aren’t worth it. Sure, the guy I talked to on OKCupid or the guy my friend wants me to meet might end up being a BFF or my future spouse, but unless I have compelling evidence straight away (perhaps if our first date is a Rifftrax Live event, or if a mutual friend showed him my blog and he loved it, or if he attended Cambridge), I don’t see the effort as worthwhile. Like many introverts and most INTJs, I don’t have a lot of casual acquaintances. There are “people who know terrible things about me and like me anyway,” and “strangers.” I don’t do “let’s meet for coffee and see where it goes.” At least, I don’t do it well.

And thirdly, of course, is the INTJ thing where I am incapable of flirting.

So I’m either going to die alone, or will meet someone in a crazy random happenstance that defies expectations. Woohoo.

*For my most literal-minded readers and you know who you are, this need not always be dinner and a movie. It could be bowling, mini golf, coffee, ice cream, or a Saturday lunch.

4. Parties: Of course, not liking parties has triggered the same feelings as not liking surprises. I must not know how to have fun! Nope. I just have a different idea of fun. (Don’t stop inviting me, though. Someday I might actually be in the mood for it.)

5. Networking: Living in DC as a shy introvert was … interesting. Social events there are blatantly advertised as “networking events” and the concept is widely accepted. I hated these events, and now that I understand my personality better, I realize it’s not because I’m misanthropic and unambitious. It means, of course, that not only do I dislike small talk, but I dislike the disingenuousness inherent in these things. Not only am I expected to exert social energy on people I don’t know and may never see again, but I have to do it for (what I see as) superficial reasons. You’re not being charming because you’re interested in me or what I have to say; you’re doing it because you’re hoping I’ll introduce you to someone more important. I attended one of these events soon after I moved to DC, when I was still looking for a job. I found myself talking to one man who asked me, of course, what I did for a living. When I told him I was in the process of job-hunting, he said “Oh” and, on the spot, turned around and went to talk to someone else. He made no effort to hide the fact that his previous efforts at friendliness had been as false as a mall-kiosk salesman. My enmity was therefore earned forever.

6. Telephone Conversations: Except for a very few times with a very few people, I have always always always hated phone conversations. Sure, they were a necessity before texting and when I lived in places without internet access. But having to call strangers, replying to voicemails, and unexpected incoming calls have freaked me the hell out since I was three years old. On the very rare occasion that a guy sends me his phone number (usually through OKCupid) or otherwise expresses a preference of phone calls over online messaging, he has pretty much ensured that I will never talk to him again. Heck, I don’t even like texting. Email is the greatest invention ever and it will always be my favorite form of communication. As with all the other above quirks, I thought it was me and the possession of some freaky anxiety disorder. But no … it’s just an introvert thing.

I may write another blog post with more examples, but these six stood out in particular. Do you have any to add?

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