What do you do on your own?

Does having no one to join you, stop you from doing things you’d really want to do? Do you go to see your favourite band by yourself, the long awaited movie, a dinner on your own or go for a walk in the park? Do you join that yoga class or local gym? Do you travel solo?

Chances are that if you are happy to do things by yourself that are not normally seen as solitary activities, you’re likely an introvert. Introverts are much more comfortable in their own company and therefore, I would think, less likely to opt out of doing something because they don’t have someone to go with. Possibly with the apprehension of having to talk to people they don’t know. Extrovert on the other hand might see going somewhere solo as an opportunity to get to know new people, much more likely to interact with the new set of people.

Yes, we all read in our own quiet corner, or even to put a barrier between us and the rest of the world, such as communting on an overcrowded tube train. We watch TV in our own favourite chair at home. We have a coffee or maybe even a beer at our local cafe or pub. Most will go for walks in the park when the weather is warm without needing company. But how far are you willing to push yourself?

When I moved to London, on my own, which I’m sure many would see as a brave step, I was quite aware that if I wasn’t prepared to go places by myself, I would spend my entire time in London confined to my rented room. Not much fun! I believe I already had this ability, to do things solo. I went seight-seeing, to the museums, to photo exhibitions etcetera by myself and I still do. Sometimes prefereing to experience things without anyone else’s opinion.

Later I started going to the movies by myself, went out to dinner as a treat, attended events that are local to my community. I confess that there are still things I don’t do by myself. It’s more about feeling vulnerable than that I care about whether it’s socially acceptable or not. Medium-to-big concerts, dancing, late-night pubs, travelling, are things where I don’t feel comfortable. But, even smaller concerts, I love sitting in my own corner listening to a really talented musician.

So how solo are you prepared to go? Or are you dependent on having someone with you to share the things you love doing?

To See Your Friends or to Not See Your Friends

Today’s topic is a tricky one. Perhaps I will get myself into trouble writing this but here we go.

Everyone needs to spend time alone. For extroverts I imagine it can be a challenge since they tend to thrive on interactions. For introverts it’s a necessity and the more of an introvert you are the more alone-time you need to recharge your batteries.

Introverts are not hermits because of this. I love meeting up with friends for a coffee or going out for dinner. Outdoor markets and festivals are great for lazy days in the sun together with friends.

I must confess though that I prefer a smaller circle and a calmer environment where you can have proper conversations. A large party or going to a club with loud blip-iti-blop music can be draining and that has not come from growing older.

Just as much as I enjoy seeing friends, I love going for a walk in the park, to the movies or reading a book in a coffee place ALL BY MYSELF. I have had many coffee dates with my books in half empty cafés and had a really nice time.

Finding that balans can be tricky. I often forget to ask friends if they want to come to the park, or the movies, or to see an exhibition, even to do things that I prefer to do together with friends, such as a live concert.

And this is where it gets really tricky. Even spending time with a few close friends in the right setting can leave me drained. It can be like going on an intense holiday. You come back happy with so many impressions and ideas but also feeling that you need a holiday to recover from your holiday.

In the end only you know how much time you need by yourself. If you’re an extrovert, don’t forget to spend time alone. It’s good to find out who you are when no one else is around.

Quiet – a book review

One reason why I started writing this blog about being introvert was that I recently read the book Quiet – the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain. As I mentioned in my first blog post, I have always known I’m an introvert. This book however made me reflect on what that means for my life. I sometimes feel that there is not space in society for me and when I read the beginning of Quiet, that outlines how extroversion has become the ideal in today’s society, I started to understand this feeling more. Most places from schools, to work places, to social activities are targeted to extroverts. No wonder that introverts like me sometimes feel like there isn’t space to breath.

I liked this book a lot for its throughout explanation of how our society is working from an extrovert/introvert perspective, the different strenghts and weaknesses of being one or the other, but also how we can make use of these differences. How do we find that space to breath when we struggle as introverts to find our place in this extroverted society?

It has also helped me understand why some of the advise and some of the situations I have ordealed over the years, haven’t work for me at all. For instance, I worked in a very noisy open plan office for a while. Music was on all day, everyone (although we were a small team) kept talking over your head while you tried to do your job. I was irritable, frustrated and sometimes felt like I couldn’t get anything done. To quote Quiet: “Open-plan offices have been found to reduce productivity and impair memory.” On top of that introverts prefer to work independently and in solitude where they can concentrate on one task at hand. I have since changed my job. It has it’s own challenges but now there’s just two of us in a smaller office space with no music. I enjoy work more now that I can concentrate on what I’m doing with fewer distruptions. In worse case, I stay late, and do the important details when everyone else has gone home.

Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert or, perhaps you’re not sure where you fit in, this book is worth a read. It’s an eye-opener and you will find yourself trying to figure out to which category you belong as well as all other people around you.

 

Quiet

Being an Introvert

Why a blog about being introvert?

I’ve always known I’m an introvert. All my life I’ve been happiest when by myself. Only recently have I started exploring how this impacts my life.

Supposedly 1/3 of the world population is introvert, and the same goes for most other species. That’s 1/3 that think, act and perceive the world differently, a bit like whether you’re a man or woman. It’s not better or worse being an introvert or an extrovert, or man or woman for that matter. It’s simply different strenghts and challenges.

It also means that, just like growing up in a minority, being introvert in a predominantly extrovert society can leave you feeling misunderstood and marginalized.

So here is an atempt at giving insight in to what it’s like living life introverted. I’ll start with an anecdote:

A few weekends ago, I went to Greenwich Market. It can be a bit busy if you’re a reclusive kind of introvert but I’m quite social for an introvert and I like disappearing in the crowd, watching people, finding fun and interesting products, odd figures and patterns etcetera.

After a while I wanted lunch – I found a little cafe on a side street and ordered my lunch at the counter. There was only one other couple there apart from me but I had seen a sign that they had upstairs seating and so asked if there was.

“Yes, but you might be a bit lonely there,” the cashier observed jokingly.

“Mm, I might like that,” I joked back and then went up the stairs to sit by myself in a parlour-size room.

Introverts will recognize this behaviour and understand it. Extroverts might find it a bit bonkers. But this is what we like –  a quiet corner to ourselves. I was very comfortable watching the street below, eating my lunch in silence and observing the room. I could let thoughts and reflections from the day come and go. That’s how I recharge my batteries.

By the time the room started to fill up with other customers, I was ready to go on – with renewed energy.

 

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