Being an Introvert: Happy in my Shell

The other day I went to my daughter’s school for some session. I was amidst a huge crowd and the discussion was around raising a confident interactive child. As the session proceeded, volley of questions were thrown towards the audience for opinions and suggestions. My mind at that time was an explosion of ideas and answers, and yet I failed to respond. I could hear myself explicitly forming sentences in my head, I nodded vehemently when I listened someone else voice my opinions and thought to myself ‘Wow, I was thinking just that’ and yet ended up feeling guilty that I could not speak up.

And the person that I am, this guilt of not being able to put forward my thoughts in front of the audience stayed with me the whole day. My biggest dilemma was that I was not feeling outwardly remorseful for not being able to interact. I went to the internet for help, to see if this aspect of my personality was as we say “Normal” according to societal norms. I was trying to find the answers but what I found amused me. I had entered a maze of self-help where anyone and everyone was trying to tell how I could overcome this fear of mine (which I thought was not fear but just part of my personality), how this was hindering my growth, how I could become more confident, how not to be an Introvert. Again I went into the guilt dungeon and this time it was serious business, it was like my personality needed introspection, needed change and demanded recognition.

And I did, I tried to imagine how I would have felt if I did speak up, would I have been happy, would I have been liberated, and strangely so, I realised that nevertheless I would have been unperturbed. I consider myself fairly confident, strongly opinionated and inherently introvert. I want to believe that being an introvert does not undermine me, and I refuse to think otherwise. I feel much more at peace writing, writing for me is an excellent source of expression since it allows me to pour all my thoughts without being judged. Am I scared being judged, NO, that I think is being shy. I just realised that to answer any question, I form an answer, an answer which mimics my thoughts in the most appropriate and intelligent manner, meanwhile the extrovert has already replied, they form their answers while talking and during their talking my mind has gone blank.

I am not the centre of universe at any party, I am not a head turner but I know that people close to me cherish my conversations. What I yearn for are conversations which are meaningful and stimulating. I talk passionately about subjects close to me, but somehow go numb at times at public events, there is always this urge to voice my thoughts but the urge is never strong enough to propel me to take the plunge. And is this attitude wrong? Not for me, but as a society we have been groomed to be social, gregarious, bold and outgoing. Staying in our own shell is often looked down upon, being indifferent or different is mostly not appreciated. All our institutions promote outspoken behaviour and the ones who remain in spotlight steals the show. We as a society always favour the hare in place of the tortoise.

Does that mean I am anti-social, that I want to be marooned on an island, no, I love being around people. It is just that I every once in a while I need to and want to go in a shell of solitude. Too much interaction drains my energy. Mostly the people around me perceive that I am obnoxious, judgemental which I am not, I just need time to think and register information for myself. Simply put I just want to acknowledge and celebrate the person that I am and feel no shame in not responding appropriately in social situations because the appropriateness of the situation has been determined by a society which is dominated by extroverts.

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Time for Yourself: Its Essential

I recently read an article which emphasized on the fact that Indian women are not trained or prepared to live alone. Solitude is something that they cannot imagine to exist, it’s a word that ceases to exist in their day to day dictionary. And come to think of it it’s true. And here I am not talking about women who decide to stay alone, the ones who decide not to marry or are divorced or simply because they want to. Our society in general does not think too high of these women, there has to be a reason for a woman to decide to live alone and trust me no reason is good enough ever. Hence, mostly under no circumstances can a woman who decides to live alone, can do so peacefully.

But I am focusing on women who have families and they decide to sneak a few days, hours or even minutes in solitude. This concept is alien to many. They are raised to believe that their time is not theirs, it is for the family, it is to make sure the family lives comfortably, it is to make sure that food is on the table, clothes are kept ironed in the cupboard, the domestic help gets paid on time, and yes amidst all this to make sure that everyone is happy. They become so accustomed to all the chaos around them all the time that snatching time alone for themselves in between all this feels absurd, they feel lost and deceived in the absence of others.

And why does it sound bizarre to me while I have seen the women in my family and even my MIL to a certain extent lead the same life I mentioned above. But nonetheless it is bizarre not outrageously but enough for me to take a stand against it (Come to think of it I am in a habit to take a stand against many things). Few years into my marriage I concluded that I needed this ‘Me’ time to remain sane and keep everyone around me sane. I could not mold myself to the thought that my life could not be mine anymore it was for others, I was OK to share it but to give it up completely was something I was not comfortable with. And I followed my heart, I decided that no matter what, I would take out some ‘Alone time’ as and when I could.

A male colleague of mine was recently complaining that his wife keeps grumbling about the amount of time he spends at home, she feels that he is out most of the time with his friends rather than being at home with her and their 2 year old son. I asked him if she does take time alone for herself, and my colleague gave me a revolted look and asked me what that was supposed to mean, she was alone with the kid all day. So you see what I mean. I am not sure if she wants to spend time alone but I also know that she has not tried it ever. I had read a short story once where the husband of a middle aged woman had to be away for 5 years for work. When he went away the family was worried of how she would manage alone, she had the same apprehension. But at night when she was all alone it was the first time that it struck her that she was alone and it was feeling good. She could finally do things that she wanted to do without fretting about home. And lest to say she fared well.

I am not saying that all women should decide to live alone, we need families, and friends they all are good people. I am just saying that in between all this hustle bustle once in a while it is OK to breathe in the elixir of solitude. I have days when I sit alone in cafes, or go to movies alone, or sometimes even go on my historical expeditions that I absolutely love on my own (The mere thought of this can give sleepless disgruntled nights in my family, I know). And when I come back not only do I realize what my family means to me but also feel rebooted. Taking time alone for me is a necessity it might not be the same case with everyone but we should not be anxious of it. It takes a lot of effort and lot of sacrifices to give yourself up for others and women are the only creatures capable of it but the balance I think would help many get out of the dilemma that they don’t even know exists.