A while back I referred to a post on IntrovertZone that compared introverts to cats and extroverts to golden retrievers. This was in the context of meeting new people: introverts are like cats because they are less instantly familiar and trusting. Another cat-like attribute is that introverts tend to be more independent, more comfortable going around by themselves than in a “pack” (LOL). But it is also acknowledged that introverts’ long-term friendships tend to be very close and deep. How do these two observations square up?
I think it’s just because we are deep people who are constantly – and mostly unconsciously – processing immense input; compared to extroverts we perceive all sorts of extra subtle nuanced information from other people, and we care about these things. There’s a subtlety to our interactions because of this. We can’t just chat away to anyone, we need to feel there’s a connection there. And it’s only when that connection is well-established and can be relied upon unconsciously that we can spend less mental bandwidth on the connection itself and more on whatever it is we want to chat about. That takes time! The investment is huge and the rewards are great – there is nothing better than nattering away to a long-time friend about the deep and personal stuff that interests you both. This is why those friendships are so special to us.
Independence is maybe more of a learned thing because of how exhausting we find the cliques. I reckon it’s not that we don’t enjoy company just as much as others; it’s just that being with people we aren’t especially close to for long periods takes it out of us, and perhaps doesn’t give us as much back as it does for extroverts. (Living with a partner or going on holiday with a close friend, on the other hand, is lovely, and not exhausting.) So we get to like our own company. And we are never bored on our own because of how much stuff is going on in our minds to keep us entertained. 🙂
I think this is how I am, anyway. Maybe others are different.
It’s hard to sum up what 2010 was about for me. I suppose if 2009 was about stretching to breaking point, 2010 was about rebounding. Seeing what shape I’m left in after throwing off the tensions; seeing what has stuck, which influences remain etched in my personality, and how I fit into my life now. Feeling a mixture of euphoric highs and depressive lows, but overall, satisfied with myself: I can trust myself to make bloody good decisions, even if they are hard ones.
I am learning to judge less; to take a less idealistic, more organic, flexible and open-minded approach to everything – without making this into another ideal! The questions that consume me now are questions of change vs acceptance. In a sense it is about defining myself. Not “fixing” myself by someone else’s definition of “normal”, but to a large extent throwing normal – such an oppressive concept – out the window, and seeing the multi-dimensional beauty in all people. I believe self-transformation is possible like I never did before, but it’s a question of picking the battles to fight: which changes would be worth the effort?
Perhaps it’s a question that can only be answered through experience. And what better place to start than with the challenges that are smacking me in the face right now.
I’ve already had one little victory this year: passed my driving test. 😀 What’s interesting is that in the last few lessons, driving quite suddenly started to feel more natural and easy; as if the looming test actually forced me to overcome the fears. The first mock test had a similar effect. In fact all along I have been firmly pushed out of my comfort zone by a supportive instructor and it has worked wonders for me.
I think the difficulty with a PhD is that you don’t necessarily have that supportive pressure. For long periods, it’s possible to hide in your comfort zone. Maybe I am not good at putting the right kind of pressure on myself, and maybe one possible answer is that I should try to find someone who can hold me to account. Someone I would have to be fully honest with about it in a way that I’m not even fully honest with myself right now… which would be risky in itself.
So what I hope 2011 will be about for me is defining myself, not through armchair philosophising as much as through harnessing all possible ways of forcing myself out of comfort zones and seeing what happens… 😉
Happy New Year!