books in bookshop

I’d Rather Be Reading

Ithink a lot of people who read blogs probably come to the conclusion that bloggers are, for the most part, a bunch of extroverted attention-seekers. Who else, after all, would go out of their way to plaster their lives all over the internet, taking photos and telling stories, as if the whole world is holding its breath, waiting for the next selfie or outfit photo?

Actually, though, I’ve always believed the opposite to be true. It’s not true for ALL bloggers, of course, and I think it’s probably far LESS true than it used to be (The blogging world has changed so much in recent years that I think many people now get into blogging for financial/career reasons rather than for personal ones), but speaking purely for myself, I know I came to blogging mostly as a way to connect with people, without having to go through the whole pesky actually connecting with people bit.

I, you see, am an introvert.

It’s not the same as being shy, although in my case, I’m shy too, which makes for a particularly anxiety-inducing combination. The best explanation I’ve heard for the difference between introversion and extroversion is that extroverts get their energy from other people, while introverts get their energy from being alone. For me, this is definitely true. I’m an only child, but growing up, I never felt lonely: I had my friends, of course (and also 2,472 imaginary horses), but I was always content to spend time on my own, and I’m the same to this day. Actually, just a few weeks ago, I came to the realisation that I only ever feel lonely in a crowd, never when I’m on my own. Is that strange? I have no idea.

The best explanation I’ve heard for the difference between introversion and extroversion is that extroverts get their energy from other people, while introverts get their energy from being alone.

What I do know is that I need a lot of downtime in order to stay sane. I like to socialize (under the right circumstances, and assuming I have plenty of notice, that is: I’ve never been one to go along with someone’s plans, just for the sake of “joining in”, and last minute plans bring on The Panic. Because how will I find time to read all those books if you spring a surprise visit on me?), and I love being with the people I’m closest to, but I also need time to recharge. If you invite me to a party, say, I’ll happily attend – I’ll even look forward to it, and while I’m there, you’ll never guess that I’m anything other than in my element. (I might even BE in my element: with people I know well, I do enjoy a good party…) If you suggest we all meet up again for brunch the next day, though, I’ll be all, “SERIOUSLY? I JUST SAW YOU. And I love you, but dude, I need to go and read some books now…”

The fact of the matter is, you see, that most of the time? I’d rather be reading.

Or, at least, I THINK I’d rather be reading. If I actually make the effort to get out of the house and into society, I’ll almost always enjoy it. But when a good book and a cosy blanket is your idea of a good time, the so-called “festive” season can start to feel anything BUT a “holiday”. In fact, I’m sure most introverts would agree that by the end of it, we need a holiday to recover, amiright?

December is what I think of as “cluttered” month. That’s not the same thing as a stressful month (although it can be stressful, too: I’m sure other self-employed people will be all-too familiar with the stomach-churning panic that precedes any holiday, as you frantically try to squeeze four weeks’ worth of work into one…), and it’s not the same thing as an unpleasant month, either. It’s just… cluttered. And claustrophobic. And, OK, maybe a tiny bit stressful. (This is why I don’t ever attend all of those blogger events I get invited to: that combination of introverted + shy… well, it doesn’t exactly make for stress-free socialising, let’s put it that way.)

large pile of books in booksshopFor us, the holiday seasons starts around about now, and continues well into the first week of January, by which point I’ll be seriously craving that night in with a good book. I’ll also be wanting to eat salad, go for brisk, early-morning runs, and never see another sequin in my life. My batteries will be completely flat, in other words, and there won’t be enough books in the world to kick-start them again. Er, I actually feel like that already, and it’s still only November: whoops!

