There Is No “Introvert Code” to Uphold

I’ve been talking to myself all day today — literally.

As in talking out loud to myself (in environments where I’m by myself, at any rate). Sometimes I’ve even been raising my voice to ensure that I’m heard over the irritating, nonstop blurts of the ever-present inner critic inside of me.

What have I been saying to myself? Words and phrases that would probably be referred to as affirmations. Primarily two sentences:

  1. I’m a writer. I’m a writer. I’m a writer. I’m a writer. I’m a writer.
  2. What I write matters. What I write matters. What I write matters. What I write matters. What I write matters.

I spent much of yesterday doing the same thing as today, covering not only my identity as a writer but also my role as a parent:

  • I’m a good parent. I’m a good parent. I’m a good parent. I’m a good parent. I’m a good parent.

I’ve been aware of the concept of affirmations for years. But I’ve never actually tried them, out loud like you’re supposed to, until about 30 hours ago — at the backhanded suggestion of my lovely wife, Adrianne, who in truth suggested that I write them down on sticky notes and put them all over the house. I figured I might as well just go ahead and say them aloud instead, since research has shown that verbal affirmations actually work — that they make you feel better about yourself and thus live and perform with more confidence.

I can tell you the results of my experiment so far: Affirmations do indeed seem to work. I do feel better, and I do feel more confident now than I did even this morning.

Moreover, I’ve been inspired to write this very blog post. And another one began cooking too as I ran on the treadmill at the YMCA, trying my best to whisper my verbal affirmations loudly enough to be effective, yet softly enough so the people around me wouldn’t think I’m a wingnut.

I always thought I shied away from affirmations because they’d make me feel silly. To some degree that’s true. But in the locker room just now, standing next to a naked guy who was on his cell phone talking very seriously to someone about “operational costs” (speaking of silly … or wingnuts), it occurred to me that the real reason I have shied away from affirmations has more to do with my introversion than anything else — more specifically, my sometimes misguided beliefs about how I as an introvert should think and behave.

We introverts are so inner-focused by nature that we sometimes figure we have to solve every problem on our own, and in silence. I am guilty of this behavior frequently, albeit subconsciously. My dear Adrianne has told me that, at times, it looks to her as though I’m trying to uphold some kind of warped “introvert code” which says that I always have to go it alone, that I cannot reach out for help or even talk about what’s bothering me. That I’m supposed to keep it all inside because, well, that’s what introverts do. Or, more accurately, that’s what introverts are supposed to do. It’s the introvert brand.

Nonsense.

I have to stop. And if you’re an introvert who does the same kind of thing from time to time, you need to stop too.

I will always be, and appreciate, who I am. Being an introvert is part of that. But being an introvert doesn’t mean always keeping my thoughts and emotions inside, or always feeling like I have to. I’m human. You’re human. We all need help. And we all need to sometimes hear an audible voice of encouragement and understanding, whether its our own or someone else’s.

There is no “introvert code.” And therefore there is no “introvert code” to uphold.

Yes, the inner voice I have as an introvert can and often does work to my great benefit, helping me come up with ideas and solutions seemingly out of nowhere. No wonder I gravitate toward it and embrace it.

But when it is instead working against me, in whatever way, well, then it’s time for me to talk. Out loud.

To someone else.

Alone Time: There’s Such a Thing as Too Much of a Good Thing

My fellow introverts, we all need to remember something:

Too much alone time is just as bad as too little. It’s just a different kind of bad.

I, for one, have to watch it sometimes. As an introvert — and as the author of a book called The Introvert Manifesto, for crying out loud, which devotes many of its pages to the introvert’s dire need for some solitude in life — I protect and defend the concept of alone time, vigorously. As I write in the book:

I plan for my alone time. I plot for my alone time. I finagle and juggle for my alone time, the same way extraverts look for activity and social interaction. I all but put alone time on my calendar — because if it’s not a part of my life, well, then I don’t have much of a life.

I stand by these words, and will til the day I die. I really do need my alone time; all introverts do.

But today I’m reminding myself — and all of you reading this — that there was a reason I included the phrase “a part of” in that book passage I quoted, just as there was a reason I included the word “some” when I talked about “some solitude in life” in the third paragraph above:

Introverts need people too.

I know this — actually, it’s more accurate to say that I’m being reminded of this — because I’m really feeling it right now. It’s almost embarrassing to say it, like I’m violating some sort of fictional introvert code or dishonoring the introvert brand or something (which is ridiculous, by the way). But I’m lonely today. And I’ll be even more honest: I’ve been lonely a lot lately during the workday. Because for me, “going to work” means walking to the kitchen table, opening my laptop, and starting to do my research and writing. The kids are all at school. My wife is at school too, teaching kindergartners in an environment that is the polar opposite of mine.

I’m here, all by myself. Alone. No colleagues. No office banter. No interaction. A few days ago when I was really pushing it on a writing project, I went an entire workday without talking to a soul — and thus, without even hearing my own voice, let alone someone else’s.

Not good. Not good at all. It’s no wonder I’m feeling the way I’m feeling. We humans really are social animals, after all.

And so while I often do have to plan for my alone time and plot for my alone time and finagle and juggle for my alone time as an introvert — especially when I haven’t been getting it, or when I really do need to actively pursue it because I’ve actually had a day full of interaction — sometimes, like today, I have to plan and plot for and finagle and juggle for a little people time.

So I’m getting out of here, out of this house, just as soon as I post this. Not because I’m rejecting the concept of alone time, but because I’m accepting the concept of people time — and reaffirming that there can and must be a balanced mixture of both in my life. In every introvert’s life. In everyone’s life.

Let Your Fingers Do the Talking Sometimes

My wife Adrianne and I had the loveliest spontaneous chat late one night — using paper as our communications medium.

We were sitting at the kitchen table, having a late-evening glass of wine together, when Adrianne reached for the sticky notes that happened to be on the counter nearby and said, “Let’s use these to talk.”

And so we did.

There we were: Two card-carrying introverts, each of us exhausted in our own way, letting our fingers do the talking using red pen on bright blue squares of paper.

The words between us flowed effortlessly, even more easily than they usually do — especially since we both got the comparatively rare chance to think for a moment or two before speaking. We reaffirmed our love for one another, reflected upon a few of the challenges we’d been facing, and closed by drawing a heart with the phrase “P + A” inside.

At one point I told Adrianne, perhaps for the first time in such an explicit, purposeful way: “I think deeply and I feel deeply.” I noted that I have always been and always will be this way, even if it’s not in the typical-male handbook.

The fact that I was writing instead of speaking encouraged me to say things I might not have otherwise said, in ways I might not have otherwise said them. It was the same for Adrianne, too.

I hope the two of us talk this way again sometime. (I’ll send her a written invitation to make it happen.) It was fascinating. And illuminating.

And liberating.