Being an Introvert Kind of Makes Me a Jerk

But what if you still suck after all these concessions?

Few things suck worse than engaging in introspection and realizing you are not the shining exemplar of humanity you’d like to be. We’re coming up on the close of 2013, and, reflecting on the past year, I see some things I am not proud of. Let me explain.

The Internet, which I secretly believe is run largely by introverts, has pulled back the covers on introversion and made it a Thing. I am a strange kind of introvert: I love interacting with people, conversing…but I become reserved and withdrawn when there are too many of them around me. Sure, I want to go to your party! But I will never be the coolest kid there, unless you talk to me one-on-one.

The worst aspect of my introversion is rather stubborn aversion to conflict. My social failings cause me to avoid awkward situations at all costs, so I am tactful and politically correct, to a fault. I rarely ruffle feathers on purpose. If I don’t want to do something, I tend to communicate it passive-aggressively, rather than directly.

But there comes a time in every introvert’s life when she has to put on her big girl Vickies and step to the plate. It’s called being an adult. Most of the time, I succeed at busting down the dread that suffuses me when I think of having to do an unpleasant social task. This year, though, I failed. I put myself in some unnecessarily awkward situations–and hurt some people–because I refused to speak up and rectify the problem.

Deathbulge, “Jerk,” 2013, by Scott McCloud

This has haunted me a bit. It’s a stain on my stellar year to see those glaring failures of character and wish I had done better, knowing it was fully within my grasp to do so. God don’t like ugly, and He lets me know it. Worse, I know I have marred the outward perception of myself as a “nice person.” Frankly, I’ve been a jerk to people this year. Missed calls and thank yous, failed to relay important information, avoided difficult conversations–all because I didn’t want to be uncomfortable.

But I’m uncomfortable anyway, knowing that I owe people multiple apologies. I have been considering writing letters by hand and snail mailing them, but I’m not sure if even this would be a cop out. Writing is both strength and crutch for me. It’s my most powerful communicative tool, but it allows me to sidestep the crucial verbal aspect of interpersonal relationships. I do crave the barrier of paper to shield me from having to put myself out there in conversation, to vocalize the words, “I apologize. I was wrong,” and physically face the music.

In the end, my using introversion as an excuse is also a class-A jerk move. All this could be avoided if I was an extrovert; I could leap awkward conversations with a single bound then! Right. I am actively trying to overcome my reservations about certain relationships, speak my mind, and be a better person for it. But until then, this introvert will have to look herself in the mirror and live with that patch of ugly on her personality.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How do you deal with conflict and hard conversations? 

22 thoughts on “Being an Introvert Kind of Makes Me a Jerk

  1. Bravo! Thank you for sharing that. I take two steps forward and four steps back with interacting with people and being an introvert. It’s great to hear that there’s an equilibrium to it, at some point.

  2. I am 44 years old and I had been struggling with my introversion most of my life – until about 3 years ago. I always thought something was wrong with me. And on top of that, situations and scenarios (like office parties and other “required” social gatherings) would exhaust the hell out of me. I was in a constant battle with myself to remain sociable and outgoing AND satisfy my craving to be left alone. Three years ago, I caved in to my craving.

    For the entire year of 2011, I shut down completely. My routine was: get up, go to work, come home, cook dinner, go to bed. Every single workday. On weekends, I would run only the necessary errands to keep my life running drama-free. I was on auto-pilot for almost 12 months.

    The first 3-4 months were rough. But, after I got through that, I found my groove. And loved every moment. I discovered that I adored being alone and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me –> this became my mantra for when I started to doubt how I was managing my life, including it’s conflicts.

    You ask: “How do you deal with conflict and hard conversations?”

    For me, I avoid conflicts as much as I can. And when I do have to deal with anything/anyone difficult, my method is so sloppy. I either don’t step up soon enough or I’m passive-aggressive. But I manage to get through the conflict just fine. I no longer question my sloppy ways – I just go with it.

    One thing I’ve noticed about most introverts is that we beat ourselves up way more than the average person. (I’ve learned this from my extroverted boyfriend.) Life became much easier for me when I stopped beating myself up for being me. Yes, I hate conflict. Yes, I love being alone. Yes, I flake out a lot. Yes, yes, yes. This is who I am. And I no longer feel like there is anything wrong with me.

  3. Lol! Same here! Maybe it’s an introvert thing, but I talk to myself. Sometimes I’ll practice things to say so I’ll sound confident, and it actually works even though people think talking to oneself makes one a crazy person … I don’t care!

  4. I think most people who really get to know introverts know that we are regular people. It’s just that outside perception that poses an initial barrier.

  5. I was never outgoing myself, so that makes me an introvert. There are those who can’t handle being around us because we are allegedly “boring, uninteresting”, etc. We like doing things at our own pace, and we should be respected for that.

