An Introvert in Disguise

Even though you are an introvert, you are undoubtedly capable of acting in the world in an extroverted way when you need to. But if it goes on for an extended period of time, you will probably be tired afterwards.

Ilse Sand in On Being an Introvert or Highly Sensitive Person

Did I ever tell you about the time I tried to teach elementary school?

Actually, that season lasted a lot longer than it should have because another thing introverts are good at is saying yes when they really want to say no.

(I guess another way of saying that is introverts are bad at saying no.)

So there I was, teaching third graders.

I have a theory about children below the age of 10 and that is, the more of them that you have together, their volume is increased exponentially. It’s not one plus one plus one equals three.

The energy and volume of children increase exponentially, especially when they’re involved in doing something I’m not so good at, such as crafts or art projects.

They all seem to want to talk at the same time and none of them seem to have been taught the concept of “inside voice”.

Okay, I know that’s not really the case, and those kids were each wonderful in their own way.

Some of them, I could tell, were introverted or even highly sensitive people because of the way they interacted with others. They observed rather than joining in wholeheartedly to the noise and clamor of an elementary school classroom.

It wasn’t all noise and insanity (and I’m pretty sure the kids actually did learn), but some days it felt like nothing but noise and insanity due to my highly sensitive processing.

And while I was a teacher’s aide most of the time, there was a season (due to the main teacher’s health) that I had to step in full-time.

Although I could play the “extrovert” roll, when I got home each day, I was exhausted.

I was also angry with myself for feeling so exhausted and overwhelmed, and stressed at everything else I encountered because it was just too much on top of those hours I spent teaching and feeling overwhelmed by so many children.

I got sick, actually the sickest I’d ever been, because of the stress.

And while it’s hard for me to say no because it’s been grilled in me from a young age to embrace every opportunity that comes my way, even if it’s a poor fit, I learned that I had to protect myself from pretending to be an extrovert over the long-term.

It was harming me physically and hurting my relationships with those closest to me.

Are you an introvert?

A highly sensitive person?

Are you working at a job that completely exhausts you because it’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole or a round peg into a square hole?

This isn’t the type of tiredness that comes from a long day of good work, but the exhaustion of trying to fit where you really don’t.

If you find yourself more stressed and anxious on a regular basis than you know you should be, maybe it’s time to look at your lifestyle or your type of work and see if there isn’t some better approach that fits better for your personality type.

Ilse Sand, whom I quoted above, in her book On Being an Introvert or Highly Sensitive Person, mentioned working as a pastor of a parish. There were expectations for her to do things that the previous pastor (who had been an obvious extrovert) had done.

It was only after realizing and finding grace with herself for being an introvert that she was able to then find a workplace and work style that fit her far better.

Often, in this culture, we are all expected to be extroverted and put on our best face and be highly interactive and eager about all of it …

But that’s not the best fit for all of us, especially those of us who would define ourselves as introverted and highly sensitive.

I think sometimes the best thing we can do is find grace with ourselves and accept ourselves (and each other) for who we are and then find a way of living and operating that fits our personalities.