Introversion, extroversion and Highly Sensitive People

My mother used to say I was like Gretta Garbo, although I didn’t know who Greta Garbo was, I knew that she wanted to be alone.

I was also the kid who was supposed to go on stage to sing Away in  a Manger but ended up hiding by my mum with her trying to tell me to get onto the stage with all the other tots and me just refusing.

As a child I was described as shy.

As a teenager I avoided going to parties because I didn’t know what to do at them and so it became a viscous circle where I didn’t know what to do , so I didn’t go, so I didn’t learn what to do.

The only reason I can kiss is because a venture scout did his duty to queen and country and grabbed me as American Pie played and kissed me.  The first kiss, unlike fairy stories, was revolting. But I persevered and so did the scout and then I got the hang of it.

Then I really got the hang of it….

And so I went into the world and got jobs, traveled, had relationships and grew up.

And I forgot that my mum said I was Greta Garbo.

I knew that I hated big crowds.  If I had to go to a party I would prefer to go with a bunch of people I knew well or to arrive early so I didn’t have to walk into the crowded room.

I also knew that I liked the nights I had the house to myself.

But I didn’t really understand why.

In Myers Briggs terms (for a free test click here) I am INFJ (introvert, intuitive, feeling and judgement)

  • What is your type?
  • Did you know you were?
  • How did you feel about it?

I didn’t really know what being an introvert meant when I first found out.  In fact one friend said ‘are you sure you aren’t an extrovert, you spend so much time with people and getting people together’.

I do.  And when it’s on my terms I love it…when I’m forced to be social for work, I can do it, but it takes a lot of energy when there is a group. One to one is energizing, groups are too, but I need time to withdraw.

The simplest way to describe an introvert is someone who gets their energy being alone and an extrovert gets their energy from being with people.  I think it’s a spectrum rather than either/or as I know people who are a lot more introvert than me and extroverts who still need time alone.

Have a look here to see if you are an introvert or here if you think you might be more extrovert.

  • If this is new to you…how does it help you understand yourself more?
  • Is there anything you’d like to change in your life to allow for your introversion/extroversion. For example one of my sons needs time alone when he plays, the other needs friends to play with.

My boys are now 11 and 7 and it has only been in the last year that I have realised that having kids is sometimes hard for me because I’m an introvert. Not because I  don’t like my kids or like spending time with them – I do.  I also think that my working life has got better since having them and although my social life is different, I still enjoy it.

The thing that makes it tough is the lack of privacy and time alone. Alone, as in in silence, without interruption, without fidgeting, without anyone asking me to do anything for them. I’m guessing you know how rare that is.

It’s only now that I am realising more about what I need and that the boys are that bit older that I’m finding a way to get the Greta Garbo time.  This holiday we’ve done a deal…if they leave me alone and quiet or the first 2 hours of the morning, then I will be the best mum I can be for the rest of the day.  It seems to be working and I feel so much better for having the time to myself.

  • How much time alone do you need?
  • How can you get the time alone (or, with people if you’re an extrovert?)

Another part of the jigsaw to why I sometimes get irritable and impatient came when I was reading a book about being a Highly Sensitive Person.

If you click on the link you will see the web site and a list of questions to see if you are highly sensitive. In the book I was reading I got 23/24 yes marks and they said that anyone with over 12 was highly sensitive. Ouch.

It made so much sense.  If I’m driving in the car alone I can quite happily drive for hours in silence because my head is so full of ideas and thoughts that any external noise is like two people talking at once.  This, apparently is one of the traits of a highly sensitive person.

This, however is tricky on long family journeys but we have found a solution.  The kids have head phones in the back so they can plug in and listen to loud music if they want (the extrovert has in on really loud and the introvert often just gazes out of the window in silence.  Partner likes radio 4 and so do I but he likes it on really loud. So the solution is that we move the fader to the front on his side so that introvert son and I can hear it less, and then I put in ear plugs which mean I can hear it if I want to, just more quietly, or I can fade out into my own head.  It works.

I also hate lots of fidgeting and movement, especially at times when I like to be quiet so example at meal times.  When the boys fidget and chatter loudly I feel tense and agitated because I like calm and quiet.  Sometimes, I chose to eat alone.

HSP are also highly empathic and intuitive. This is one of my strengths. It can also be a nightmare as I am so acutely tuned into other people and how they feel that it can be tiring..hence the need for time alone.  We’re also not good at having the mickey taken out of us as we nor do we like lots of noise; when there’s lots of noise, I just can’t think at all.

  • Do you recognize any of this yourself?
  • Do you want to read up on any more of this?

So, really this is just about being more and more aware of what we are like and what we need and how to balance what we need with the needs of the other people in out lives.  You’ve heard some of our solutions, I would love to hear some of yours.

I’d love to hear what you think in the closed Facebook Group so if you’d like me to connect you please hit reply with the subject line ‘I want to join the Facebook group’.  You all send me such amazing emails in reply to what I write and I’d just love you to be sharing some of that wisdom and insight with each other. Or if you just want to reply to me, hit reply and it write away.

Thanks as always for reading and take care.

Julie

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