Do you ever get the sense that everyone else is in on something and you missed the meeting?
As an introvert and or highly sensitive person you have probably experienced isolation at some point in your life.
Have you looked at others and envied how comfortable they are, interacting with an overwhelming world. They appear unfazed by the madness. They know what they’re doing, where they want to go, and what they need to do to get there.
Laurie Helgoe says that this is very common for introverts. An idea she articulates perfectly in Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength.
She describes the two responses of introverts to an extrovert-centric world:
Shadow Dwelling Introverts: withdraw from society and potentially alienate themselves from the world.
Accessible introverts: may be mistaken for extroverts because they attempt to merge into society. They align with the values of the world and risk alienating themselves from themselves.
Do you recognise yourself in one or both of these categories? I do.
Before I had heard the concept of an introvert or a highly sensitive person I was convinced there was something wrong.
Was I anti-social? Anxious? Afraid? Maybe I was just shy like people were saying? But I really didn’t think so.
Understanding Isolation and Introversion
As a kid I really enjoyed spending time with people. Especially people I knew. However I also often found socialising to be pretty draining and unappealing at times (especially at the weekend after a long week at school). I needed, and looked forward to recovery time after intense periods of socialising.
All I wanted to do was hang out on my own, do creative stuff, watch sport and oddly…re-arrange the furniture in my bedroom.
I didn’t choose my own company because I was scared of other people or the outside world. I simply enjoyed hanging out with myself, being creative, and delving into my own imagination.
However there was no frame of reference for it. It felt like a negative way to be. My preference was apparent self-isolation.
While everyone else was excited about socialising, I really wasn’t. I simply didn’t want to. But the messages of anti-social, anxiety, shyness, boring, party-pooper, you need to get out more, etc painted this natural orientation as a flaw.
A message that has inspired both responses:
I have been a shadow dwelling introvert (withdrawing and bitterly dreaming up conspiracies about the mainstream world). But I’ve also tried being an accessible introvert (‘ploughing on’ and trying to keep up with the social demands of an extrovert agenda).
Neither option worked. They both alienate and isolate in their own ways.
But surely they can’t be the only choices we have. There must be another way we can navigate that has us functioning at our best. Inwardly orientated, but making a real difference to the world.
Over time I’ve started to think of this idea as Gentle Rebellion.
- Introverts and highly sensitive people who acknowledge the fact that we see the world differently and are plugged into the energy of it internally rather than externally.
- Introverts and highly sensitive people driven to make the world a more welcoming place for everyone.
In this special series of podcasts we will look at the main challenges for introverts and HSPs in an extrovert centric context. We will examine the characteristics of gentle rebels. Then we will write our very own hero’s journey so that we can not only cope with the world, but over time thrive and flourish. All without alienating or isolating who we are below the surface.
The podcasts are also available to watch on YouTube.
Over to You
Have you felt a sense of isolation as an introvert/HSP in the extrovert-centric world? What kind of isolation have you experienced? I’d love to read your thoughts. Please feel free to leave a comment below.