Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Salon: Turns out it's OK to be Me

Any shy or introverted people out there?  The two things are very different--I used to be painfully shy (it still pops up now and again) but mostly I'm just introverted.  I need some quiet solitude to recharge my batteries and let all of my observations settle down into organized thoughts (as opposed to my husband and youngest daughter who claim that there is only one circumstance in which they prefer to be alone--I'll leave you to puzzle out when that might be).  My life--with a husband that loves to be social and four children that are...well, children--provides continual opportunities to stretch myself and grow, but there are some innate characteristics that one simply doesn't grow out of.

There was a fascinating opinion piece in the New York Times today that discussed how our society tends to think of shyness as an illness.  Prompted by a Zoloft ad, (that seeks to illuminate the difference between being shy and having social anxiety,) the author discusses how our society tends to disfavor introverted or shy personality traits, and points out why this ought not to be.  Introverted people have played a big role in human history (from Moses to Darwin, Proust to Einstein) and yet the idea still prevails that shy people should become more outgoing.  Why this may be is a whole other discussion; I'm just glad to see the issue brought to light.  I'm generally not surrounded by other people who love to discuss the things they are reading, writing, or creating, so this article gave me a morsel of hope, and a renewed appreciation for the book blogging community.  I'm definitely not the most social book blogger around, but I'm okay with that.

As a side note, my family will be exploring the Great Outdoors this week--camping in the Sequoias (south of Yosemite) so it might be pretty quiet around here until next weekend.  Actually, I should have said "camping" because it's not like I'll be in a tent or anything.  I'll be clean, comfy, and cozy in a hotel bed a few miles away from where my parents and my kiddos will be camping.  But it'll be all "Great Outdoors" during the day.  Turns out, I'm okay with that too.

21 comments:

  1. With the family going out camping, it must be great time to charge the batteries. And shouldn't there be all kinds of people, shy and outgoing. But I agree, outgoing tends to be more popular.

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  2. I'm glad you thought of posting this because I'm terribly shy as well. I've never thought it a weakness, but I have met a lot of people who do. Some of my extended family have been quick to mock me about it and it wasn't pleasant. I love outgoing people who love to hang out with shy people - both the personalities can be very compatible you know. One person can do all the talking and plan the fun and the other can easily be a part of all that without being too social. :)

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  3. I wouldn't call myself shy...but I'm no social butterfly either. I'd much rather be at home quietly reading, cooking, gardening etc. than out and about flitting around. I'm not much of a party goer either...I think shy, quiet people are an asset to the world; to me they tend to be deeper thinkers and actually probably more ok with themselves than someone who has to be with others all the time...I don't know...what I do know is that it takes all of us to make the world go around :)

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  4. I come from a family with a social dad and a shy mom. My dad was always pushing for us to do things with others and my mom was always pushing to stay home. I never realized until I was older that my mom was painfully shy.

    Here's my Sunday Salon: Une Petite Visite à Paris. (And don't worry....it's in English. I just like to pretend to speak French.)

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  5. I used to think of myself as shy, but that was a long, long time ago. I had a career in social work for thirty years, which required me to interact with all kinds of people, mostly strangers, as well as colleagues.

    But I do need to recharge my batteries alone...and even while in that career (or maybe especially because of it), I would veg out at night. I still like my solitude.

    Not much of a party animal, either, but I can do it if necessary.

    Here's MY SUNDAY SALON POST

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  6. JannyAn, camping will be great for recharging! My husband might go a little stir-crazy though. :)

    Aths, I agree! Most people I know are pretty open minded about different kinds of people, though I do know some who are of the definite opinion that shyness is a disorder. :/

    Peppermint, it does take all kinds. The article mentioned Eleanor Roosevelt--an introvert, but vital support for FDR (an extrovert)--one without the other wouldn't have accomplished nearly as much.

    Deb, isn't it funny the things we realize about our parents once we're grown? Thanks for sharing that!

    Laurel-Rain Snow, a great example of the difference between shyness and being an introvert! I still dislike new social situations, but now I'm pretty good at faking it until I feel it. Sometimes it does just take experience.

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  7. I was very, very shy when I was young. No one ever got my name right and I would never correct them. I spent my whole childhood going by different names because whatever anyone thought my name was, I would just agree.

    Now, I'm no longer shy but I am a HUGE introvert. Go figure though cuz I make my money in the human resources business and I am never alone at home with the two loud, social middle-schoolers. There is a season for everything it seems.

