Obligatory disclaimer: I enjoy being an introvert. I am not lonely, I am not a victim of circumstance, nor malcontent with my social life.
When I am not spending my time nerding out, writing, surfing the internet or binging NetFlix, I work as an analyst. It’s one of those things popularly referred to as a ‘day job.’
Overall working as an analyst is a good fit for me. I get to dig into details, solution, improve and innovate on a regular basis – checking a lot of boxes on the things-I-need-to-enjoy-my-job list. There are times, however, where collaboration is an all day activity. These sessions are immensely productive and results driven, which means my satisfaction level with them is high.
Of course there is an however.
The more I experience day-long collaborative events, the more I realize how painful it can be to be an introvert. For no other reason other than being totally and completely drained by constant discussion and proximity to other people. Keep in mind; I am engaged in these sessions, talk frequently, problem solve, plan, etc. etc. – these are all things I enjoy doing. And yet, as the hours drag on, I am in physical pain.
We’re talking neck/shoulder strain, headaches, body stiffness, fatigue and even the occasional nausea.
How do I know this is the product of being an introvert?
I spent 10 minutes afterwards in a room all by myself and felt almost entirely better, or more ‘myself’. There is a lot of conventional wisdom that acknowledges the need for introverts to recharge, but I’m not sure extroverts fully understand what that means. It means recovering from some level of discomfort, and if we don’t get it… well, ‘cranky’ might be an understated descriptor of what may occur.
As an introvert, all this physical discomfort seems like a signal from my brain telling me to GTFO of wherever I am and sit quietly alone with my own thoughts. And I can tell you from my hangry episodes alone, my brain can be VERY insistent. It turns out that there is some science behind this – and it makes sense. The way our brains react to the chemicals produced during times of high interaction with others is absolutely bound to have a physical effect on us introverts.
But like many things happening in our brains, it can be nearly impossible to communicate these concepts in ways others – who don’t experience the same – will understand. It’d be like someone trying to explain their bipolar disorder to me. Or even a need to be around people all the time. It genuinely baffles me and while I understand on an intellectual level, I’m not sure I’ll ever ‘get it’.
So I don’t blame people for not understanding the introversion that is a huge part of my life. I have a very supportive group of friends and coworkers who don’t make concessions, but accept me for who I am, and that’s pretty cool.
I do appreciate the effort others go to in order to understand weirdos like me – which is the whole reason I’m crafting this article. I’m fortunate in that I don’t often have day-long collaborative obligations where I work, but I used to work front-line customer service. And oh boy, was that not the job for me.
It started at a small bar and sandwich shop. That was okay and manageable. I knew most people, they knew me, and I got what they needed quickly and efficiently.
Then I moved onto a national chain sandwich shop, which will not be named. This job involved high-volume interactions with different people every day. Different, demanding and unforgiving people. It was genuinely terrible for me, and I spent every day working there depressed and hopeless.
(I took a lot of naps during my time working at the sandwich chain that shall not be named)
From there, I ‘upgraded’ to a call center job where I only had to talk to strangers over the phone instead of face-to-face. This was helpful at first, but as the volume picked up and spending a solid 8 hours of doing nothing but talking to other people turned into a painful and stress-filled experience. Seriously; just the memory of it can make me break into a cold sweat.
And it’s not because I hated my job, or the company, or the customers. It was simply an over-exposure to interaction with others and very little time to myself during my work day. And ‘to myself’ doesn’t mean goofing off with non-work related activities. It just meant my entire job was to interact with other people and let me tell you… this is not the best fit for any introvert. I was good at my job, like I’m good at my job now… but it was slowly killing me inside. 🙂
Shout-out to all my introvert hommies: if you’re in a depressed, discontent place in your life and you work at a job that requires constant interaction with other people, that’s probably the reason. Figure out how you can work without all the… you know… people stuff. Again, this advice does not come from a place of disliking others on an arbitrary level. Introverts just have needs that, when not met, genuinely impact the quality of our lives. Admitting it is the first step to recovery!
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Introverts – or at least this one – can be in physical pain if we don’t get our alone time. Please keep this in mind when interacting with your friendly neighborhood introvert. Spend time with us, just not TOO much time. We will love you forever for it!
Eve is the founder of Some Nerd Girl and the author of urban fantasy novels Children of the Fallen and Unforgettable as well as science fiction novel Colony One. She has been writing since the age of 13 and has been flying her nerd flag for the past 16 years. Fandoms include Star Wars, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. Basically if it has ‘star’ in it, she’ll give it a shot.