Welcome to my introvert hell

12:49 PM

It's no secret: I'm an introvert. I have no problem with it, and contrary to the popular and super WRONG belief: Introverts does NOT equal shy.
Shy means a fear of social judgment, I am anything but shy.

Science has been on my side for a while now. Introverts are individuals who are wired differently. We are a bunch of individuals who can totally handle social interaction, but are drained by it ad need periods of calm and quiet in between to re-energise themselves. My lot accounts for between one third to one half of the total world population, we are far from being an anomaly. We just live in a world where the extroverted gang dominate and rule all.

If you still don't believe me, I urge you to read "Quiet : the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking" by Susan Cain.

But this blog post is not about giving you yet another description, of what it means to be an Introvert and how, NO it doesn't mean socially impaired or shy (seriously stop saying that already!).
It's about my little personal slice of hell:

The dreaded Summer break

Scratch that! Any school holiday that last more than 2 weeks or a period of too frequent public holidays will send me over the edge. 
Because, you see, my daughter turned out to be a HUGE extrovert. An individual that simply cannot function without a crowd of at least 4-5 around her. She doesn't do silence either. It drives her crazy, to the point of wanting to fill in every single moment of silence with small talk, or a kind of rhythmic sound (banging her pencils on the table, clicking her tongue...)

This is widely incompatible with my introvert's need for privacy, personal space and yes: QUIET

I can totally do a gathering, a playdate and possibly an outing during the course of a week, as long as I get the next day to relax at home. She can't, a "day off" is not an option. And as a result, I suffer. A kind of suffering that only my fellow Introvert fellows will truly understand.

A feeling that has you feel like you are running on empty and on the highway to "Burnout-ville"

It's real people! It's very real! And sadly, there is no way to properly translate its reality in words. 
Summer is usually a whole 2 MONTHS of that hell, where I am constantly running from playdate to classes in order to avoid the even more draining non stop "Spanish inquisitionesque" questions and small talk (which will be round the clock with no break).

This year, I got the extra long sentence. Because we are changing school, I'm in for a near 4 months! 4 freaking months of constant socialisation, small talk, playdates, and Ishita's very loud friends barging into my home without as much as an invitation!

I'm at close to two months into it right now, and I already no longer function like a sane individual. What's more, on top of not being able to clock long enough chunks of alone time to regenerate, I am also trying to clock in some freelance work. 

All of it is HIGHLY incompatible with a gang of shrieking 7+ years old running havoc in my home. A gang of girls who still ask me to mediate petty fights over the pink crayon, or who gets to play with what. I could join the UN peace-corps based on all the experience at breaking petty conflicts that I have!

This extroverted lot of girl, my daughter included is immune to the "Please use your indoor voice", or "Please do not barge into my office" or "Can you go please play in Ishita's room"
The irony being they all prefer coming to my home because Ishita has her own room, yet they still drag the party and the mess and noise that go with it all over the flat. 

This is my introvert hell people! And I am not helped by the fact that in India, privacy and personal space is far less respected than in Europe. 
The concept of "My home is your home" is taken to a ridiculous extreme around here. Bothering to call before coming over, or even asking if it is ok at this time is totally alien. 

It's pretty much accepted that you are to drop your entire world at the drop of a hat to play host or hostess. Too bad if you work from home and have an assignment to complete. Or if you really feel sick, and need a day off from that socialisation crap gig. You are it! Nobody will really understand that you really can't emotionally handle it. And if you snap because a 9 year old scream and jump on your sofa while spilling juice all over, you are the one who is in the wrong. 

Trust me, I cherish those days Ishita takes her party to the neighbour's and I pray real hard that she stays there for a couple of hours. I realistically know this won't last, it never does, but I can't stop hoping. 
I've been at it for two months, and it starts really showing. 

It's not that I don't love my daughter, it's just that for us, the win-win scenario is when she has 6-7 hours of school and social interaction while I get to spend those hours creating, thinking and enjoying the slice of quiet in my day. In this ideal situation, I am a much better human being, and my daughter is a way more satisfied and happy kid.

Comes Summer, and I am the one sacrificing my own core needs and wellbeing so that my daughter doesn't go crazy. If that isn't love an dedication, what is? 

