Hi, my name is Barbara and I’m an introvert

woman-knittingWhat does this look like in my world?

Well for one, my little sister calls me weird – she describes me as one of two extremes. I’m either very energetic, animated, dancing around, literally bouncing of chairs and wanting to share that with everyone around me. This also means I am drinking a lot of water, and if I know you well, this also means you will constantly hear me say – I really need to pee – because you see, the water I’m drinking means I need to constantly go to the toilet – but going to the toilet gets in the way when I want to share so much with you. Weird. I know.

The other part of my introversion – the larger part is that I really just like to be alone, cooped up somewhere in a quiet corner, in silence and not talking to anyone. I once bought a fridge and got rid of it after 3 weeks because it kept making noise and I couldn’t sleep each time it was drawing power. That’s the kind of silence I like. Natural noise, some of it – like birds singing, the wind, rain outside – that, I love. Man-made waterfalls – too distracting. This has to do with my work on cruise ships…ask me about it next time we meet and I will explain. Traffic noise – also distracting. This is why I love living in a cul-de-sac. Less traffic, sometimes none at all.

You see, I have heightened senses. I gather a lot of information using all my senses within a short space of time. So in like 30 to 45 minutes within a space or in front of an audience – especially a new one, I am exhausted and need a couple of days to recover. Where I need to be around for longer, I literally have to pull a chair up and sit down. Now this doesn’t help me at parties. I literally set my phone alarm clock to an hour so I can gauge my energy levels. Once they start dropping and my alarm goes off – I leave and go home or go and somewhere quiet for a little while before I come back and restart. A close friend once threatened to hide her house keys when she invited me over for a party for that reason. I panicked, there was no corner in her house where I could go and curl up to recover. You know what I did, soon as I came through her front door, I took her keys and placed them in my pocket in fear that she would really lock the door and I would be stuck. It worked! After an hour, I quietly slipped away and replaced her keys on the door on the way out. Weirdo. I know and I own it!

If a meeting drags on for more than 45 minutes. Forget it, you would have lost me. I will contribute, I will be attentive, I will engage – but after 45 minutes you will have lost me. If I am on a Skype call and am not visible to the other person, I usually take out my knitting needles because that helps me refocus or I take out my coloring book – not the ones for adults where the lines are so small and need too much concentration, but a little girl’s fairy book with larger lines and no coloring rules. I can use any color and I can scribble in whichever way I can without having to think too much about it– its brilliant – you should try it. With my knitting, I knit until the wool is finished, undo whatever it is I have been knitting – which is really nothing – then I start again. It helps me refocus. Literally, when watching a movie at home, I actually knit to keep my mind centered and not wondering off to do lists. I might start taking my coloring book and needles to meetings or parties…

Thinking back, I remember visiting an older cousin for the holidays. There were no quiet spaces in her house to go and be alone, so during the day when everyone was at home, I used to go and sit and read in her car. It was quiet, no one could find me and I could be alone. Once she found out she started making a joke about me ‘loving cars’ so much I was ‘living in one’ when there was a house right there for me to be in. It bugged me because I myself didn’t understand why I was doing it – I just knew it felt okay and I felt happy after a couple of hours alone, in the car. It had nothing to do with the mechanics of the car – which I didn’t understand anyway, and sometimes still don’t but am learning to. I was that young child, you would find in a library all day alone, because it was quiet. Besides the fact that I love to read, it helped me be away from the noise of everyday life.

I remember on one of my birthday parties, I think I was 11 or 12 years old. I spent the entire time in the kitchen, cleaning up, because I just wanted to get away from the noise. Not many people ventured into the kitchen which was awesome, and by the time the party finished, it probably took all of about 20 minutes to clean up because I had been doing it the whole time. No one would have thought there had been a party during the day. You see, the attention also made me uncomfortable if there was no sign of me having to go into a space to refuel. It got me nervous and upset.  

