On being an outgoing introvert

Growing up as an only child, I spent a lot of time alone. When my parents went out, I was happy to stay behind at home to tidy my room, re-organise my folders, and muck around on my DOS computer (remember those?). Being alone never bothered me. In fact, I liked it in a strange sort of way.

When I started high school some twenty (or more) years ago, I made a conscious decision to be more outgoing in order to help with making friends. I don't recall in detail what my thought process was exactly or how I actually made myself more outgoing, but it sort of worked. I wasn't exactly the life of the party, but I was happy to chat, talk, laugh (loudly), and poke fun at myself whenever the social situation called for it. In fact, my laugh is probably one of those things that my friends will remember well from our school years. As a little kid, my mum would often tell me to laugh more quietly (or with more dignity—one or the other). But when I got to high school and I was free to interact without those parental boundaries, I let it all out. It's ironic now that I'm often startled by how loud our own boys can be. I guess the apple truly doesn't fall that far from the tree.

When Rick and I started dating, we began the process of attending many social, family, and church gatherings together. It was a wonderful way for us to get to know each other's families as well as our circle of friends. When we got married and Rick started full-time ministry, it felt like we were going to even more social events than ever before. I loved meeting and getting to know people but, over time, it became rather emotionally exhausting. Unsurprisingly, I started to dread having to attend yet another party, engagement, wedding, church event, or family function.

For some time, this confused me—was I not as outgoing or as much of a “people person” as I'd thought I was? It also caused some strain to our marriage because obviously Rick needed to be present at many of these events as part of his work, and I naturally wanted to go along and support him and be a part of his ministry. Yet I would often feel terribly down by the end of the evening, and we would end up talking late into the night as we tried to work through my tears and frustration.

Over time, we eventually worked out that I was actually an introvert. I needed time away from people to rest. I needed time away from people to recharge. I needed time away from people to gather my thoughts, process my feelings, and regroup. I needed time away from people to just do my own thing.

It was so liberating to realise this. No longer did I have to feel guilty about not wanting to be around people after being around people. No longer did I have to feel frustrated—with Rick, with other people, and with myself. Instead, we started making sure that in between different events, we would make time to just hang out by ourselves. We also came up with a simple signal that I could give Rick if I ever started to feel overwhelmed when we were out. Having this safety net made a world of difference as it meant that I never again had to feel like I was trapped anywhere. And of course, we made sure that I had time at home to do my thing: de-cluttering, tidying, and de-cluttering some more.

Honestly, knowing that I'm an introvert helps immensely even today. I'm more than happy and able to chat to people for hours and hours at church on a Sunday, as long as I know that Rick and I will share a little window of time together at night while we eat our Thai food and watch our Netflix. And I know to never commit myself to too many things in the one week, so that there's time for me to rest and recharge (and organise my photos on the computer).

In hindsight, it should've been so obvious considering how I'd spent my childhood. I can't help but smile at the fact that I'm still the same girl who likes to tidy her room.

And so, in conclusion, I guess I'm what you might call an outgoing introvert.

(Yes, we do exist.)

This post was originally published on Pink Ronnie in June 2014. Photos taken in Gerroa in July 2018.

Rhonda Mason2 Comments