Exposed

Posted by on May 22, 2014 in confidence, Friendship, mental health, Relationships, women | 10 comments

I am an introvert. I get my energy from being by myself and being undisturbed. Being at large parties or being around people I don’t know, emotionally and physically overwhelms me, makes me anxious, and exhausts me. Don’t get me wrong. I love being around a large group of my good, close (“good” and “close” being the qualifiers, here) friends that I already know and being in small personal gatherings to meet new friends and people. I love having great conversations and [attempting] to be funny and getting to know people on a small, intimate basis. However, it’s still physically draining for me to do. I need to go back home and recuperate so I can prepare myself for another day of interacting with people.

This party won't last all day for me.... So many people!

This party won’t last all day for me…. So many people!

I am also extremely shy around others that I don’t know. This often hinders me. When I intern, volunteer, or work somewhere, it’s hard for me to make friends with colleagues and coworkers. It’s difficult for me to open up when I’m thrust into a group of people I’m suddenly forced to interact with frequently. It stresses me out, even. Sadly enough, even here on the blog my introversion prohibits me from reaching out and forming new relationships. I’m afraid to speak out or chime in. I worry I’ll say the wrong thing. I’ll worry I have to keep up with conversations I’m not qualified to have. I’m afraid to open up and make myself vulnerable. It’s best if I stay in my quiet little corner until I’m able to warm up and open up. Introverts take time, but I am trying to change and speed up the process.

Feelings of exposure and vulnerability are a gift for some people, but a great struggle for me. A frequent complaint of my friends is the fact that I will actively and truly listen to them about their life and their problems and solve all of their life’s worries, but I rarely talk to them about my life and my problems.

“I feel like I’m talking too much,” a friend will say. “What’s going on with you?”

“Oh, nothing. My life’s not as interesting as yours!” And I’ll sneakily bring the conversation back to the life and goings-on of my friend.

I tend to be more of a listener and observer. It’s safe that way. I’m privy to information without giving up information myself. I get to listen and help with problems and practice my skills of empathy. I get to learn about others and hear about their lives. I love being close to my friends and other people in that way. But I’m now realizing that this is a two-way street. I already feel I’m an excellent listener. Now I need to work on being more vulnerable. More exposed.

It’s hard. I naturally keep things to myself. When people speak ask my opinion of feminism, or Mormonism, or certain politics, I’ll give my opinion–– strongly. But only on a superficial level. I never bring in my personal experiences or connections with the topics at hand. When people ask about my family life or what I’m thinking about, I’ll give generic answers. No one wants to hear what I think, right? But people always want others to listen to what they think, that’s for sure.

But even in my prayers to Heavenly Father, I’m extremely generic. I go through the motions, but I can’t even be open to the one person I’m supposed to open with. Even communicating with God is a struggle for me, which is probably why I rarely say prayers.

Balance is possible, I know. And I also know that my friends truly do want to know what’s going in my life. People trying to be my friend and get to know me also want to hear about my thoughts and myself. My successes and failures, my wins and losses. It’s how we bond with one another. It’s how we help each other and “bear one another’s burdens” and become more Christlike.

So I’m slowly coming out of my introverted woodwork. I’ll always be shy and introverted, there’s no doubt about that. It’ll always be difficult for me to talk about myself and open up. But I need to open up and let others into my life. I need to be exposed. There’s no human connection more powerful than intimacy and vulnerability. And I want to be connected. I want to expand. I don’t want to be safe anymore.

Wish me luck.

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10 Comments

  1. I love reading this perspective. I’m an abrasive extrovert, so sometimes I worry that I’ve offended or put off people who don’t share my enthusiasm for vocalizing every single thought they have. It’s good for me to understand how introverts work and feel (especially since I’m married to an extreme introvert) – and I appreciate you taking the time to talk about this.

    I’d never considered how prayer would be affected by being an extrovert/introvert. That’s a fascinating insight.

    • My husband is also an abrasive extrovert. I am always encouraging him to read beautiful thought pieces like this.

  2. East River Lady, thank you for the post. I have similar struggles.

  3. A lot of this describes me as well. I don’t do well in large groups of people, particularly people who are extroverted and want to talk. Just a couple of weeks ago I was at a feminist retreat and we had a book group on a subject I’m really interested in. And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to break into the conversation, to thrust my voice and my opinion in when there were so many others that wanted to talk too. I was silent the whole time. However, if I’m in a very small group or one on one, I have no problem sharing my ideas or questions.

    I too struggle to have meaningful prayers. I don’t know if I’ve ever been terribly vulnerable or open in prayer. Part of that is that it’s not reciprocal. God doesn’t talk back to me, so it kind of feels like I’m talking to a wall. Which makes me feel stupid. I’ve often wondered if it would be different if I addressed my Heavenly Parents in prayer, rather than just HF.

    • Caroline, this is a revelation to me. I love every single thing I ever heard you say in any classroom setting we shared. Because you are so articulate and thoughtful, I mistakenly believed it was easy for you, instead of brave or uncomfortable.

      God not speaking back is hard for me, too. I think it is why I like blessings. There are real words spoken from a real mouth.

  4. I love this and feel the same way. I think being vulnerable has gotten easier for me as I age. Maybe because I think I’m better at evaluating “safe” places and friendships, but it’s still so draining.

    Thank you for articulating the perspective of introverts so well!

    P.S. I hate the phone.

  5. This was so nice for me to read, one, because I still remember a dinner we shared with our favorite bloggers about love, and you Were the listener, two, because I feel grateful for every gem of yourself you have chosen to reveal. It is brave, and vulnerable, and meaningful, like you said.

    There are some things I care about that I can just say, to anyone, almost anywhere, but there are others that I only bring out in safe spaces. I think that there might be some wisdom in this, but there might also be some fear, and reluctance to be exposed. I need to consider this for my own self.

    Good luck in your own efforts, my dear!

    P.S. I also hate the phone! And big parties!

  6. I feel like I could have written every single word of this post. Every time I take one of this MBTI personality evaluations I test off the charts as an introvert, there is not one single part of me that identifies as an extrovert. I also struggle with online communications, building new relationships and praying to God. Areas that have proven to especially difficult are my marriage to a committed extrovert who must externalize everything and motherhood. I had no idea how exhausting being an introverted mother would be. All that being said, I have worked over the past several years at opening up and being vulnerable. This has allowed me to build some beautiful relationships with my husband and other women. It is not easy to do this but for me it has been so worth it. Good luck in your journey!

  7. I don’t know that I am an introvert so much as I am a private person, but I find that for me, the relative anonymity of the internet helps me get out of my shell. I was reminded just this morning how many people that I only know through the bloggernacle reached out to me when my wife died. Part of the reason I am a fan of this blog is that several of you reached out to me privately during my darkest days. It seemed to me to be extraordinary that people would do that when their only contact with me has been through words on an occasional comment to a blog.

  8. I so identify with your experience, East River Lady! Definitely listening but steering conversations away from having to reveal too much about myself. I think your explanation for why this is attractive is spot on: it feels so much safer this way. This is my experience, anyway.

    But like EmilyCC, I feel like I’ve learned to strike a better balance between introversion and extroversion as I’ve aged. I’m still not good at making myself vulnerable in getting to know people well, but I’m better than I used to be!

    Thanks for this post.

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