Writing and Personality: The Introvert Within

I’ve been thinking a lot about my personality type lately.  I’ve had the unhappy realization that even in a virtual world, I’m still an introvert.  It may be easier to project myself as an extrovert, as someone who thrives on being with large groups of people, but it ain’t the truth about me.  My favorite face-to-face social events tend to be one-on-one encounters, such as a long lunch with one close friend.  My limit is a dinner party of four, where I am one of the four.  At the young age of 55, I started to finally embrace the introvert that is me after I read Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  For the first time in my life, I felt that my introversion was more “normal” than my society wanted me to believe.

But then I reentered the blogosphere and now I have a wide circle of blogging acquaintances, many of whom have become friends that I’ve grown to care about deeply.  I value each one of these new friendships, and yet I still experience that paralyzing feeling I get when I feel multiple demands for my attention.  Like when I open my Gmail account and see 200 new blog posts all wanting and deserving my attention.  These are not people speaking directly to me all at once, but the sensation is the same.  I feel overwhelmed and then I shut down.

So yesterday morning, upon discovering that for some reason WordPress is not sending me the daily digests of the blogs I follow as I requested, I turned to my Facebook page.  I started with Candace Johnson at Change It Up Editing and Writing Services who had shared Lauren Sapala’s blog post on making time to write.  [That is an excellent post, by the way.]  From there, I saw another post Lauren had written called Know Your Type, and Then Sit Down to Write.  Well, there we go.  I was familiar with Jung’s personality test (also referred to the Myers-Briggs test).  [Disclaimer:  what is online is an abridged version of the actual test, and there is some controversy about it.  Still, it’s fun to take and can be very insightful.]  And, true to my introverted self, I love taking tests.  You can take the test here.

I’ve taken this test in the past and as I’ve matured, my scores have changed slightly.  What has not changed is the first letter of the score:  “I” for Introvert.  This morning’s test revealed me to be an ISFJ:  Introvert, Sensing, Feeling, Judging.  To be more specific, I have strong preferences of introversion over extroversion by 89%; sensing over intuition by 12%; feeling over thinking by 38%; and judging over perceiving by 44%.  Over the years, I seem to have become more sensing than intuitive, but my other “preferences” have changed little.  So what’s an introvert like me to do?

I’m not about to retreat into the quiet cocoon of anonymity just because I get a little overwhelmed now and then.  I just need to relearn and pay attention to my limits.  I would never turn back the clock on my blogging, for the friends I’ve gained have enriched my life beyond my imagination.  Not only has my growth as a writer accelerated in the last few months due to the support of my blogging friends, but so has my self-confidence in general.  In my real physical world, I have a handful of friends that I feel comfortable enough with to be fully myself.  It’s a stark, finite number that, while I enjoy solitude, still leaves me uneasy.  Is it me that is incapable of having more than two good friends?  Or is it my immediate physical world that is incapable of accepting me as I am?

In my real virtual world, the number seems infinite.  I am friends with people I never would have met except for the blogosphere, people who live in the U.S. and Canada but also far-flung countries like Australia, Latvia, Italy, Egypt.  For an introvert like myself, this is nothing short of amazing.  For an introvert, this could only happen through writing.

39 thoughts on “Writing and Personality: The Introvert Within

  1. I took the test many years ago. I was working in the financial services industry at the time, trying to figure out why I was so miserable. I’m an INFP ( Introverted/Intuitive/Feeling/Perceptive) and interestingly, I always ended up in leadership positions. Anyway, being an INFP, combined with the fact that my sign is Cancer, sometimes makes me want to retreat into my little shell. Excellent post, Marie. I can so relate to this.

    • Hey, there, soul sister! My sign is Cancer too :). I’ve also experienced the irony of being an introvert whose perceived as having leadership abilities. You know, introverts actually make great leaders, but I always say, just because I’m good at something doesn’t mean I want to do it 😉

  2. I love you when you are quiet and when you visit from your shell as well. You are such a wonderful addition to any group, or all on your own. Many of the group personalities, in my experience, can only feel secure in a group. Being able to offer value all on your own, is truly the rare talent, which you have mastered.

  3. Great post, Marie! I’m definitely going to read Susan’s book. I’ve always considered myself an introvert. Not to be critical of extroverts, but personally I know some people who have TONS of “friends” but only know each other on a surface level. I think my small circle of close friends for over 40 years (yikes!) know the true me.

    • Thanks, Jill! Susan’s book is great. She really helped me understand extroverts as well. I think the whole idea of having hundreds of friends has been driven by social media, particularly Facebook. So many of those relationships are not really friendships. In my case, more than half of my FB “friends” are blood relations ;). Glad you enjoyed the post!

    • Thanks, Linda! Blogging and being part of such a wonderful group of bloggers has really helped me step outside the shell now and then 🙂

  4. Marie – it’s great to read a post that seems to validate who I am as well. I am and have always been an introvert. Like you, I have a small number of friends in the real world, but I’m gaining more wonderful friends in the blog world. It can be a bit overwhelming at times, seeing all those blog posts, but the truth is that, for me anyway, after a while you notice that there are certain posts you read first, certain posts you respond to first, and that those that normally comment on your own posts become a relatively stable group of people you can depend on. Kind of like life, I suppose. Certain people tend to gravitate towards one another.

