This is for you, my dear introverted friend. For the reader on the other side of this screen in the midst of a very full day, finding your way as a quiet-seeking soul along this complicated, mysterious, loud, and overwhelmingly beautiful road we call life. I am writing this letter to you, my introverted friend, whether or not you’re a mother or wife. Perhaps you’re both; perhaps you’re neither. Perhaps you are someone truly in need of a pal who gets it, who’s living it, in which case I am here, arms open and listening.
The Oxford dictionary poorly defines an introvert as someone who is a “shy and resident person” which I believe is completely wrong and painfully untrue. This was, of course, defined far before introverts started speaking up and giving a damn when assumed they were shy, when in fact, introverts can be quite social people lovers. Introversion and extroversion has more to do with how one restores their energy, in addition to how they process the world around and within them. Thankfully, much as been done in the realm of writing and research this decade about the actual differences between someone who is introverted vs. extroverted, and the best definition I have come across is from following book I recommend you put on reserve at the library after reading this, introvert or not:
“Introverts have a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating environment. Introverts tend to enjoy quiet concentration, listen more than they talk, and think before they speak, and have a more circumspect and cautious approach to risk. Introverts think more, are less reckless and focus on what really matters—relationships and meaningful work. Conversely, extroverts are energized by social situations and tend to be assertive multi-taskers who think out loud and on their feet.” – Susan Cain from ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’
Cain also notes in her profoundly thoughtful book, Quiet, that between one-third and one-half of Americans may be classified as introverts, though individuals fall at different places along an introvert-extrovert spectrum. This is not a post about whether or not being introverted is better or worse than being extroverted. Both are wonderful and necessary. This post (the the posts to follow) are little lanterns shining a light on how I’ve experienced being an introvert as a woman, mother, wife, and friend.
I don’t recall the first time I heard the word ‘introvert’, nor do I recall when I even self-identified as one, except that I know deep down in the very marrow of my introverted bones several things to have always been true for me and my relatively short experience on this earth:
- Abundant time alone restores my spirit and fills me with energy to serve and care for others, while excessive time spent around or with others (mainly physically) drains my energy and brings me down.
- I am very sensitive and very easily absorb the emotions of others, which is both beautiful and exhausting.
- Quiet time, especially in the mornings and evening, is a balm to my soul; I need it everyday just as much as water or air or I tend to get anxious and overstimulated.
- Nature soothes me, especially the comfort of the seasons, and bringing it indoors helps me feel grounded and connected to something bigger and grander than myself.
- I very rarely feel lonely when alone, as there is a rich creative world alive in my head that keeps me company.
- Large groups and social gatherings take a toll on my emotional wellbeing as I am constantly taking the emotional temperature of others. And sometimes, I get far too invested in the emotional wellbeing of others that I neglect my own boundaries.
- My external surroundings deeply impact my internal landscape, therefore a cluttered environment creates chaos in my already very full and colorful mind.
- I am perfectly content spending an evening tucked into a book or deep in conversation with someone whom I trust.
- While I value deep conversation, I also value listening. My voice my not be the loudest in the room, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a hundred ideas bouncing around to share.
- Home is much more than a shelter and where I get nourishment, it nurtures my soul and offers my psyche rest, creativity, joy.
I don’t know who out there reading this identifies with any of what I’ve shared above, but if so, know your particularities and solitude-seeking preferences are a light to this world. Know that you experience life in a way, that although not celebrated or cherished by our very loud, rushed, and instant-gratification seeking culture, is a just as much needed as you read, hear, and see on screens around you. Know that you are far from being alone, even though introverts are likely the last to speak up, and that the beautiful qualities that calm and enliven your soul, are truly magnificent, worthy, and meaningful in an abundance of ways.
In what was supposed to be a long post about introversion, high sensitivity, marriage and motherhood, has evolved into a series of more manageable parts so you don’t get too bogged down. Several weeks ago I reached out on Instagram stories and asked caregivers of introverted and highly sensitive children what they have personally found to be both helpful their child and themselves as they navigate these delicate waters together. I was overwhelmed with the wonderful responses, jotted them down, and began writing here. It became clear that this is a topic many are keen to discuss, and thus this series has evolved. We will get to parenthood and marriage and friendship, but for now let’s just talk about you and me.
Over the course of the next few months I will be writing you letters as a someone who feels a lot of good could come from opening up this dialogue, to share our vulnerable hearts about how being introverted and highly sensitive has and is impacting the relationships we have with ourselves, others, and the community around us. This first post is a welcoming of sort, an opening up and acknowledgement of some important truths.
