Introversion is a Personality Trait, Not an Excuse

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Introversion

I’ve seen a few blogs recently written by self-proclaimed introverts. Peeps who claim they don’t need mom tribes or a mom’s night out cause well, they just like being alone. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. I’ve done life with introversion (ahem, I’m married to one). I understand their ways. I’m also a trained social worker who geeks out over brain function and human behavior. Sometimes even, my typical extrovert ways will temporarily subside and my anxiety turns me into a couch loving hermit crab who hates all the people. People can sometimes be overwhelming. Relationships can be overwhelming.

But here’s my beef: Claiming loner status, does not give you a get out of jail free card to be a crappy friend.

I struggle with articulating my stance here cause I truly understand both sides, especially as a mental health professional. For people who live with anxiety, particularly the social variety, self-care is critical. I’ve been known to suggest cancelling plans and turning off cell phones so someone can eat Little Debbie cakes in complete solitude. Ok, maybe that was something I did myself, but whatever the case, I support the need to sometimes shut yourself off from the world. That in itself can be therapeutic. But where this can become problematic is when it isn’t actually used for self-care or growth. When the behavior becomes your norm and you aren’t pulling your weight in a relationship, well that’s just mean.

Even more, your friends, family, coworkers, etc. are human beings with feelings just like you. Just because they don’t have the same need for solitude, doesn’t mean they get to do all the work to maintain your relationship. If you ignore them, cancel on them frequently, or don’t pull your emotional weight in the friendship, then they have every right to say peace out, because guess what? That’s not a friendship. Believe it or not, relationships are a basic human need. All humans, introvert or not, need connection. Sure, many of us don’t need a whole tribe, but everyone is capable of doing the work to connect and the ones who can’t probably legitimately suffer from a mental illness. 

This one blogger in particular wrote a whole paragraph about what a great friend she is. How she listens and empathizes, but in the same breath also said don’t ask her to do anything because that just becomes an obligation. Since when is a friendship an obligation? Since when is any relationship an obligation? And that’s my whole point, your anxieties about spending time with other humans is not an excuse to be a jerk. It’s not an excuse to not follow through on things or be dependable or caring or kind.

Of course there is also a huge difference between anxiety issues and someone who’s personality is more reserved. Some people are just shy. But shy people got besties too and they are capable of creating emotional connections with humans that aren’t one-sided. It might look different than an extrovert, but however the effort looks, when 50 percent is given from each side, the relationship can flourish. My point here is relationships don’t happen on their own and they can’t be maintained by one person. Each person has to do their part or the connection will only fizzle.

So if you truly like being alone then be alone. Call it what it is. Don’t pretend you are a good friend, embrace your loner status and leave everyone else out. Because that’s exactly what’s going on here. Your anxiety or introvertness or scrooge personality is your own issue.

You can either be at peace with this part of yourself and happily spend your days alone or you can put in the work to maintain your relationships, but if you don’t actively do the work, no one is going to wait around for you. Relationships require attention and commitment and if you don’t have the desire or ability to put in the effort, well you can’t expect others to fill that void for you either.

Introversion

8 COMMENTS

  1. It sounds like you have a friend that could use more understanding and less labels. Introverts are not Scrooges, hermits, flakes, loners, overwhelmed jerks and bad friends, all descriptors you’ve used here. Introversion is not the same as social anxiety. Extroversion is not inherently a better way to be.

    It also sounds like your friend has more going on than just a desire to be alone. Is she flaking on you because you’re hard to say no to? Do you choose activities to do together that she doesn’t like and doesn’t want to be rude? Is something more going on with her life that she has less energy to spend on others? You can also do your part to meet her where she is. Or maybe you should look for friends that are a better match to your personality.

  2. Wow. Strong words about people you really don’t understand. Most introverts feel subpar- like they’re supposed to be more outgoing, approachable, and likeable and anything less is crap. Most introverts truly try hard to be more extroverted because they WANT to be good friends. They know their downfalls and know how it comes across. It’s a personality trait, it’s who they are.