    I’ve got to read that book you mentioned, the one by Susan Cain. Sounds helpful to understanding who we are.

    • Thanks, Dave. I think you summed up very nicely how our friendships form in the blogosphere. That has been my experience. I do highly recommend Cain’s book. She is a wonderful writer.

  5. Thanks so much for mentioning my blog posts here! And I agree with you, being a successful introvert really comes down to paying attention to your limits. I’m almost 35 and it’s taken me years to understand that balance in my life is an urgent matter. I’m definitely still learning this skill! I’m also very excited to find your blog and will be following from now on 🙂

    • Thank you! It’s fun. My husband had to take a similar test for a long-term “partnering” project he was part of years ago. He had to retake the test every year and would always note how his scores would shift. But like me, the “I” for introvert never changed 🙂

  6. I am like you, and it was only in the past year I learned that I am an HSP (highly sensitive person). I felt that way with 200 blogs posts to read until the day they all disappeared! Now I want them back!!!!!!! WordPress hates me :(.

    • No, WordPress doesn’t hate you 🙂 Actually, I’m not getting the daily post email notifications that I subscribe to. I get the instant post notifications (which really overwhelm me), but not the daily. WP is looking into it. It is funny how I too went from feeling overwhelmed by all the blogs I am following to, “Hey, where are all the blog posts I’m following?!”

      • How did you contact WordPress to know that they are looking into it? I want to let them know because it happened at the same time with all 3 of my blogs, but I don’t know how to reach them.

  7. I’ve been listening to that as an audiobook to understand my husband better, and it has really improved the way we communicate and spend time together. Susan Cain has done a fantastic job showing how introverts work best, on a broad scale to apply to everyone, and I’m grateful for the insight into my husbands head!

    • Sounds like it’s helpful to those of us with extrovert spouses. Uh, that would be me. Mr. Introvert married a wonderful Mrs. Extrovert. Love her to death but I don’t know how she does it 🙂 So you’d recommend she read the book?

      • Yup, the book would work for everybody, regardless of where you are on the introversion-extroversion spectrum. She has a section on couples where one is introverted and the other extroverted and provides guidance on how they can better communicate. Maybe you can take turns reading the book out loud to each other 🙂

    • What? I thought you were an introvert, Katie :). Yup, Cain’s book is great in helping to understand how extroverts and introverts can communicate. And it’s important to know that it’s a 2-way street 🙂

  8. Interesting post as always!

    I can go out to a bar with one good friend and within about half an hour have half the bar singing the theme tune to ‘The Littlest Hobo’ – so I guess I can talk to anyone! It just doesn’t necessarily mean that I always want to! I value my alone time very highly and get annoyed if anyone tries to call/text/email/IM me when I’m alone – god, so many ways to interrupt people these days!

    So introvert or extrovert… I think I’m just a total oddball really but I don’t think it really matters once YOU know who you are! 😉 Accept the so-called good with the so-called bad and try to keep learning and growing. All of these people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond who are still trying to ‘find themselves’ bug the crap out of me. If you don’t know who you are by then, I don’t think you ever will!

    (Might have gone a little off-topic there but it’s been a strange week!)
    Your buddy in Latvia 😉

    • I think it’s wonderful that you are just who you are and you’re not spending a lot of time (any time?) analyzing your personality. One of the things about being an introvert that has always annoyed me is the amount of time I spend (spent) analyzing myself. Some of that was due to other people giving me a hard time about being shy. I was led to feel like something was wrong with me. Between reading Cain’s book and also now working in an office full of quirky, introverted personalities, I’m pretty much done with the analysis. Just every so often I need to remind myself that my fatigue, my “snippy-ness” is probably due to too much people time, not enough me time.

      I don’t think you’re an oddball … Well, maybe I should withhold judgment until I know whether you will be living amongst leopard-print-clad hookers and grinning drug dealers 😉

      • Let’s hope they’re grinning. Grinning drug dealers are preferable to angry ones 😉

        Nah, I think too many people spend their time telling other people what they should or shouldn’t be/do. When I’m in a bad mood or ill, I like to be left alone. Seemingly this is very weird behaviour altogether!!

        As long as you’re happy with the way you are and you can look at yourself in the mirror, I think you’re fine!

        Those people who gave you a hard time are probably just those weirdos who need to be around someone 24/7 so they don’t feel lonely or unpopular. Personally, I think being able to spend time by yourself is a sign of a strong character!

  9. One of my best friends and I both live with introverts – and reading that book helped our understanding. Introverts just process differently than people like me. It is important for everyone to understand that.

    I have a huge circle of friends – and sometimes it can be exhausting even for an extrovert to maintain those relationships – the power of texting, messaging and then rotating the face to face contact helps. Funny because the joke is that I have more BFF’s than most people – no one person is my only BFF. I love my friends – but I also love my alone time.

    Glad you read the book and have gained a broader acceptance and understanding.

    • Thanks, Pam. The book really helped me understand how complex extroversion and introversion really are. Like you say, you may be an extrovert, but that doesn’t mean you don’t value solitude. I’m an introvert and yet I still feel drawn enough to some people to be willing to expand my comfort zone to accommodate them. We are not all one or all the other.

  10. A lot of people only have a handful of friends. Those that claim to have a vast, enormous circle of friends are usually stretching the term. It’s always a handful of people that understand and then a larger circle of people you simply get along with.

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