People think it’s strange to be a homebody, especially if you’re at an age when you’re “supposed” to be out partying/clubbing all the the time. They think “fun” has the same definition for everyone, and that wanting to stay in and read a book, or turning down an invitation to an event,  is just boring and sad. I think of some people as The Others, because their behaviour is just unfathomable to me, but there’s another group I think of as The Normals (and I mean that in the nicest possible way: some of my closest friends are Normals), because they just seem to have everything figured out: they like the things you’re “supposed” to like (Fall! Christmas! Snow! Party time!) and they never end up making other people feel awkward because they’re desperately uncomfortable and just want to go home. (I think, deep down, a lot of those Normals are probably introverts, too: they’re just better at hiding it, or have figured out some coping-mechanisms to get them through…)

So, while I know there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert, sometimes it really feels like there IS, doesn’t it? Like when December looms, and you find yourself staring down the barrel of non-stop social engagements, with very little time out to “recharge”, say. Or when you’re at that party, and you’ve enjoyed it, but all of a sudden your brain goes, “That’s it, I’m out!” and shuts down because it just can’t handle any more stimulation.  You know you’re starting to act “weird”, and that people will probably notice (and, you know, hate you, and talk about you. “Did you see how WEIRD Amber was being at the end of that party? God, that girl, is a FREAK!”), but you just can’t seem to do anything about it, because your brain needs to be on its own now, thanks very much. Or when you deliberately put off buying a bed for your guest room, because you know that having people to stay would mean being “on” all the time, and never getting to relax, even in your own home.

So, while I know there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert, sometimes it really feels like there IS, doesn’t it?

At Christmas time, there isn’t a huge amount of that “downtime” around here – in fact, for the next couple of weeks I’ll be working extra hard to queue up posts (for my other blogs, I mean: on this one you’ll probably just get stuck with more photos of coffee mugs and my dog: sorry about that…), because I know there won’t be a lot of time to sit down and write them. There are lots of things I’m looking forward to, and lots of things I’ll really enjoy, but even so, I know that left to my own devices, there’s a good chance I’d just hibernate from now until April. Luckily for me, however, I married an extrovert, so becoming a recluse just isn’t an option, and this December is basically going to be an exercise in overcoming introversion (Now say that ten times, quickly…), and getting through the festive season without complaining about it. Except this one time, obviously. How will I do it? Dammed if I know, to be honest. But I’m going to give it my best shot.

First, though, I have some books to read…

Photo by Alyssa Strohmann on Unsplash

COMMENTS
  • Cristina

    REPLY

    Lovely post, Amber! The part of people having various definitions of fun really struck home because, you see, I’m one of those hybrid extro/introverts (now it sounds like some sort of experiment) that loves people but can’t stand anything remotely party like after 9 o’ clock. If I could spend my days with coffee and books and talking to people about books and whatever not, I’d be so happy but somehow people always feel that if you don’t go out at midnight every Friday, you’re sad and alone. Which I’m most definitely not. Really, we should just accept it that we all like different things.

    November 28, 2014
  • Amber, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert. Everything you describe is exactly how I’ve always been, too, except that I’m not shy. But being able to and more interested in entertaining myself and reading rather than socializing has always been my m.o. Yesterday at Thanksgiving my mother asked me three times if I was okay because I was either staring into space or had physically separated myself from the crush of my mostly-extroverted family. I was fine; just needed some mental space!

    I hope you find some serenity and space as December rolls along. ^_^

    November 28, 2014
  • I’m quite shy and introverted as well. I’ve gotten more extroverted since I married my uber social extroverted husband though. I still much prefer a small gathering of close friends than a large party. I don’t even like large family holiday gatherings because it’s a huge room of distant relations (or distant relations of my husband which is worse) that I see once a year and don’t really know that well but they all know each other. I usually bring a knitting project with me so I can halfway pay attention to conversations but halfway be by myself. Definitely would much rather be home with a book!

    November 28, 2014
  • I completely agree with everything you’ve said here! I’m the same as you, quite shy and very introverted. I’ve literally never stayed out partying all night because that’s far too long in other peoples’ company, thanksverymuch. I love seeing my friends here and there but am the same as you – surprise visits when I had plans to be doing things all by myself really, really bother me. Oh, and I’m obsessed with reading. Reflected in my choice of career – as I work for a book publisher. And if I didn’t market books, I’d have been very happy being a librarian, I’m sure! No need to have awkward small-talk when the room’s supposed to be silent!

    November 28, 2014
  • Oh, yes, to all of this! The lonely in crowds but never on your own thing? Spot on. I love all of the fun and festivities around Christmas but I much prefer the variety which involves hanging out with one or two or maybe three other people to the enormous group events – and, either way, by the end of it, I’m ready to head home and get some peace.