    However, it sounds like you’re reacting to one person and one blogger’s post. Yeah, deep down we really want to be left alone sometimes and being around people is draining. Doesn’t mean we’re not trying and all introverts are “couch loving hermits who hate people,” crappy friends, shut offs, mean, not pulling their weight in the relationship, jerks, scrooges, and loners.

    I get it, you’re an extrovert, and you don’t get introversion. That’s okay. But please don’t preface your post by saying you really understand it and tell us the way we are is our own problem. We’re trying our best, and posts like this only make us like we can never be up to your standards.

  3. As Caitlyn said – wow! For the past two years I’ve enjoyed reading the mom’s blog – from all cities. It’s a wonderful community with contributors who touch upon every facet of motherhood, and most importantly convey the feeling that “hey we’re moms and we’re here for each other.” But as someone who has introvert tendencies, you’ve kinda made me feel alienated. I’m sure you did not mean to do this, and I’m sure, as Kelly and Caitlyn noted, you were venting about one particular friend. This just might not be the best platform to do so.

    I could go into further detail about the complexities of my personality but to sum it up – I’m not loud but quiet, I usually stand on the periphery of parties, and you will probably never see me doing karaoke, but, by golly, if there’s a party, play date, moms night out, I’m there! Just because I’m an introvert it does not mean that I’m scrooge who doesn’t like to have fun!

  4. Very disappointing words from the writer indeed. As a new reader to the mom’s blog, I would expect the blog to post things that are supportive, inclusive and filled with great ideas. But sadly this article is incredibly inaccurate of it’s interpretation of introversion and I have no doubt likely made a great many reader feel alienated. If the writer truly had an understanding of introversion, she would know that introverts actually value relationships quite highly and that we tend to focus on quality of a relationship, rather than quantity. We put tremendous effort into our relationships, but our circle is likely to be a lot smaller than extroverts.

    And being an introvert does not mean we are loners, scrooges, hermits or have social anxiety. There is a huge difference between these terms and what introverts are really like. By using these terms, the writer clearly displayed her lack of understanding. As she is a social worker, I find it even more troubling to post comments as these. Social workers are taught to be self-aware of their own experiences and biases so as not to adversely impact others. Sadly, she failed and based on another blogger’s comment or perhaps some other situation, made a judgement against a huge group of people of which she simply does not know.

    I would recommend the writer read “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. It provides a great description of what introverts are like and would be a useful education for anyone wishing to know more about what introversion really means.

  5. I am not interpreting introversion in this piece. In fact this article has nothing to do with the ins and outs of introversion. I didn’t spend time explaining an introverts personality because that wasn’t the point. The point is sometimes someone can use their personality traits as an excuse when it comes to a failed relationship. No matter your personality, both parties should be contributing to the relationship in order for it to be successful. I also never once speak in absolutes. Never do I say ALL introverts are crappy friends. In fact, I spend time distinguishing between personality differences and anxiety. Which is the point, if someone continually has failed relationships, it does no one any good to throw personality tendencies into the mix. The relationship failed because it was not mutually beneficial for both involved and one or both weren’t doing their part to make it work.

  6. I am not surprised by the indignant replies to this article as some introverts do not like being called out in their crappy behaviour. I completely agree with this blog. I have or had one person who I thought was a friend but she refused to meet me half way. My mistake I guess. Everything was on her terms. I was not allowed to ring her but she rang me. I was not to visit unannounced but she could me, she didn’t accept or would cancel when I invited her but I always graciously accepted her invitations if I liked them or not because I knew it would please her. Sone introverts seem very selfish to me under the guise of living true to themselves. You may not always like the idea of doing something but when you do it anyway to please someone you actually enjoy it. Introverts are always saying how they value their relationships but from what I have experienced it’s sll in their heads! They think about the people in their lives but it never translates into action! They actually think they are being good friends by thinking fondly about people but never seeing them! This is what an jntrovert actually told me. Oh but I think about my friends all the time so it’s like I am with them! Well love, maybe that makes YOU feel good!

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