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  1. I can be selective introvert at times... and very extrovert at certain times... but yes after party and all need a quiet peaceful day.

    1. I'm a total introvert, even in social situation I interact more on a personal level than mingle with a large crowd. If I find myself in a large crowd gathering, I find myself automatically gravitating toward people who share my like of more meaningful in depth talk. The small talk just for the sake of talking really drains me very quickly :-)

  2. Anonymous3:54 PM

    I too cannot function with lots of people and need periods of quiet. My wife is opposite, she is more extrovert. I go through these phases when I talk and then I don't. Lots of things brew inside me.

    Introvertness often causes problems, even more the individuals themselves. It often gives wrong impression, about yourself. The world wants you to talk about yourself. Most introverts end being called arrogant or stupid. Not just your mouth, people expect even your eyes to speak. Someone turns around and say "You don't like to speak? do you". Those who are more direct call you "bhola" (naïve). Call it shyness or introvert, both are painful.

    In Delhi, it is even more difficult with the glib talking Punjabis. You have to match them, otherwise you are dismissed as useless. Your tongue and your clothes that's all that matters. The next thing is your physical strength. Can you hold your own in a fist fight. Oh, can you abuse that is very important. parameters to judge a person. Cannot survive in Delhi if your introvert.


    1. The problem is that the world as we know it has been shaped by extroverts, with extroverts in mind.
      I'm an introvert, but if someone brush me the wrong way, I am not afraid to reply to the wrong treatment. I will try to avoid conflicts, that is true, but if it has to come to it, then be it.

      This is where the confusion between shy and introversion comes. As an introvert, my reason for not liking conflicts is that it expense too much energy. Energy I'd rather not loose that way.
      A shy person avoids conflict by fear of being judged if they do something.

      There are extroverts afflicted by shyness too. The most common manifestation of shyness is when asked to do a speech in front of an audience. It is also called stage fright.
      You will find many introverts being brilliant public speakers and not being affraid to step in front of an audience (I am one of those, I loved the drama classes I took in my youth). Yet you will find as many extroverts that would rather avoid being alone on a stage. It seems it has to do with the fact that extroverts rely on the power of number and avoid being alone. A stage acts as a divider that introverts find it way easier to master without loosing the connection with their audience.

      As an introvert growing in an extrovert system, I struggled to find my place growing up. But I also had parents who encouraged me to take no crap from nobody. As a result, I couldn't care less if a bunch of people decided to label me weird, useless or stupid. I got bullied for it, bullied badly, as in your clothes thrown in the gym shower bullied. I learned to stand up when the school refused to do so.

      Sadly it involved some violence I would have wanted to avoid but had to turn to. But when my Miss popular bully took the fall with me and faced detention along with me. I was fine, she broke down in tears. In the end the teacher took pity on her and we both avoided detention :-) She never bothered me again, and I went back on being my very private, book loving, quiet loving and artsy self while she went back to her crowd comforted by the illusion of strength the number gave her.

      On the you cannot survive being an introvert in certain place? I say : Try me!

      Another supreme irony, Introverts do make much better leader because they spend a great more deal of time introspecting and thinking problem through before throwing the towel on an issue.

      But yeah, Susan Cain's book is an absolute must read, she put together a complete book detailing all the researches and studies made on the subject.

    2. Anonymous5:05 PM

      Come to delhi, you will see. Here everybody talks and introvertness is seen as sign of weakness. Here the world operated on two or three assumptions. One is your physical strength, the other is your social status. These people do not understand any other thing. Mumbai by comparison is more quiet. This is a jungle.

      In Delhi, they don't talk. They hit. Brick, rod, base ball bat, pick your weapon while on the road. Some innovative people even use guns. Sometimes the car is a weapon. In such a scenario where is the space for quiet contemplation. There is no space for introverts here. Mahabharata described the place now called Delhi in the following words "hilly terrain, with thorny bushes and poisonous reptiles, inhabited by war like people". Very apt description which holds true today.

      I have heard that Rajesh Khanna the Bollywood superstar of 1970s was actually introvert while his onscreen image was that of an extrovert handsome man. Women were crazy about him. So, yes some creative people turn extroverts with their art.


    3. This misconception has to die, because no Introvert doesn't mean weak. It is truly a scientifically backed up personality in which the brain is shown to wired differently. It has nothing to do with physical strength or lack of it. And I have seen and read about very violent introverts just the same.

