A “True” Introvert

There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum. Carl Jung.png

I’m always surprised by what the internet thinks an introvert is. Listicle after listicle will say that an introvert is someone who shuns plans with friends, ignores humanity from days on in and lives in some sort of Frodo Baggins book-filled Hobbit Hole.

Well, folks. Sit down. Today, we’re gonna talk about introversion, being a crappy friend and what it means to get power from the self or power from the crowd.

Here’s a good time to discuss the difference between introversion and extroversion. An introvert as described by the Myer-Briggs Personality Test of Magic and Mostly Nonsense is a person who generally sounds like this, apparently:

I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.

The following statements generally apply to me:

  • I am seen as “reflective” or “reserved.”
  • I feel comfortable being alone and like things I can do on my own.
  • I prefer to know just a few people well.
  • I sometimes spend too much time reflecting and don’t move into action quickly enough.
  • I sometimes forget to check with the outside world to see if my ideas really fit the experience.

And extrovert is someone who looks a little like this, apparently:

I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.

The following statements generally apply to me:

  • I am seen as “outgoing” or as a “people person.”
  • I feel comfortable in groups and like working in them.
  • I have a wide range of friends and know lots of people.
  • I sometimes jump too quickly into an activity and don’t allow enough time to think it over.
  • Before I start a project, I sometimes forget to stop and get clear on what I want to do and why.

The main differences between the two is that an introvert gets power from within while an extrovert gets power from the crowd or others.

In the made up land of Myers & Briggs (and I only say made up because it is reductive to say you can fit all of a person into literally 4 letters but like astrology, when it’s right, it’s right) I am an INFP. That is the archetype of the “idealist” and this is what that looks like:

As an INFP, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you deal with things according to how you feel about them, or how they fit into your personal value system. Your secondary mode is external, where you take things in primarily via your intuition.

INFPs, more than other iNtuitive Feeling types, are focused on making the world a better place for people. Their primary goal is to find out their meaning in life. What is their purpose? How can they best serve humanity in their lives? They are idealists and perfectionists, who drive themselves hard in their quest for achieving the goals they have identified for themselves.

INFPs are highly intuitive about people. They rely heavily on their intuitions to guide them, and use their discoveries to constantly search for value in life. They are on a continuous mission to find the truth and meaning underlying things. Every encounter and every piece of knowledge gained gets sifted through the INFP’s value system, and is evaluated to see if it has any potential to help the INFP define or refine their own path in life. The goal at the end of the path is always the same – the INFP is driven to help people and make the world a better place. (source)

I am an introvert and that surprises a lot of people. Many know me from paneling, podcasting, cosplaying, running organizations or generally being the center of attention. None of my friends would describe me as having a small personality and no one I work with has ever been able to claim that I don’t leave an impression.

So when do I have time to curl up in a cocoon of manga panels and mainline Mr. Pibb and ignore humanity in a sea of books I can’t afford and will never finish? The truth is that the Internet Introvert just isn’t real. Introverts aren’t just hermits. They aren’t hobgoblins that shirk away from sunlight and ignore humanity just to read and write fanfiction and sure there are introverts that do that but not every introvert is like that. And the continual perpetuation that an introvert is some sort of silkworm pupae that nestles in and ignores plans and calls from friends to binge watch Netflix is just immature.

If a friend needs me, I’m the first to hop in my car and be with them. If a friend cancels plans, am I sometimes happy? Sure sometimes. Am I also sometimes really disappointed that I’m wasting a full face of makeup and cute outfit? Absolutely and I will occasionally go out anyways if that happens. Just because I’m an introvert doesn’t mean I can’t command an audience. Doesn’t mean I hate going out. Doesn’t mean that I don’t like other people. It just means I don’t get a lot of power from those actions. If you’ve seen me panel I’m energetic and vibrant. I adapt to the changes of crowds and answer questions gracefully and with charm. After the panel? Oh, after the show is a whole different story. In the Whataburger at 2 AM after a panel is a very different Amanda. And even after convention I am usually exhausted emotionally for days after. The crowd takes my energy. And sure, sometimes I get perked up from the crowd. Carlos has noted many times that he can see the sparkle in my eye when I’m on stage but the power I get is not equal to the power I give.

