The art of being alone

I like to call myself a “social introvert.”

I learned in one of my classes (yes I learn at school) that being introverted or extroverted doesn’t just mean being shy or outgoing. It actually has to do with the way you process information and where you get your energy. “Energy” is a such a nebulous, hippie word, but it just means what rejuvenates you. I like to think of it as what makes you feel like your most real, true-to-the-core self. What makes you feel the most alive. For extroverts, energy is generally found around people. Introverts usually receive their energy by being alone or in quiet places.

What’s also interesting is that extroverts and introverts require different amounts of external stimuli to ignite their emotions. Surprisingly, extroverts actually need more to bring about the same emotional reaction as introverts. For example, hosting a nice birthday party for an introvert might cause him to feel the same level of excitement as throwing an enormous surprise party for an extrovert. It takes a smaller external stimulus to bring about the same emotional reaction. Which is why throwing a huge party for an introvert might overwhelm him.

Obviously, there are different kinds of both introverts and extroverts though. Some people simply have higher levels of emotion than others, regardless of their introvert/extrovert nature. While some introverts would absolutely panic at being given a huge surprise party, others would enjoy it. At the same time, there are extroverts who don’t always get bored when they’re by themselves and still feel meaningful during alone times.

In light of all this, it’s probably clear to anyone who knows me that I’m an introvert. To the core. When I’m alone, I feel like I understand life better and can see more clearly than when I’m with people. Like a cloud is lifted from my mind. I’m also very introspective (which isn’t always a great quality) and thoroughly enjoy going somewhere with the feeling that no one on Earth knows where I am.

It took me a long time to reach a place of confidence in my introvertedness. I used to feel like I was super unsocial if I spent time alone or that people would think I was weird if I went out in public places by myself. Since coming to college, however, I now go to movies alone on purpose, prefer to shop by myself, and will sometimes turn down social gatherings if I’ve been around people too much. This all might make me sound like I hate people, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Which is where the other part of my nature comes in.

I’m a “social introvert” because I love to be around people. I love to laugh and dance and go places and experience new adventures with others. I love getting to know the hearts and especially the stories of people, learning how they’re similar and different from me and ultimately learning about myself through them. And like normal people, I get lonely if I go too long without seeing friends or family.

But after a lot of seeing people, I need to not see them for a time. I love to listen, and I love to talk (definitely too much), but I also need periods of not speaking or listening to anyone except the Lord and my own spinning thoughts. It’s there that I unravel what I believe, what I love, what I live for, and who I am.

It’s the art of being alone. Finding that quiet place inside yourself where you’re completely real. Introverts and extroverts alike could use more of it. Society tells us it’s uncool to be alone, but they’re only pulling us from the place where real discovery, decision, and faith bloom. Don’t be scared to be alone with yourself, and don’t worry what others might think. People come and go, but you’ll be living with you for the rest of your life. You might as well make the most of it.

❉  ❉  ❉

“I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.”
-Oscar Wilde

“It is remarkable that the persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society. The thought suffices them, without investing itself in the flesh and the blood of action.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

“Perhaps I am a man of exceptional moods. I do not know how far my experience is common. At times I suffer from the strangest sense of detachment from myself and the world about me; I seem to watch it all from the outside, from somewhere inconceivably remote, out of time, out of space, out of the stress and tragedy of it all.”
-H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

“‘I feel too much. That’s what’s going on.’
‘Do you think one can feel too much? Or just feel in the wrong ways?’
‘My insides don’t match up with my outsides.’
‘Do anyone’s insides and outsides match up?’
‘I don’t know. I’m only me.’
‘Maybe that’s what a person’s personality is: the difference between the inside and outside.'”
-Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

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One thought on “The art of being alone

  1. This is exactly me. I’ve blogged about my introversion many times before, and only a handful of people that I know feel the same way. Good to know that there are more of us “social introverts” out there!

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