      Simply because social impairment is a totally different thing from being either an extrovert or an introvert. There are socially impaired extroverts who turn bullies, and there are introverted bullies.

      On the actors "turning extroverts", it's an act, nobody switch to extrovert personality, but introverts are far better at acting it because they are gifted with a deeper understanding of human nature, and are able to separate their own self from the image they project.

      Introverts also make better consultants, therapists and counsellors because they have a higher capacity for listening to others before speaking than extroverts who have a more direct urge to speak immediately, without necessarily putting much thought into it.

      Introverts brain also respond much differently to dopamine. An introvert will not respond as quickly or intensively to the "reward seeking chemical" as an introvert brain does.

      This article is a good one to explain some of the research made on the brain activity differences : http://www.medicaldaily.com/brain-introvert-compared-extrovert-are-they-really-different-299064

    4. Anonymous5:35 PM

      Growing up I had a uncomfortable time being an introvert. Intovert/shyness anything. It actually hinders the growth of the individual. His full potential is never realized because you are what others think about you, whether you like it or not. You can change it. I won't go into the science of these things. You perhaps have channelised your energies into creativity. I had no such avenue. So, I guess it was always a pain in the neck for me.


    5. If you fear what people think, you have a shyness problem, it has nothing to do with introversion. If you think you are what other people make of you, you have a social impairment. It's a psychological issue, not an introversion issue.

      You can change social impairment and shyness, you ABSOLUTELY CAN'T change the introversion/extroversion.

      I have not channelised anything to "cope" with something that is not even a handicap. I have just grown to refuse to take any shit from anybody because I am confident enough in my own nature to realise that nobody has the power to tell me what or who I should be without my express conscent. I learned along the path of life, I introvert have no fear of social judgement, but my very extroverted sister suffered a great deal, and underwent therapy to cope.

      Yet she is a huge extrovert, as in can't survive more than a day without a gathering of people around her (pretty much like my daughter). But she has always been plagued by the fear of what people would think of her and of the image she projects to those people. To the point of plunging into depression, no joke!

      So see, once again, it has NOTHING to do with the introvert/extrovert spectrum.

    6. Apple,
      Here is an article to help you understand. In a nutshell, introversion in born, social anxiety is made.
      The 4 Differences Between Introversion and Social Anxiety

    7. This article explains it wonderfully Bibi, thanks for sharing. And as I said, if social anxiety was the same as introversion, my highly extroverted sister wouldn't be plagued by it. Social anxiety is a disorder, introversion or extroversion and inborn genetic trait, not a defect.

  3. Oh dear. The joys of parenting. Ishita's at that awkward age where she wants to be independent but really isn't mature enough to handle much yet. Without that daily school routine she's probably unknowingly stressing a little too, youngsters need that reassurance of routine in their day.
    I'm still not sure what to do with "other people's children" when they visit & behave badly (like jumping on the furniture, swinging on the curtains, writing on the walls.) My experience has been that all too often Indian & Nepali parents refuse to discipline their children when visiting and their child does something horrifically bratty or even dangerous. "Sofas & chairs are for butts only" & "Climbing curtains is for monkeys" becomes my constant refrain. I know these kids aren't used to furniture but drapes? Come on, don't tell me you child does this at home.

    1. Anonymous5:23 PM


      There are parents and there are parent. My child is hyperactive but he dare not do such things at anybody's home. He knows that it not his home and one stern look from his mother is enough.

      As far indiscipline children are concerned, these days a new disease is afflicting Indian parents. They are afraid of their children. Most were brought up in a strict environment and it was their cherished desire to be liberal to their parents. They are just confused and do not know where to draw the line.


    2. Anonymous5:26 PM

      I mean "liberal to their children"


  4. Anonymous5:18 PM

    Violence is way of life and nobody is safe man or women. There is always a risk of violence. Develop a sharp tongue, pick your fights wisely and always be ready.


  5. I found two school of parentings in India : the parents who are actually parents, and set some rules and have well behaved kids.

    And another that is starting to be disturbingly predominant in cities: the parents who want to be their kid's best friend. That breed of parent usually raise complete assholes. And on of the girl in my building belongs to that group.