Growing up, I sought solace and comfort in two places: my bedroom and the grassy field behind my childhood home. There I would roam and wonder and delight in layers of my imagination alone and in solitude. I was a perfectionist in school for what I cn only attribute to a baffling myriad reasons, and tired really hard, too hard, to fit in. Although I worked tirelessly hard to make it all seem effortless, I always felt like an outsider peering int0 a world that seemed easier for everyone else. I favored quiet. School was loud. I favored working alone to think and create. School made me collaborate. I favored listening and writing. School made me speak up even when I was terrified. While I absolutely think school pushed me in very necessary ways to grow in a healthy direction, I also never truly felt seen or heard unless I was alone to be my authentic self, which was just as Susan Cain writes when describing highly sensitive introverted souls:
“The highly sensitive [introverted] tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions–sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments–both physical and emotional–unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss–another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly…Or at school you might have been prodded to come ‘out of your shell’—that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same.” – Susan Cain from ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’
I’ve since done a lot of reading in the realm of psychology and human behavior, as it is of deep interest to me, and have discovered that what makes me different in favoring a simple, quiet life, is not shameful but precisely what gives my life great beauty, depth and meaning. It is why I take to writing when expressing my values and inner voice, and why I love to spend so much time making a home.
And while I am careful not to put myself in a box with a label, I also recognize the empowerment and freedom that comes with learning about oneself. Reading about the Enneagram has had the same affect on my life, for in opening up and sharing these vulnerabilities I have been able to recognize these sacred areas of my existence as a source of light and abundance, rather than darkness and fear. It is because of others saying or writing “me too” out loud that I feel less alone and in fact eager to celebrate who I am, which is who I’ve always been and worked hard to hide or stifle in the past.
Being sensitive is a powerful way to be in the world and being introverted is precious gift. I offer you these words today and hope you wrap them around yourself like a warm quilt, taking shelter under the comfort, freedom, and connection they give you.
Me, Your Introverted Friend
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Vanessa Chafe - Thank you for this lovely letter. It’s such a magical experience to connect and be seen. Your feelings seem to mirror my own, we are not alone!
admin - Vanessa, always lovely to hear from a kind, kindred spirit such as yourself. Hope you have a beautiful day! xx Amanda
Stasi - Besides 1, 6 and a little bit of 9 in the list above…you describe me to a T, but I’m a full blown extrovert…its interesting to see what traits both types share. Thanks for this post, its enlightening to see the world theoigh an introverts eyes <3
admin - Stasi, I so appreciate hearing from both introverts and extroverts here! Some of my very best friends are quite extroverted and I love the energy and vitality and enthusiasm they bring to life. Thank you for sharing, dear one. And happy weekend! xx Amanda
Alyssa - This is beautiful, Amanda. It is such a weight off of my chest hearing that others feel the same way as me. I’m quickly learning that my 4 month old daughter is very much a highly sensitive little person and I’m so interested in learning about how I can meet her needs.
admin - Alyssa, reading your words lifted a weight off mine. My Theodore is a very sensitive and introverted soul and we knew it right away too. He is emotionally complex and introspective and deeply feeling, and while it can absolutely be trying at times, it’s also so beautiful getting to mother such a sensitive being. Looking forward to writing and sharing more with you. xx Amanda
Kim - Thank you for sharing and saying so beautifully what some of us struggle to articulate. Your words and thoughtful insight bring such calm and peacefulness to me. In my mid 30’s I am only just now putting the pieces of my puzzle together, still slowly. Always spiritual, always sensitive….i am only now realising what this means for me as I navigate this world. I can’t wait to read your letter on marriage and relationships! xx
admin - Kim, thank you for sharing dear one. I felt at home in your words and am so happy you are here. xx Amanda
rachel - thank you for this, so so so much. i connected with every sentence of this … i don’t have words to express how it feels to know someone else feels this same way, but thank you for sharing. i wonder how i’d feel now if i could have realized this about myself when i was younger, but now at 34 i’m thankful it didn’t take me until later in life for what i’ve been telling my husband feels like an “enlightenment version of a midlife crisis” 😉
admin - Rachel, girl I am right there with you. I knew something was up when I was about seven years old and found more friends, more belonging, in the field behind our home than comfort in school where everyone else seemed to feel so connected. It has taken me YEARS to come back home to this way of being and accept who I am, but I am grateful for the path that has lead me here, even if it took longer than I’d perhaps like. Have a lovely weekend, my friend. xx Amanda
Victoria - Wow. You have described ME! It’s so hard to explain how I just never feel like I fit in anywhere but at home. Sometimes I find it difficult to allow people into my home because I’m so protective of the quiet, the clean which I must have to feel at peace. (I DO have people over but not a lot) I’m curious how you’ve worked through being able to share so much. I have social media accounts but I no longer post to them – all of a sudden it felt intrusive and false to have so many people inside my life.
admin - Victoria, I resonate with so much of what you’ve shared and for a long time thought I just was weird or wrong in my reasonings. Social media is a strange bird for me! First and foremost, it is my main creative outlet that gives me so much life and energy. I feel the need to write and make everyday, and sharing my gifts in this way with others who enjoy the same is what brings me the most joy.
