Monday, September 2, 2013

My Introversion Meltdown (And An Attempt to Redeem It)

So. Let's flashback quickly to Friday, August 23rd. Life was good, life was fine, I was having a good weekend, visiting for a couple days with a friend I hadn't seen awhile.

And then this article existed.

It's called "15 Unmistakable, Outrageously Secret Signs You're an Extrovert," and, while I suspect it's meant as a humorous piece, it's a mean humorous piece, and it haunted me.

Haunted me as in it set off an anxiety attack and I cried on and off for the next several hours. As in I couldn't get to sleep that night. As in all the horrible things I'd thought about myself in high school came flooding back into my mind, making me suddenly extremely insecure in everything I did. As in for like a week and a half afterward, I would get really unexpectedly scared and insecure any time anyone mentioned anything that related to my introversion.

I'm sure it didn't help that it was a week of fighting off depression anyway, but it's been years since I felt that uncertain of myself. Every time I did something, the words of that article came flooding back to me:

You know who was an extrovert? Jesus Christ.
The Christian life is meant to be a social one, and if you spend all this time alone or apart from people, how are you ever going to make a difference in the world? You're going to get to the end of your life and it's going to mean nothing. Everything you've done so far is nothing.

(You're an extrovert if) You seem OK; those around you do not constantly feel the need to ask, “Are you OK?”
Because you're obviously not OK. And what you do and feel is not OK. And everyone knows it. That's why they keep asking.

(You're an extrovert if) People like you.
People don't like you, Hannah. People are tired of you. People just wish you would be normal and not go into hiding all the time.

(You're an extrovert if) You don’t ruin camping trips, birthday parties, Christmas parties, office parties, bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, murder mystery parties, anniversary parties, bonfires, sleepovers, vacations, group projects, brunches, lunches, bridal showers, baby showers, concerts, and road trips simply by being yourself.
All those times you pushed yourself and went to parties? You shouldn't have. Because you ruined them. Just like you thought. You're just never going to have friends. And people are never going to like you. They always wish you would just go away and stay home where you clearly belong.

I wanted to respond to this, but I didn't even know how. For one thing, every time I tried to say anything about it, I just cried and cried (even now, I'm crying as I write this because, HOLY CRAP, typing out my inner thoughts is awful sometimes). And I hated that I was so upset about this... but, ya know, when you've spent your whole life believing you're broken, and then you find out you're not, and then somebody else comes along and manages to verbally express all your deepest unspoken fears from your earlier years... turns out sometimes you're not as done fighting that inward battle as you thought you were.

My second reason for not knowing how to address this was that it is so obviously wrong. The mean, angry venom is so transparently, needlessly present that it seemed pointless to go through it all. If I went through this list and explained why nearly everything on this list was horrible and awful, I can't imagine a single one of my friends ever arguing the other side.

And that's when I figured out where to find some comfort.

It was in the fact that my extroverted friends are nothing like this.

While many of my close friends are introverts, I do have quite a few good friends who are extroverts as well, and none of them would ever say anything like this to me or think this about me.

While the author of that article clearly resented introverts for some reason, my extroverted friends certainly don't resent me. They may be confused by me from time to time but they're not mad at me for who I am.

Since it was pointless to go through the article explaining why it's wrong, but since I still felt like I wanted to use it to say something, I wanted to turn it into something redemptive. In the interest of recovering from my meltdown and focusing on the good, I wanted to thank my extrovert friends for, ya know, not being anything like this. Because it's not extroverts that are are obnoxious and mean. Obnoxious and mean people are obnoxious and mean.

So, without further ado:

My Top 10 Favorite Things I Love About My Extrovert Friends
(Obviously not all my extrovert friends fit all these qualities. But they certainly have a lot of these in common.)
1. They really are a lot of fun.
2. Even if I haven't talked to them in awhile, they're still happy to talk to me and catch up.
3. If I'm going through something and need someone to talk to, I don't have to worry that I'm interrupting their alone time.
4. They are a complete blessing during socially awkward events. I can just latch on to one of them and weather the storm.
5. If I do decide I want to get outside my comfort zone and try something new and scary, they're more than willing to try it with me and walk me through it.
6. They get enthusiastic when I get enthusiastic, even if it's about a topic they don't really care about.
7. They can make me feel like they really care about me and like me in a very short amount of time. (It is not uncommon for extroverts to proclaim their platonic love for me very quickly. I used to mistrust that, but I've learned that, no, a lot of the time, they do genuinely like people that quickly.)
8. They're often very open about themselves - if we manage to get into a deep discussion, I feel like I learn so much about them and who they are.
9. They'll listen to me talk about anything and offer feedback. (I'm not sure where this "extroverts can't listen" stereotype came from. Introverts listen well because they're not rushing to talk, while extroverts listen well because they like getting to know people.)
10. They do accept who I am and are beautifully understanding when I need some time alone or can't handle a hug right now. When they get to this point, I can honestly consider them my friends and feel safe around them.

As a last note, my non-introvert friends, if I ever, ever make you feel inferior or looked down on with my introversion posts, please, please tell me. They're meant to be about offering support to a group of people who may just now be learning (like I have been) that we don't suck, and if it ever veers into "and that is why the other side sucks" territory, that's not what I meant at all. I love you guys.

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