Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I am shy.

If you've been wandering around the IntArwebz lately, you've probably noticed a quiet little hubbub going on about introversion.

Susan Cain has released a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. Adam McHugh has a blog and a book on introverts in the church.

I haven't read either book, though I do read McHugh's blog. He has a lot of good things to say, and from the interviews with Cain and the reviews of her books that I've read, she does as well.

(I will admit that I think the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod is a more introverted denomination than the traditions McHugh comes from, so sometimes his stuff confuses me. I just don't get that "extroverts are better" vibe at my own church.)

With all this publicity surrounding introversion, however, the same comment keeps cropping up. Take this statement from an interview with Cain on NPR:
"Now, shyness, on the other hand, is about a fear of negative social judgment. So you can be introverted without having that particular fear at all, and you can be shy but also be an extrovert."
Only recently have I come to realize that shyness and introversion are truly different things.

And that, moreover, I am both introverted and shy.

Apparently the heart-clenching paralysis I feel when facing human interaction--whether it's calling to make a doctor's appointment or going to a party--is not introversion.

Apparently, being around people can make you tired without you being terrified of being around people.

The problem with all of this introvert publicity--and let me say that I don't think it's a bad thing, that Cain and McHugh have important messages that they convey articulately--is that, while it normalizes introversion, it has made me acutely aware of how abnormal shyness is.

That is, so often people, as Cain does in the interview excerpt above, leap to say, "Introversion is okay; it's normal and wonderful and just different from extraversion. It's not, heaven forbid, shyness."

And while I know that's not the message they're intending to convey (I don't think)...it sure makes me feel miserable.

It just emphasizes that other people aren't like me. Other people can call up a dentist and make an appointment without agonizing over the process for weeks--and they can cancel a subsequent appointment because they don't like the dentist, instead of continuing to go because she's so afraid of having the dentist and his employees dislike her.

Other people can take clothes in to a consignment shop and get money for them instead of sheepishly dumping them in the donation bin, all the while freaking out about the people driving by who obviously are judging her.

Other people can speak in class when not called on and meet friends' eyes when speaking to them.

(Other people have Real Life friends.)

Sigh. This sounds mopey and self-pitying. To a degree, that's because it is. But to a degree, it's not.

If it's not normal, maybe it's something I can change. If it's not normal, maybe it's something I can overcome.

Probably not. Not completely, anyway. But maybe if I do some of these common tasks often enough, reminding myself that other people don't panic about them because there's no reason to panic, maybe, eventually, I'll stop panicking.

Or maybe I'll die of a heart attack before I'm thirty. Either way.

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