    November 28, 2014
      • Erika

        REPLY

        Another shy introvert with an extrovert partner! I get to add ME/CFS to the mix, and people are now quite used to me leaving for a nap (one bed if at home, one of theirs if out).

        The one problem with loving books is that I keep running out of bookshelf space. Not sure how to fix that one….

        November 29, 2014
  • TinaD

    REPLY

    I bring a Kindle to other people’s parties–is that terrible?–so I can sneak off to the patio (or the bathroom, or the pantry) for 20 minute bursts of not making smalltalk. Because I have this tattoo on my forehead, detectable to strangers, that says “share with me your miseries, your heartbreaks, your oozy medical complaints.” At least in a novel the anguish is there to advance the plot. At my own parties I lurk in the kitchen and cook while my husband holds court in the public spaces…(is there some rule, do you think, that says introverts must fall in love with extroverts, so that we can frustrate them and they can exhaust us until the end of time?)

    November 28, 2014
    • Erika

      REPLY

      Yes. I think that might be a rule 🙂

      November 29, 2014
  • I don’t think I’m an introvert at all – at least, not by the standards of the many lists of defining introvert characteristics that seem to have flooded the internet in the last few years – but man, I FEEL YOU on the down-time in December thing. I came back from my parents’ house in January feeling like a nervous wreck after two and a half weeks of a family Christmas with little to no time alone. It turns out that I really need that time by myself to focus, to think random thoughts, to do whatever. I think we all do to a certain extent, I guess. I hope you’re able to carve out that time for yourself in the next few weeks to read those books, be alone with your thoughts and drink coffee.

    November 28, 2014
  • Selina

    REPLY

    I’m an extrovert with my friends and mainly an introvert with other people and I love downtime, I’d prefer to be in relaxing by myself or chatting online than going out much of the time. When I stay in I can stay up til 2 am but when I’m out, for some reason I can’t last past midnight even though I’m a night owl. I think it’s because other people and some environments exhaust me. It’s weird

    November 28, 2014
  • I talk like ALL THE TIME. And I’m pretty sure anyone who met me would say I’m an extrovert, but the truth is I feel a huge pressure at social events to keep things flowing and make sure everyone is having fun and I find it exhausting and also need lots of downtime to recover. I also have a tendency to drink too much to cover up the fact that I actually feel totally socially awkward, if I’m out and not drinking I’m always home within an hour and a half!

    I think everyone is different and you’d be surprised how many people you think are the life and soul are actually wearing themselves out with their party faces.

    This is in danger of becoming a blog post all of its own, so I shall sign off and return to watching Poirot from under a blanket, alone, on a Friday night 😀

    November 28, 2014
      • I do that too! I think everyone must think I’m such an idiot and hate me.
        Gosh this is like group therapy!

        November 29, 2014
  • Same here 🙂 I’m also not really shy, tho, but I’m often very quiet. It takes a while before I feel comfortable enough with a person to chat non stop, especially because my voice is always really low and often if I try to speak I know no one will notice. People are always surprised when older friends of mine “complain” that I just never shut up, when they’ve never heard me say more than a sentence…

    November 29, 2014
  • Brit

    REPLY

    Thanks for sharing so much of your personality. I’m not sure if I’m an introvert, but I’m quite sure that I really don’t like big parties or similar events. I got better in letting people not know about that as I got older, but if I could I would still like to run away than to participate. Nice to see that I’m not the only person feeling this way.

    November 29, 2014
  • The more of you I read, the more I am convinced we would be great friends. Come on over, bring your pup, and a book and we can read in the presence of one another. I have tea. and coffee. 🙂 Happy holidays doll.

    November 29, 2014
  • Ellesworth

    REPLY

    Oooh, you’re reading ‘Rebecca’! What did you think of it? 🙂 Daphne Du Maurier is one of my favourite writers: I inevitably hate every single one of her characters but damn, she makes me care about them anyway, and her books haunt me for weeks.

