I’ve been faced, in recent weeks, with the challenges of being introverted in an extroverted world - where externally-focussed is the accepted norm and internally-focused is often perceived as shy, rude, and standoffish.
On the Myers-Briggs scale of personality types (http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp), I am a solid INFP – Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving. I know my quiet, still and focussed demeanour can make people feel uncomfortable. An expressed perception I've often heard is that I can read someone's mind just by looking into their eyes. I can’t actually do that but, yes, I can get a read on you that’s usually pretty darn accurate. Why? Because, introverts, and especially intuitive ones, are highly attuned to the nuances of non-verbal communication. And because we process stimuli at a much slower pace than extroverts, we tend to go deep into understanding.
Recently, my husband, Paul, and I participated in a “wellness retreat” at a lovely spa in Woodstock, Vermont. It was led by well-meaning extroverted fitness buffs who tried mightily to motivate our group into loving 6:00 a.m. workout classes and 8 km mountain hikes. During the nutrition and “just do it”-type lectures, we were encouraged to find our passion!! As an introvert with limited energetic resources, I can’t work myself up to having a passion. My limit is interest. I can be deeply interested in something. Interested isn’t going to break the energy bank.
Of course, there's a place for this kind of highly-motivated, highly-active pursuit but the problem is when it triggers the negative internal messaging that makes me feel badly about myself. Over the years, I've internalized words like lazy, unmotivated, lacking in commitment, etc. Introverts can experience the misunderstanding judgment of others who live the externally-focussed path - that majority of folks who fit comfortably into what it means to be "normal" – sociable, people-oriented, fast-talking, quick-thinking, and group-joining, to name a few traits.
Expecting an introvert to “Just Do It” is akin to watching Sisyphus push that boulder up the hill only to watch it roll down again, no further ahead in determining the meaning of such a pursuit. A fruitless and meaningless expending of energy that can never be recovered or recharged.
In times like that fitness weekend, I have to remind myself that I don’t operate like most people do and I'm okay with that. In fact, the INFP personality type comprises only 4% of the human population – talk about misunderstood. I am a slow-moving, eternally-processing, energy-recharging machine. It’s not surprising that Paul and I showed up late to the scheduled activities, if we attended at all (a hotel room and a good book are all the vacation activities I need). That P in my profile indicates a need for time to be fluid and personally accommodating. I try to honour that within myself.