The difference between introversion and extroversion is what gives you power and I do not get a ton of power from people. That doesn’t mean I don’t like other people or that I don’t like going out. I also do get lonely and don’t like being by myself for too long.  And the idea that introverts are strange magical bat creatures diminishes all the good that introverts who have to be public do.

You know what real introversion is? Sitting down after convention at Mozart Bakery with Carlos over aloe vera tea and rainbow cake. Introversion is sewing while watching Deadliest Warrior. Introversion is still comforting a friend after a long day. Introversion is late night phone calls despite being tired and firing up an audience only to sit in your hotel bedroom while watching 5 hours of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

That’s what being an introvert is. And it certainly doesn’t involve being a garbage person who just likes to flake out on friends and shun commitments.

So is now the time that I ask for my book fort, obnoxious blanket pile and general disdain for humanity?

Imagined Isolation

“To be an adult is to be alone.” Jean Rostand

I am an introvert. I adore people, I love socializing. But my power comes from sitting at home, watching familiar movies, and doing…basically this. Writing, cleansing my soul, removing the cares and concerns of the day. Finding comfort in my own skin. Dancing to tunes in my mind, enjoying the golden hour of just enough darkness to just enough light. This is what I enjoy. This is where I am happy. 

In a way, I create a fort around me. My apartment has become my emotional Bastille. I recline, unwind and breathe in this space. Often without the company of others. Though my doors are always opened. Upon my return to a city more familiar to me than the one I claimed as home, I quickly set a tone that my doors are always opened and any guest will be greeted with open arms and likely a tasty homemade snack. 

I fancy myself a fan of the idea of being alone. I tote the importance of being aware of the Self and knowing that at the end of the day, we face the world in singular solidarity. 

Or so I thought. 

I came to a realization that even though I think I’m off in a splendid glorious hikikomori-like isolation, I’m not. I can’t well claim solidarity with a phone that goes off as constantly as mine does. Facebook’s trademark ping vying for my attention over whatever other noise I have on my laptop or phone. And while I consider myself a wallflower moth, my notifications tab reads more like a social butterfly.

I’m still connected. I have a vast network of people that are close to my heart. Family and friends that are near and far, sometimes even spanning time zones and continents. We can talk about anything from the Danish monarchy to the symbolism of the lily in French history. We can discuss art, literature, history, science, metaphysical topics. And we’ve covered nearly all of them. And that was just the past weekend.

We Tweet, text, Skype, email, IM, use other social devices and fabulous technologies to share our ideas. 

We also talk about our lives. Particularly hard days at work, struggles with families and understanding, even personal things too intimate to share with anyone else. We model outfits, rant about movie quotes, discuss comic book physics. My world isn’t Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Through our connection, we share our lives. And even if I don’t always get to interact with the people face to face our WiFi signals are a sufficient land bridge. 

Some say in our new digital world that connections like this are further isolating. Living on an island is isolating. Being adrift in the sea is isolating. Hopping off the grid is isolating.

But even Thoreau had to interact with people when he moved to Walden Pond. A connection’s a connection. And even though it’s universal to at times feel even more alone in the sea of other fish, I find strength in the connections I’ve made in my life. My social network is strong. From the barista that understood my Star Trek reference, to the friendly water cooler banter at work that I am working towards mastering, to the odd trivia shared between some of my closest friends. My day to day interactions touch many people and I am in turn, touched by many others.

Isolation now to me is a glorious myth. While physically, sure I can be alone in a room, if I’m talking to someone else (which I probably am in some way or another) I can’t really consider that to be ‘alone’.  We’re all connected. I can chat with my grandmother over events happening locally while asking a friend in Singapore about the weather. Actions and reactions are spread at lightning speed. Rumors, myths, truth, lies all spread like wildfire in the barren landscape that is a close friend’s News Feed. 

So even when I’m in my apartment watching Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life for the 1,000th time (song and dance included), eating almost exclusively things that are packaged in bags or cans and using my quilt like a shroud I’m not alone. I’m connected to a webworking of beautiful individuals. Ones I’m so blessed to have in my life. Family, friends, friends that act like family, co-workers, I’m beautifully intertwined with some of the best and brightest this world has to offer. 

And I intent to keep it that way.