Having a confused identity is nothing new to me. In fact, it’s part of my identity.
For the longest time I’ve called myself an introvert. And a few events recently called that into question for me.
Am I an Introvert?
But first, why did I think I was an introvert in the first place?
For one, I absolutely love to be alone. It’s my natural state. And I use it extremely well. Left to my own devices I am extraordinarily productive and, for the most part, I really enjoy myself. Almost every time. And for lengthy periods as well.
Also, I’m not inherently social. I have tons of trouble starting conversations with strangers. I’m nervous about any time I might be featured in public. And I’m absolute garbage at parties. I’ve never figured out the dynamic. I don’t think I ever will.
So why would anyone call my introversion into question? Well, for one, as much as I love to be alone, there comes a point where I just need to go out and greet the world. I absolutely love meeting new people. And even if I feel nauseous before anything I do in public, once I get moving, I start feeling really comfortable, and I rather enjoy it.
Furthermore, all I need is an initial boost in social situations. And after that, I’m perfectly fine. I do great when others initiate the conversation, or we have something obvious to speak about. From that point on, I’m pretty much good to go.
And that’s why for the longest time I’ve thought of myself as an extroverted introvert. I’m an introvert at heart. But deep down I don’t want to be. I fight past my tendencies, and when the ball gets rolling, I can fool anyone into thinking I’m an extrovert.
But maybe that’s not true either.
Two recent moments made me realize that maybe I’m something else entirely.
What’s up with these introverts?
We had a Shabbat meal. Apparently, I was surrounded by introverts, and they were all discussing what large social settings feel like to them. They spoke about the slightly-less introverted having to jump into gear because the somewhat-more introverted is not pulling their weight.
I guess I was a little less involved in the conversation, not so clear in what they were talking about. My wife was shocked at my confusion. Clearly any red-blooded introvert would be able to relate fully to this common scenario!
So… in essence, I feel like an introvert. But around other introverts, I’m an outsider. They’re experiencing something I have trouble relating to and identifying with. So clearly I cannot be one of the clan. If I were a true member of the group, I wouldn’t be sitting there confused. I’d be nodding along with the rest of the crowd.
Introverts in the Time of Corona
The other reason my introversion has been called into question is the way I’ve reacted to all the Coronavirus fun we are all going through.
You see, I know more than a few people who are reluctant to admit that they’re actually enjoying this period in their life. For whatever reason. They’re a homebody, and love to have an excuse to stay at home all day, never get dressed, and just sprawl out on the couch and relax. They loath feelings of social obligations and would rather just enjoy the company of their immediate household.
Whatever the reason, their house is their home, and they’re ecstatic to finally have an excuse to stay there as much as possible.
But I’m not built that way. Not at all.
But… I am.
A 90/10 Loner Socialite
OK, here’s how it goes. I consider myself a 90/10 loner socialite. (Is it possible being left alone with my brain all day long is starting to get to me?)
What I mean by this is I want to spend 90% of my time left to my own devices. Learning new things. Doing projects. Being with my family. Snuggling with my dog.
And I can enjoy a whole lot of that.
But then I reach a limit. I need to get out. I need to see the world. I’m itching to interact with a lot of people. And God knows, I’m desperate to meet new people. That’s been one of the hardest parts of this experience for me. I don’t feel like I’ve met any new people in months!
When the Social is None
And what happens when I don’t have that 10% social interaction I need? It has an ill effect upon the other 90%. It’s like a package, where the enjoyment of my social time is contingent on having adequate alone time. And my alone time is far more pleasureful if it’s accompanied by just the right amount of getting out and meeting the world.
So my time stuck at home is basically too much of a good thing. It’s loading up on ice cream and French Fries, but absolutely never getting that essential vegetable. And it’s leaving me with a giant social void, and less appreciation of time spent staring at the walls of my apartment.
So… What is this Jaffe Thing??
So what am I? A pure introvert might tell me I’m a faker. A true introvert would not crave social interaction or have an actual need to meet new people. They would relish in the pleasure of having absolutely no social obligations. They would cherish this unique time in history where the world’s expectations of them are placed on temporary hold.
So, maybe I’m not the introvert I thought I was. But I’m hard-pressed to call myself an extrovert. I’m still the guy who would rather keep his hand down throughout class and would prefer if I’m never called upon. I’m here to hear the lecturer, not the other way around.
And I still want to just lie down on a super-comfy couch indefinitely and enjoy the peace and quiet of nothing and nobody around me.
But how can I just be a loner if I want to spend lots of quality time with my family? And I love staying in touch with friends from all over the world? And I welcome strangers into my home? And, of course, I recognize my 90/10 necessity?
Maybe I’m not a loner. Or an introvert, an extrovert, or an introverted extrovert. Or a 90/10 loner socialite.
Maybe I’m just what I’ve known myself to be for quite some time now.
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