    November 29, 2014
  • I hate it when a social life gets in the way of the books I’m reading, don’t they know that I can’t possibly get through all the books I want to within my lifetime anyway?! This week I’ve done well, I’ve finished reading 2 books, AND I went to a social event and mingled. The best of both worlds.

    “Rebecca” is my favourite book, I have that edition.

    P x

    November 29, 2014
  • Liz Tea Bee

    REPLY

    I’m quite shy and also exceptionally extroverted. I have both high need to socialize and a lot of social anxiety. I go mad if I go too long with out social interaction but I prefer smaller, quiet gatherings. I’d rather have 2 friends over for wine and board games than go to a big party.

    When my best friend comes to visit we will hang out in my living room reading, occasionally pausing to share exceptionally interesting or funny bits. This is why she is my best friend.

    November 30, 2014
  • Amanda

    REPLY

    Being an introvert, while stressful, is something more people are understanding, so at least there is that! I think the key to holiday season like this is self care, so taking five mins before you walk in somewhere to mentally prepare could help. Something I do, because I am much the same as you and I absolutely hate small talk, is to not do any small talk. What makes it easier for me is to find something they are really interested in, and you are interested in, and learn about it through them. Makes things less boring and makes small talk less small. For emergencies though, carry a book in your purse haha!

    December 1, 2014
  • Everything you’ve described is how I feel too. Like you, I enjoy social events when they are something that I want to go to but I hate not having any downtime afterwards. Thanks for sharing, it’s always comforting to know that I’m not alone!

    December 1, 2014
  • Cristina

    REPLY

    Well looking at the other comments, it looks like I’m in an odd category: shy and extroverted.
    It’s tricky to explain, I do get recharged by going out and by being around other people, but I’m also very wary of trying not to be in anyone’s face too much or talking their leg off too much, which is where the timidness comes in.
    The internal monologue runs a bit like this:
    “Yay, a person!
    Oh, but I’m awkward and annoying, and they shouldn’t have to suffer that at full blast, so I’ll just be quiet, or let them be when there’s a lull, so people more interesting than me can take over.”
    Of course it’s not the same amongst friends.
    With experience, I find I enjoy myself most at parties by giving myself ‘work’ to do , helping serving, cooking, setting up, cleaning up, anything. It’s a good excuse to move around and see everyone, a good excuse to join in a conversation, and a good excuse to get out of it again as needed.

    December 2, 2014
  • Hi Amber,

    I just stumbled acorss your blog recently and I love it. You inspire me in so many ways it is crazy. I have always found myself quite shy and similar but then I put on an act to pretend to people that I am actually really confident. This blog was lovely and such a nice read this morning.

    I better get on with studying but I loved everything you said!

    Jenny

    December 9, 2014
  • Oh my gosh, I know exactly how you feel! I need my own downtime & alone time as much as some people need oxygen to breathe. It’s so refreshing and also such a relief to read this blog post, I was literally nodding my head along to every single sentence. Thanks so much for a truly fabbo blog,
    Jenny xx

    December 10, 2014
  • The best way I’ve heard being an introvert described was at a blogging conference. The speaker summed it up by saying that if at the end of the day you were all buzzing with energy from all the people and wanted to make plans to go out and see more people that evening, you were probably an extrovert. If you’d had a great time, but actually quite wanted to go home and sit on the sofa with a nice cup of tea and a book and not speak to anyone that night…introvert. You like the socialising, you just need the quiet time after it!

    December 11, 2014
  • Darlene

    REPLY

    Hi Amber, I just found your blog and came across this entry. This is the best explanation of ME and how I work I have ever read. I am a double whammy as well – introvert and shy. I have read that the world consists of 75 percent extroverts so we are a minority. Also it’s hereditary but shyness is not. 5 siblings in my family all introverts but one sister who is an extrovert like my dad. She ALWAYS gets voted down

    December 23, 2014
  • Totally feeling this post! As someone who, as a child, was often found hiding in the loo reading while the friends I had invited over played in my room, I’ve never quite got over the need to escape!

    January 10, 2015
  • Shoma

    REPLY

    I’m the same way! I must say, it annoys me that people view introversion as a flaw. Thanks so much for this post! Makes me feel better to know other people feel the same.

    September 7, 2015
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