On Becoming an Introvert

IMG_4567You know the kind of people who’d rather crawl in bed with a book and retreat from the world than go out to the movies with their friends? I’m not one of those people.

Of course I’m referring to introverts, and yes I know that they have friends and like to go out too. But the difference between an introvert and I is that the thought of “alone time” makes my skin crawl. I’ve always been far more energized by being around others, especially those I care about. And in the absence of others, I at least need something to do or accomplish. I’m not a busy-body, but a day doing absolutely nothing sounds exhausting.

What’s tricky is that as someone who identifies as an extrovert, I’ve spent a lot of time to myself over the past several years. I’ve spent a few different stints living by myself in small town West Virginia, multiple semesters back and forth from college, a lone summer doing ministry in Boston, and a year in Nashville with a  travel-centric job. The lack of consistency has made it maddeningly difficult to establish myself somewhere, and there have been far too many evenings spent watch Netflix on my couch instead of watching Netflix on someone else’s couch.

And for most of these past several years I thought that all these days alone were confirming more and more my extrovertism. But based on everything I’ve been learning about myself recently, I don’t know that my extrovertism is as prominent as I’ve made myself to believe.

What I’ve learned is that while I’m energized by people, enjoying other’s company has only been a half-hearted motivation to be around friends. The full truth is that I’ve needed others around me. Not needed in the sense that we need other around us to support us, but a more unhealthy and insidious need.

I’ve needed validation from others. My identity has been wrapped up in acceptance from outside sources. Turns out that when your sense of self-worth is tied to what others think of you, aloneness is suffocating. Their is no room for air in the mist of self-doubt that fogs your beliefs about yourself.

You can hustle others for you worthiness but you can never hustle yourself. Because while you can be a pretty good actor, self-doubt is always play the lead.

The only real answer is to quit hustling. Stop pretending. Drop the act.

So long as you get your validation from others, you’re never going to be able to stop hustling for your worthiness.

Once you accept that worthiness is your birthright, then you can wrestle with the question who am I? Strip my job, family, and relationships away from me and what’s left? It’s can be a terrifying question to wrestle with, but a necessary one regardless.

I’m not hustling, but I am wrestling. I’m still in the arena and have few answers, but I’ll give you one lesson from the ring: I’m not that strong of an extrovert.

I doubt I’ll ever accept the title of an introvert, but I don’t think it’ll ever fully apply. There is still fear in being alone, but not terror. I don’t have to get my validation or my worthiness from the people around me. Being alone is still exhausting, but it’s not identity-altering. I’ve got room to breathe, and can see clearly enough to see my own worthiness.

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One thought on “On Becoming an Introvert

  1. Trevor, last Spring I read the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” by Susan Cain. It’s something that you, too, might want to pick up and read. Lots of interesting research and information. I, too, identify as an extrovert, and although the book is about research on both extroverts and introverts, it does take a more positive approach to introverts. Like I said, all interesting. I’ll reserve my final evaluation of the book until later, in case you do end up reading it.

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