    Yesterday, it so happened she pulled her usual crap when my maid was there cooking and I was trying to work on a project, and my maid blew up and told her to stop her crap. I rehammered the points right behind the maid to give it more impact. That was after I told this girl not once, but 3 times not to barge in my study while I was working, and not come screeching about a stupid toy problem.

    My maid blew up when she caught the girl using my bath towel as a dance mat!

    Today the girl came over again, and the first thing she did , was complain about the fact I had arranged for the other girls to watch a movie and proceeded to make Ishita feel like an idiot for wanting to watch a movie (which was MY choice of activity for that afternoon). Needless to say that I told her that if she had a problem with watching a movie, she was free to go back home, but that my decision to play the movie stood firm.

    You should have seen the look of sheer terror on her face to have a grown up lay the law of the land to her :-)

    1. Anonymous6:14 PM

      We had strict sometimes overbearing parenting. My father was very aloof. Not very good either. Now, parents are more relaxed. Sometimes parents encourage such children because in their idea, the children are being smart. The Indian understanding of "modern" "smart" etc. is all screwed up. Rude is neither smart nor modern. Everyday I see rude children because their parents tell them never to take things lying down. The forget to tell them, use your brains and objectively analyse the situation. All elders are not stupid. What is wrong or indecent remains indecent at all times.


  6. Anonymous11:10 PM

    I can totally understand what you're talking about. We live in our sweet cosy home on one end of the town in Hyd. Now this home of ours isn't close to any extended family and it takes a good half hour to go to any of our relatives places. Like the west people can't drop in any time they like but need to inform us well in advance else their visit would be futile. Obviously we indians are poor planners, so we have very few visits from them but even those few hours our family is getting emotionally drained at the end of the day and we're finding hard to entertain guests. Especially with no T.V it can't get any easier. Don't even talk about house guests. I find it very annoying when kids come and start fidgeting with stuff in draws and tables. I can't blame them but 15 years of living like this has done this to us. Me and my dad are introverts but now my mom who isn't is finding hard to entertain guests the Indian way. My mom and dad shudder to think what would have been our state had our home been enroute to our extended family's. We'd have people dropping in all the time without prior notice :-)

    1. I have a lot of expat friends around here as well, and we all do advance planning when it comes to meeting, unless we bump each other in a coffee shop and make it an impromptu "coffee date". I think planning ahead has many benefit when it comes to social gathering. The main one being that you are among people when you are emotionally in the right place to give those people attention.

      Guests deserve quality when it comes to visits, and if you are dead beat tired, had a hard day, or have a crap load of work, you won't be a good host, no matter how hard you try and it is fair to no one in the end. But yeah the idea of planning ahead, even if it is just giving a phone call in the morning to plan an evening meet up is still fairly an alien concept in India. Though I am seeing a bit more of it in Mumbai, probably because people are living a fast paced life and planning your time is more of a necessity.

    2. Anonymous12:49 PM

      This uplanned dropping by is a small town trait. There friends and relatives drop in, leading to talks over a cup of tea or home made pakoras. It does help that you can cover the entire town in forty five minutes. The number of people dropping in is amazing. People actually do a lot of socializing and helping out people along with the own work. I found it both at my maternal grandmother's place in Patna and my inlaws place at Allahabad. In a big city like Delhi, the average travelling time is one hour which could exten to one and a half, two depending upon the traffic. Metro has made things easier but still if you have spend three hours travelling you won't rejoice going anywhere on a holiday unless it is very necessary.

      About that introvert thing, I thought long and hard but could not recall any benefit being an introvert all my life. I led a miserable life. Nobody knows what is inside you, and they care a damn. It is an unhealthy trait. True, lots of actors, scientists say that they were introvert, but what about those who are less talented. There must be something at the end of the tunnel of introvertness, that elusive pot of gold.

      It is also cultural, your cultural allows individuals to develop at their own pace and find their bearings, so you get and opportunity to find you place under the sun. In our culture, some thirty years ago, children were extensions of their families, so you basically remained trapped with what you are, either you prove yourself academically or become an extrovert. I you can do neither then god help you. There is very little place for such people in the society. The forever remain naive outcasts. I hope I have not offended you, I went off on a tangent.


