The Introvert’s Survival Guide

To come “out of one’s shell” is an interesting idiom.

I imagine the little turtle poking her head from her glossy green shell, wishing she could just stay home. It always seemed that the turtle was expected to chuck that embarrassing shell and get on with her life.

But a turtle can’t actually leave its shell. I can’t actually shirk my need for quiet time. It’s a limb, a section of soul, a core component that would cripple me to lose.

So what does an introvert like me do when she’s faced with a huge writer’s conference and family wedding (an example from this weekend)? She asks God for strength and steps into the whirlwind.

Our shells aren’t made to be cracked or abandoned.

A quiet evening with my husband is one of my shells. Too many parties, meetings, or dinners, and…my heart develops a limp.

At the writer’s conference, I took copious notes, made a handful of conversations, and absorbed most of my day in quiet. I can’t ask loads of questions, and I can’t chat up dozens of new friends.

These are some ways I protect my shell from cracks.

At the wedding, someone handed me a camera, and I documented the flower-girl pouring all her petals in one place. I couldn’t greet everyone I knew, but I could hold my hands out to help.

I am slowly learning to survive in a world that champions outgoing, magnanimous attitudes.  I love people dearly, but I must gather strength apart from them.

I curl inside my dark shell and gather the beauty to bring back to the light.

Are you an introvert? Extrovert? Somewhere in between? What are your survival tips?

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This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. I am absolutely an introvert. This was difficult when I lived in Norway because they are such a social culture. I found myself attending parties 5-6 nights a week, which is about 2-3 more than I can maintain in a healthy manner. I learned that to survive in that environment, I would often break-away from the main group at the party and strike up a more intimate conversation with 1-2 friends. By the end of my time there, I actually had to politely decline invitations to events, which was very difficult for me, but I was starting to burnout, and I needed time to recharge. I think introverts often feel that pressure to push themselves, which is sad because I don’t see a societal pressure for extroverts to spend time alone, which I think could be very healthy for them.

    1. Scott, I think you’re correct that our society has a tendency to push on the introverts but not take care of the extroverts, because they’ve “figured it out.” I don’t knot if I could have survived your Nordic social scene…while still feeling like a whole person. I’m glad that you’re figured out enough about yourself to know what you can handle and when you need to decline an invite.

  2. Elise, funny you should be writing this post this week; I just wrote one about one of my primary survival techniques, which is to hole up in a hotel room by myself for a couple of days of near-silence. Just did a weekend down in Tacoma at the start of the month!

    1. Laura, good for you! How did your weekend in Tacoma go? Sounds like a feast of much-needed silence. 🙂

  3. Most would stick me squarely in the extrovert camp, and they would be right, though much of my childhood was spent terrified of other kids, especially boys who were often very cruel. Growing up has become a process of working toward the person I want to be. Once in a while, the best way to do that has been pulling away from people completely and rediscovering my sanctuary, the place that never fails, and from where I always emerge restored and expanded: books.

    1. I love this: “Growing up has become a process of working toward the person I want to be.” I agree. I think we were told a lot of “supposed to be” things as kids, any many of those things were said with very good intentions, but learning about ourselves and what we individually need to do to take care of ourselves, to let ourselves be the healthy people we want to be, now that’s a challenge!

  4. This was a great encouragement. I was reflecting on this very topic today, and googled “My Life in the Midst of Extroverts: An Introvert’s Survival Guide” thinking honestly that it would be so great if someone would write a book or blog with that name. I figured someone had so I googled it! I may have to blog some on the topic myself one of these days, just to express and reflect. 🙂 Thank you for the encouragement to a fellow introvert trying to figure out how to get more quiet time. 🙂

    1. You are very welcome! I love that your Google search led you here. We introverts have to band together and remember collectively that our need for quiet, alone time isn’t antisocial or bad at all. It’s how we are and how we best function. So glad this was encouraging to you, and thank you for writing to let me know!

      1. Thanks for your reply. Yes, I definitely agree. I had to recently remind my extroverted family members about the alone time need like when we have guests. 🙂 Keep writing and thank you also for your comment over at Songs in the Night. Blessings!

  5. Elise! This is funny to me… I found your blog post as I came home, attempted to have a conversation with my introvert husband and search “Seattle extroverts survival guide”!
    I hope you get a kick out of this as well! Looking forward to seeing you again Tues!

  6. Angela, this is fantastic! You’re the second person who has hit this post due to a random search, which is great! We’ll have to geek out about introversion next time I see you. I just read an amazing book called Quiet, which has been fueling many more thoughts on this!

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