  6. :::cues Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone”:::

    No, you’re definitely not by yourself in that respect! And isn’t off-the-cuff speaking THE WORST sometimes? I’m good if I have something memorized or if it’s on paper, but don’t ask me to say something extemporaneously! No, ma’am, no, sir, no thank you!

  7. I think my mom went though that; was painfully shy and is now a beast of a communicator. I’m just waiting to earn those stripes 🙂

    And I’m so, so sorry that your 180 came on the heels of a sexual assault. No one deserves that.

    Thank you for your insight!

  8. I’m certainly an introvert and deal with it most days. I’m studying mass communication, so I struggle to reconcile my personality to the jobs I want. I’m dealing with it today, in fact: call someone to interview, leave a voicemail, play the waiting game, not sure when I’ll have to pick and go, not sure what to do while I wait, etc. I had to call twice just to leave a simple voicemail simply because I was afraid stupid if I starting speaking off the cuff. And I feel like such a coward sometimes with the littlest things.
    This article, however, is a Godsend. I completely get the guilt aspect of your emotions. If I don’t feel like others are giving me some slack, I easily find it hard to give myself slack and guilt sets in.
    Is it others’ responsibility to give me slack, though? Are there situations in which it’s just give-and-take with other people? How much do I give, how much should they take from me? How much am I expected to give and is it reasonable?
    These are all the questions I struggle with in this whole adulthood thing, and I’m trying to figure them all out. It’s great to know I’m not the only one who struggles, though. 🙂

  9. That’s a really good question! I’ve thought about it before, how many times, African Americans are seen as the “cool people” stereotypically. And I am very much not that! But I don’t think I feel any pressure to be extroverted because I’m black…if anything, I feel that pressure because it looks fun (and who doesn’t want to be ‘fun’?) No one has really ever approached me expecting me to be lively because I’m black, to my knowledge.

    And thanks for reading 🙂

  10. Total extrovert, but you mention childhood and “That Person.” I AM That Person. And as a child, it is theorized I never said more than five words at a time, to anyone. I was left places because I was the invisible member of my family. I am STILL the quietest member of my family–but that says more about them than me, now. Thing is, I stopped being an introvert and became that person after a sexual assault that 180-ed my life. I HATE being “That Person” sometimes, but it also comes with a hecka lot power. I CAN command a room, or leave it be if I want. I can also command others to command a room for me. I can lie in wait and grab the attention when I want it, and I can derail conversations that just plain tick me off. But I’ll admit, I use my power for evil. And I would have to say, that while I know I am a generally good person, I am not a saint–and neither are you. And G-d may hate ugly, but He didn’t make you perfect, He made YOU. Don’t berate yourself for being human, find your chinks, patch ’em, and know you’ll find more later.

  11. I linked this to one of my posts because it fit. But then I had to chime in. I am definitely a social introvert. And I’m socially awkward. Which is why my question is probably going to sound wrong. But I have to ask if you end up feeling more pressure to be outgoing because you aren’t white? I’m a mousy little white girl so it’s kind of expected that I’m going to be an introvert. But reading your post, then noticing your picture and some of your tags made me wonder if social stereotypes end up making you feel more pressure than someone like me would feel to be more extroverted?

  12. thats the funny thing I was really confident as a child, arrogant even. Life eventually humbled me but perhaps it took a little too much off the top

  13. My husband is that kind of introvert. He’s funny, engaging, and easy around crowds…but he secretly doesn’t like to be around a lot of people. I need his super power lol.

    And yesss! I often feel that I am bothering someone and I do the absolute most to not be That Person.

    Did you ever think, when you were younger, that you would just magically not be the introvert you were as a kid? Somehow, I think I thought it would get easier as an adult…but like you said, I’m still working on it.

  14. #teamintrovert here, although its more about my own comfort level, I can own a room or be a fly on the wall depending on how im feeling. I hate to feel like I’m bothering someone or that I’m not wanted and when I feel uncomfortable I tend to shut down completely. I’m still working on trying be more assertive and telling myself that I’m not unwelcome and no one is really THAT worried about me

  15. Yeah, picking your spots is important. Try not to put yourself in awkward positions lol. I learned that late.

    My biggest problem is that I have family members with exact my personality, each of us waiting on the other to be the Bigger Person and bridge the gap. It’s extra frustrating to realize that you HAVE to be in this relationship, but that it will never be easy.

  16. I’m an introvert but I’ve learned to pick my spots with interactions. My friends all except that I’m the way I am and I do the same with them so my fellow Avengers and I feed off of our different personalities. I come off as a d*** sometimes but not because of passive aggression but because I can be cut an dry when I’m trying to get things done. In the end it’s all about working with people who can vibe with your personality.

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