If you had asked me 25 years ago if I was an extravert or an introvert, I would have whole-heartedly responded with the former.
I was considered outgoing and it seemed like I was always at a church party or a big get together.
I loved some aspects of it, but if I was honest, I hated it.
I hated the fake small talk, I hated being in a crowded place, and I hated the feeling of panic and being emotionally drained when it was over.
I thought introverts were rude hermits who hated mankind. Surely they weren't just everyday people who were kind of friendly and liked puppies and stuff.
I thought I just had an uncategorized panic disorder - I was self-diagnosing myself long before WebMD was born, having a minor in psychology will do that for you. But one night in the mall with Mama, being surrounded with hordes of people, made me nearly black out. I sat on a bench and watched people go by, laughing, talking and enjoying their visit to the greatest place on earth. My ears were reverberating, and my heart was pounding. All I could think of was how I wanted to get out of there.
I still am not sure if that was a panic attack or just me realizing I didn't feel comfortable in crowds.
Slowly, I began to realize that even when I liked the people or the places I was going, I didn't like the crowds.
Being in the crowds made me feel like I was inside a drum while someone beat a tempo on the outside. All I could think of was wanting to be home, free of small talk.
Even when I worked in cosmetics, I thought I was outgoing and extraverted. Maybe it was because I became friends with so many of my customers and treated them all as guests, or if it was just so much fun - hello, I was paid to sell makeup and just about every week, with new stuff being delivered constantly.
I was in sales for a number of years and surprisingly, did OK. I actually enjoyed working with clients one on one, helping them with their advertising, and enjoyed the freedom that went with the job. It was so personal and rewarding. I was fine until we had to do a remote; the crowds of people swarming the booth made me panic so horribly I thought I would flee.
The thought still remained that I just had panic attacks. It never occurred to me that I was an introvert.
Then, low and behold, one day I had to take an actual test that discovered your personality traits. This was a real psychological test, not one of those Facebook quizzes that makes pithy diagnoses based on your color preference and the last thing you ate. This was a real psychological test. My result came back: Introvert.
I was surprised but somehow relieved.
Introverts feel overwhelmed in large crowds, hate noisy places, despise small talk (I will sit and talk about the big things at length, but the ‘hey, how's the weather, how's it going..." No. Just no.), feels drained after being in a crowd, and hates to talk on the phone. I have a few people I will talk to on the phone, and then, it needs to be a real conversation. Just the phone calls to just gossip or talk nonsense, I can't handle.
Apparently, there are a lot of us out there.
I found more and more information about introverts and the more I found, the more it resonated with me and the way I had felt pretty much my whole life.
Mama still disagrees and says I am extraverted. I tell her no, I am not. I can appreciate her reasoning, because again, I would have considered myself an extravert before.
But being an introvert does not mean I hate the rest of the world; I am kind of a hermit though. I prefer my cabin in the woods, and prefer small, as in tiny, groups of people, and my dogs. That doesn't mean I won't smile at another person in the grocery store. And I will smile even broader if they smile back. It just means that I don't have to invite them and their closest friends over for dinner.
"I still don't think you are an introvert," Mama said. It doesn't matter if she thinks it or not; I am. It's a label that finally ‘fits.'
After throwing off my former extravert label, I found out a lot of others I knew were introverts as well - people I liked, admired and would have never guessed were introverts.
"Maybe we need to have some kind of support group, for introverts disguised as extraverts," one suggested via email one night. "But introverts don't like leaving our homes."
I agreed; I liked my side of the mountain.
"A support group without the meeting," I answered.
We haven't done it, but we kind of need to. It's hard being an introvert in an extraverted world, and we really need to stick together.
Well, as much as a bunch of introverts would anyway.