I also have found immense freedom in sharing vulnerable parts of the human experience with others whom I don’t know for the fact that it illuminates how much alike we all truly are. I am driven by beauty and inspiration, and appreciate that social media offers a way to deepen this in my life. Alas, there are many drawbacks to social media too. It’s a scale I am forever trying to balance, but from a wider perspective, I have found it offers more good than bad in a world that could always use more joy on the internet, so I continue to share my work and life there. What a complicated answer! Haha. xx Amanda
Genna - Wow… crying while I put my middle child to sleep! Thank you ❤️
admin - Genna, sending you love today and light through the weekend. xx Amanda
Tami - Love this and am looking forward to more letters. 🌱
admin - Tami, thank you dear one. I appreciate your feedback. xx Amanda
Sarah - Hi Amanda,
I have often been told that I am “such a good listener” or “thank you for listening.” I have often felt that perhaps I just don’t have much to add to the conversation; that I need to offer some advice or wisdom or something for them to take away. But I have come to realize that it is the listening that others really want or perhaps need; to be heard. It is a gift I can offer others. Sometimes we just need to voice our thoughts, and all we need to process them is another compassionate human being to listen.
I read this post with a catch in my throat; your words resonate. Thank you, and I look forward to reading ‘Quiet.’
admin - Sarah, I think you are so right. I feel like so many people when in conversation are itching to get two cents in without really considering what the other person is saying! And then with so much time on social media, the art of conversation is being lost, whereby listening is a key role. While a listener to many, I am someone who sorts through my thoughts verbally with Andrew, my husband, and he does the same. I am tickled you haven’t read ‘Quiet’ by Cain and are adding it to your library. It’s chalk-full of gems and made me feel so validated. xx Amanda
Patricia Knight - Wonderfully written & comforting to my soul! I am an extreme introvert who loves to stay home & listen to music. I have visitors occasionally, but only those I love & trust deeply are allowed to return. Thank you for this lovely article on introversion. I’ve always viewed it as a blessing.
admin - Patricia, thank you for sharing your heart here. It’s refreshing hearing from others who love nothing more than staying home and enjoying music. Those are among who of my very favorite things, and I am doing both right now! Have a beautiful weekend, dearest. xx Amanda
Jimena - From one introvert to another, thank you so much for this <3 I've gone through everything you describe: feeling forced to participate at school, feeling guilty because of my need of solitude and quiet and eventually embracing and cherishing it (and being lucky enough to have friends and a partner who honor and respect this). Reading your text this morning made my heart sing 🙂
admin - Jimena, thank you for sharing sweet sister soul 🙂 Hope you have a restful weekend. xx Amanda
Portra - Reading your letter has just lifted me from a dark place. I cannot seem to cope with myself anymore. What seems part of life for many, I feel overwhelmed with everything around me and i am literally out of energy not even cry. I literally absorb everyones energy n go the way out to fix them n make others feel good…but i could not deal with the anxieties of mine. I feel very depressed and don’t feel normal. Some people’s presence upsets me to the point that i fear of loosing my job n I feel very hopeless now. My perfectionism is against me. When i read your post I broke down as i really someone to understand me.
admin - Portra, you sound like a deeply beautiful empath who could use a bit of rest and self care. Gosh, have I been there. I find that when I am far too wrapped up in the energy of others and cannot tend to my own boundaries, spending ample time in nature truly helps. Thank you for being so vulnerable and brave in sharing your story, I am cheering you on and believe in you! xx Amanda
gkgirl - ohhhhhhhhh….there was SO MUCH OF ME
that i recognized in this. I think this is
why I have been drawn to blogging for so long…
it opened up a way of communication that works
perfectly for me.
Thank you so much for sharing this. I immediately
bought the book you talked about, too.
Lor - This was a wonderful, refreshing post. I felt I was reading it about myself. Thank you for shedding light on this 🙂
Amanda Edwards - This! I’m such an introvert. I used to be a middle school librarian, and then a public librarian, and although I loved the job & being around all of those books, the sometimes loud, chaotic environments really took a toll on my soul. I’m a SAHM now and much more in my element. xx
Hayley - Wow, what a beautiful post. I relate to this so much and am only now beginning to embrace the qualities about myself that I used to want to change or that made me feel less than. “Enjoying a simple quiet life is not shameful but precisely what gives my life great beauty, depth and meaning.” As a sit here, grateful for another day of my simple beautiful life, I am also so grateful for finding your blog…looking forward to reading more.