snail

Photo © Dalia Drulia / sxc.hu

Imagine yourself as a beautiful, elegant…snail. Snails cannot leave their shells permanently, as shells are a part of their body. As a snail grows, its shell does too. The shell offers protection from predators and elements, however the snail must poke its head out often enough to get around in the world.

Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be a “come out of your shell” post. That’s an extrovert’s way of misinterpreting introversion as an affliction. But have you ever felt that your introversion holds you back at times? Has it ever been so drastic that it kept you from accomplishments?

There is one major thing that is going to get you through life successfully as an introvert and that’s discomfort tolerance. You’re going to be uncomfortable at times, and let’s face it: sometimes hiding from a tumultuous world can be addicting.

“In terms of like, instant relief, canceling plans is like heroin.” -John Mulaney, comedian

Introversion and Extroversion are not traits like a person’s race or sex. Its more like a scale. You can move up and down the scale, but you are anchored to a particular range. You can’t change what you are, but you can become better at being what you are.

Being extremely introverted or extroverted wouldn’t be very healthy or practical. Mega extroverts wouldn’t think before they speak, wouldn’t be able to tolerate themselves alone, and would be basically dependent on others for their entire being. Extreme introversion (as you may have noticed at times in your life) can mean missing out, not seeking enough support, and having irrational fears surrounding people. This is Impractical Introversion. It gets in your way.

As introverts we should not be trying to make ourselves into extroverts. However we can always push ourselves a little further towards the middle of the scale in order to reap more of the benefits of socialization.

“The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.” -Aldous Huxley

Impractical introversion is not just enjoying your private time. It’s when you go above and beyond to stay in your safe zone, even when it’s to your detriment. It’s extreme dread of social situations, even when they are minor or casual.

Not sure if you are being an impractical introvert? Here are some possible side effects:

• You’re not as far along in your career as you could be
• You don’t date or haven’t dated in ages because its just too much hassle
• Strangers’ eye contact agitates you, especially in the morning (WHAT DO THESE $&!$ING PEOPLE WANT!?!?!)
• You avoid plans with even your closest friends and acquaintances you never see
• You’ve been avoiding a certain conversation with your boss or spouse for months
• You spend most of your free time either lost in thought or with your pets (you speak Meow more than English)

Yikes. You get the idea. Introversion is not synonymous with shyness or low self-esteem, although they do coincide far more often than with extroversion. Unfortunately with that could come anxiety, depression, and before you know it you’re convinced you are a few cards short of a deck.

So the important take away is to not let your introversion get carried away. If you find yourself in frequent seclusion or habitually experiencing social anxiety, you need to balance your scale.

You don’t need to “come out of your shell.” Just thrive in it, master it, and poke your head out whenever it makes sense.

Brianna JohnsonBrianna graduated with a BA in Sociology and is successfully unemployed while working on her first novel. She also began The Absurdist Chronicles, a blog for social commentary and general antics.