One is (not) the loneliest number

Introverts make up 25 to 40 per cent of the general population (Tom Bateman/AQ)

A couple years ago, while in polite conversation, a friend at work asked me what I had done the night before. I told him I’d gone out for coffee.

“Who’d you go with?” he asked.

“No one,” I told him.

His eyebrows lifted and scrunched. His eyes became soft and he lowered his voice.

“Why didn’t you just call me?” he asked in a patronizing tone. “I would have gone with you.”

But I didn’t want to go with him; I didn’t want to go with anyone. I wanted to go by myself. But he just didn’t get it.

I feel awkward at parties so I usually avoid them, I don’t like running with a partner, and I find movies more enjoyable when I go to the theatre by myself.

I thought maybe I was little weird, maybe I was predisposed to depression or else I was just really socially awkward. That was until this summer when a friend referred me to an article: “Caring for your introvert” by Jonathan Rauch in Atlantic Magazine.

Suddenly, my world became clear.

My name is Lauren and I’m an introvert.

Phew, it feels good to get that off my chest. But I learned a couple important things from the article I would like to share with you:

“Introverts,” writes Rauch, “are people who find other people tiring…For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.”

About 25 to 40 per cent of the general population is introverted. So chances are, you or someone you know is an introvert.

On the other hand, most politicians are extroverts. “Extroverts therefore dominate public life,” writes Rauch. But while extroverts enjoy a glamorous social life, introverts “are described with words like ‘guarded,’ ‘loner,’ ‘reserved,’ ‘taciturn,’ ‘self-contained,’ ‘private’—narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality.”

Yes, we like to be alone. But that doesn’t mean we’re misanthropic, or shy, or cold, or socially awkward or a hermit.

It just means that hanging out with people, no matter how great they are, is tiring. It’s more of an effort for an introvert to be socially “on” all of the time.

According to Rauch most actors describe themselves as introverted? This is especially interesting considering a lot of introverts feel as though they’re acting when they attend parties.

I’ve been there.

I went to party for a friend this summer; I lasted about an hour, not for lack of trying though.

“Oh man. I love my dogs more than anything in the world,” one girl screamed to another who loved her dogs even more.

“I just spent $600 dollars on my dog’s vet bill, he’s my best friend in the whole world,” she screamed back.

Sometimes these conversations keep going until it feels like the crescendo that ends the Beatles Day in the Life is playing in the background, and I start to wonder if I’m going mad. Or whether anyone sees me at all. Then I realize I’m happy they don’t.

Do I hate dogs? No. Is there anything wrong with this conversation? No. Do you have to be deep and introspective all the time? Absolutely not, even the ocean has a shore.

Maybe you’re an introvert. Take a deep breath because we’re going to be okay.

Maybe you realize you know an introvert, take compassion on them, don’t take them out to lunch.