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  8. Belle, I can so identify with the name thing. I think I had more people call me Melanie than Melody when I was growing up. :) It's actually been wonderful that my husband has helped pull me through my shyness by exposing me to so many different social situations, it wasn't pleasant at the time, but I'm much better for it.

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  10. Very good points Melody. I'm not shy, but I'm not sure about introverted. For my work I need to network a lot.

    On a social level it's different. I'm an expat in Brussels and there's a huge international community who's always organizing parties, outings and other activities. While I love this and meet new people (I'm very good at this as well), I often turn them down for a day by myself. The problem is that sometimes I feel guilty about turning down social stuff, and keep thinking about friends bonding without me. I'm a closeted introverted :)

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  11. Not shy, but definitely introverted here. I get my social "fix" as a professor, but at the end of the day, I'M DONE. I definitely need the quiet "me time" to recharge. I've even negotiated some specific time weekly from my family whom I love, but they still are VERY social and like to talk. All the time. lol Thank goodness they understand my personality quirks and are mostly helpful and understanding.

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  12. This is my hobby horse, so beware! I used to be painfully shy but would now consider myself as quiet/introverted. I work as a teacher so I am able to stand up in front of groups of 500-ish kids and deliver an assembly, not something I would have been able to do in the past. So my shyness is better. I do think too much shyness can be crippling.

    But most people don't seem to understand just wanting to be quiet. I just don't enjoy going out all the time, partying too hard or being around loud people. I teach in a way that matches my personality, which has led to be both being praised for being calm and creating a calm atmosphere and critised for not being all-singing all-dancing. There is a definite bias towards outgoing people in our society.

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  13. Interesting post, Melody, and obviously stimulated a lot of discussion. I find the older I get and the more people I know, the more convinced I am that everyone is "shy" to some extent, in the sense that everyone sometimes feels fairly anxious about interacting with people and develop various ways to cover over that anxiety. I think there are few people who are truly just completely comfortable in social interaction. If you carefully observe people long enough, you can tease out the ways in which they work through their social anxieties. That's my theory, at least.

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  14. I think you are right about shyness being treated like an illness in the U.S. I remember when I first moved here from England and was surprised how loud the contestants were in game shows. In England the most response is "thank you very much," no jumping up and down and squealing.
    Ann

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  15. I am an introvert and feel positively ill if I don't get plenty of time and space to myself every day. I also have a very sociable husband! And I have always thought of myself as 'wrong' because I feel that way. It took a book by Elaine Aron, who identifies the concept of the 'highly sensitive person' (which sounds a bit silly, but is a good description of me) to help me see that it wasn't such a dreadful failing after all.

    Hope you have a wonderful time camping.

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  16. I do indeed hope that I'm not posting so late that you may not receive my input.

    I am considered an extrovert; I'm considered to be social, I'm not shy, BUT!!!! Do I ever cherish solitude! I enjoy my own company and often prefer it to being with other people, especially when I've been around people a great deal. I don't understand people who don't enjoy time spent alone.

    Judith

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  17. Not shy but definitely on the quiet side and introverted as well! I simply don't talk unless I have something to say (especially around large groups or with people I don't know). I have thought before about how our society somewhat frowns upon introverted personality types and praises the 'fun and outgoing' extroverts. Boo, introverts are cool too :) Great post!

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  18. Hi Melody,
    Sorry to be so late to the show to comment, but I really liked that NYTimes article as well, and the blog of the writer of the upcoming book (which I am eagerly awaiting). It also prompted me to buy and begin reading "The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth" which is similarly themed and very interesting thus far (170/403 pages in).
    I consider myself a "high-functioning" introvert (I guess that term implies that there's something "wrong" with introverts, hmmm...) and if I had my druthers would just as soon keep to myself on most days. Somewhat hard to pull off in the workforce, though...
    -Jay

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  19. I have so enjoyed getting a peek at so many different experiences and opinions on this! I'm so glad you all took the time to comment.

    Isn't it fascinating how many different combinations of shy/outgoing, intro/extroverted personalities there are? I love finding out whether people consider themselves introverts or extroverts--it often surprises me. Many outgoing people are introverts, showing that it doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with being shy.

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  20. I'm shy, but I'm mainly introverted, extremely so. Unfortunately I didn't discover the word until I was already grown up, so I spent a lot of my childhood fighting what I thought was shyness and being very uncomfortable. Large social gatherings are still uncomfortable, but at least now I understand my response better.

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  21. Have you heard of Myers-Brigg typology? Might be useful to you, not as a science so much as to read about and understand what makes you who you are. Or anyhow, that many of us are introverted. :-) I'm an INFP.

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