    3. I'm starting to be annoyed sounding like a broken record here but you CAN'T become an extrovert, you can pretend and live a life of misery trying to be what you are not, or you can get professional help to help address the social anxiety and be a happy in your own skin, fuck the opinion of others Introvert.

      So far all that you have been describing is NOT introversion, but SOCIAL ANXIETY. I suggest you start reading about introversion and the near 60 years of research on that topic. Susan Cain's book I linked to in the blog post is the best way to start. It is well written, and we'll documented.

    4. I'm starting to be annoyed sounding like a broken record here but you CAN'T become an extrovert, you can pretend and live a life of misery trying to be what you are not, or you can get professional help to help address the social anxiety and be a happy in your own skin, fuck the opinion of others Introvert.

      So far all that you have been describing is NOT introversion, but SOCIAL ANXIETY. I suggest you start reading about introversion and the near 60 years of research on that topic. Susan Cain's book I linked to in the blog post is the best way to start. It is well written, and we'll documented.

  7. Apple,
    Sorry your life is so miserable. It sounds like you suffer a lot of social anxiety.

    I'm from a culture that prizes extroversion. I choose a career in which extroversion is expected if not required. I knew this when I chose my profession & realized that extroversion was preferred. As such I have taught myself to behave like an extrovert when professionally required. I also have to wear my hair in a professional manner and dress in a professional manner when on the job. Same thing. It's like a uniform, and in my profession I have to put my feelings aside & personal judgements aside as a matter of professionalism too.

    Does introversion have benefits? Well, for me it does. I'm fine if not better at learning on my own, making informed decisions on my own, and using 'critical thinking' & my rather hyper focused thought pattern to solve problems. This unique skill I have for solving problems & making things 'work' has served me well and brought me much success in my chosen career. I don't need constant reassurance and affirmation when learning, making choices, or even performing day to day tasks like most people do. People tire me with their constant need for chatter & affirmation from others, to me it is just weird. Some people go mad in isolation even for short periods of time, I need periods of isolation to recoup and do my thinking. I often speak bluntly to get my point across quickly & clearly so I don't have listen to all the tedious chit chat & mindless questions most people indulge in- some people mistake this for extroversion. I have a very few close friends but lots of what I'd call "acquaintances," I'm fine with that and enjoy my few close friends immensely. It's not whether introversion or extroversion is better any more than red is better than blue- they are simply different ways the brain is wired to function. Extroversion has become the preferred personality type only in the last 100 yrs in most cultures. Our culture values the loud, superficial, & self obsessed to the point where anyone who isn't gets labelled as depressed, weird, unhealthy, and possibly even dangerous to themselves and others. Some people can't understand after a career in public life how I'm happy 'just' growing & cooking my own food. To tell you the truth, that's all I ever wanted to do in the first place.

    1. Bibi, I am a lot like you :-) I did put my "pretend extrovert" cap on for work, along with the prescribed dress code.
      But came Friday night and I was like TGIF! Enjoyed a weekend of book reading a solitary movie watching, or city walking on my own. On occasion I would go to a party, or a meet up with my friends, knowing that there would be no stupid chit chat but only meaningful interraction and deep talks.

      Pretty much like it is the case in the US, my culture favours extroversion, and as a kid a teacher even sent me to get tested because she found my preferring to work on assignment on my own weird.

      I give my best work, and results working alone because I can give my 200% on the task at hand and go deep in the details without any interruption.
      To be fair, my mind is constantly running at full capacity with ideas, and thought to process. I am rarely "alone" even if alone, because the amount of thinking that goes on in my mind keeps me company.
      Solving a problem, thinking of something creative, making up a story, thinking about the complex link between reality and imagination...I do that 24/7 And this is a typical introverted trait.

  8. Oh I get it. Trust me I do. I don't have kids and its not like I don't like them but I just want out when my niece and nephew is around. They'll not let me think at peace and that's the biggest concern. But what a post. Loved it.

  9. Oh I get it. Trust me I do. I don't have kids and its not like I don't like them but I just want out when my niece and nephew is around. They'll not let me think at peace and that's the biggest concern. But what a post. Loved it.

    1. Yes! Exactly :-) or as I put it : "It prevents me from hearing the voices in my head".

      Extroverts usually have no idea how much time introverts spend in their own head and how much they LOVE it.


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