I didn’t know I was an introvert, and because I didn’t know how to articulate it in a world that constantly celebrated extroversion, I was the weird one who did and still does things labelled as weird. Not understanding why the things I did were actually making me a better person to others, not being able to articulate that to myself and then to others was unsettling.

So how do these quirks help with my coaching? Brilliantly in fact. My sessions are no more than an hour long. I listen attentively for about 40 minutes, I take notes, I observe. I then ask a lot of questions to make sure I have understood everything, I reflect, then I guide and advise accordingly. This is where my research and anthropology background also comes in. It allows me to gather this information in a short space of time and in great detail. Anthropology as you might know is the study of people and their culture, what habits do they form because of or in spite of their culture. How they influence their culture and how their culture influences their everyday habits.

One thing I really love about the quirks I have developed in harnessing and appreciating my introvertness. The 45 minutes of initial energy? I can relate to young people and millennials. I can walk in to a room of young people and get them talking about topics that are ‘taboo’ in the adult world. To create rapport with a new group of young people I ask them this question:

Soooo how many sperm are in a single ejaculation? This seems like a topic or a question that no one should say out loud right? Wrong. They usually tell me – because its part of the biology and science classes in school anyway. Of course there are a lot of embarrassed chuckles, shock, horror, all my word – how is this adult saying these things out loud, we are not supposed to say things like vaginas and penises or even talk about anything to do with our body parts, let alone call them by their real names. Oh my goodness!

Now, remember I am still in my high energy 45 minutes…so this is quite hilarious for me – you should see some of the facial expressions that come with the embarrassment, but also troubling especially in a world where HIV rates and other sexually transmitted diseases for, get this children aged between the ages of 10 and 14 are going up. Anyway – that’s another topic.

After a couple of seconds of asking this question and encouraging them to please answer – someone does answer…they usually come up with a figure say – several million whatever they are. I look at them and say – several million – and of those several million – YOU came out? If that does not make you stand out and appreciate and love and embrace yourself – I don’t know what else will. You’re the (don’t think I can use the word I use on a public forum so let’s say: You’re an awesome being!). 

And guess what – this alone – works wonders for self-esteem. Despite the fact that I know biology is not that simple. I see chests coming up, necks being straighten, the embarrassment goes away and we start taking about the importance of appreciating being here on this earth, of self-love, self-appreciation; we start talking about managing relationships with oneself and with those around us, finances especially when you’re still relying on the pocket money provided by your parents. It’s amazing.

You see, human beings are awesome. And once we understand that, and we move toward self-discovery each and every day. Each and every one of us getting out there and sharing our true authentic selves to the world. It is just awesome – I have no other word for it. Imagine if we all went into relationships with friends, with family, with lovers, with peers with the one question – what can I bring to this relationship. I think we would have a different world. Of course, this means you would have to go on that journey of self-discovery. A life unexamined guys is not worth living. I urge you to take the time to get to know who you really are. 

Your turn

  • Do you know when you’re going to die? If yes. Awesome – you can time all the things you want to do and be in life. If no – what are you waiting for? Why not venture into that thing that you have been mulling over for days, for weeks for months, even years. You might say FEAR, but remember that Fear is false evidence appearing real. Rather have true evidence, try it out and see what happens. This of course means knowing who you really are so that you can venture into that thing that speaks to who you really are.
  • Do you know the real you? 
  • Do you know where you are on the introvert-extrovert spectrum? 
  • Where and how do you find your life fuel?
  • Do you know how to articulate yourself to yourself?
  • Do you know how to articulate yourself to others clearly and in a way people can respect and let you be you without creating limiting labels like ‘weird’ that make you do the things you don’t want to do – just to fit in?
  • When was the last time you really examined your habits?
  • Are they serving you and allowing you to be on a path that is authentically you?
  • Or are you living a life for others?

Let’s chat. Leave a comment below. Who are you really and what are you doing to serve that?


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