The One Thing I Dislike About My Introversion

I couldn't be warm if you set me on fire.

Posted Nov 01, 2018

Source: Stockfour/Shutterstock

As you might have guessed, I’m generally fine with being introverted.

Sure, it’s challenging sometimes; life doesn’t always permit me the time to fully recharge, and I reach a point when even incremental recharging (a.k.a. hiding in the bathroom) isn’t enough to prevent the surliness that results from being overextended. Those are not my proudest moments. I’ve been super busy recently and had to issue a blanket apology, via Facebook, to all the people I’ve snarled at as a result.

So there’s that. But otherwise, my quiet ways are mostly fine by me. Except one: I am incapable of coming across as warm.

I seem to be . . . off-putting. My leave-me-alone, introvert force field is not entirely under my control. It stays up at all times — even when I think it's deactivated. People don't approach me at parties, nor do I often inspire casual conversation out in the world, as some of my friends do. My “I’m open” demeanor appears to differ not at all from my “leave me alone” demeanor. My attempts at acting warm feel strained and unnatural. 

Actually, to be brutally frank with myself, it's more than just not appearing warm; I am, in fact, not a warm person. I’m standoffish, hard to pin down, and difficult to know. Friends who get me seem to have accepted that I’ll sometimes keep them at arm’s length. I’m not altogether sure what comes over me in those times, except that I reach a point where people in general just seem like too much trouble. Everyone annoys me.

I’m sorry, but it’s true.

I've been pondering whether this is nature or nurture and have concluded that, like pretty much everything about us, it's a mix of both.

There might be a bit of a sensory issue at play here; exuding warmth seems like it would require opening the senses in a way that can feel overwhelming for me. The very thought of opening my spirit to strangers or acquaintances feels vulnerable, even dangerous. If I let them in, can I get them out again? When a chatterbox gets going on me, I get overwhelmed, and extricating myself is difficult. Seems wisest not to let a conversation get started at all.

At the same time, I often feel like I have nothing to say. Introverts are well-known for eschewing small talk. I am no different, but it’s not just that I dislike it. It’s that after about three exchanges, I’ve exhausted my capacity for it. Then, as the conversation awkwardly trails off, I feel foolish and inept.

I'm not sure what to think about this. In deep discussions, I have plenty to say — I have to cut myself off sometimes for fear of dominating the conversation. But for whatever reason, I run out of small talk quickly, and the resulting silence is neither warm nor welcoming. It's just weird. 

In some ways, nurture is obviously a player. My family of origin had many fine qualities, but warmth was not among them. We were not huggy, we did not express affection, and we supported each other in only the most cerebral ways. In addition, I grew up in New York City, where the sheer density of humanity requires you to maintain an invisible bubble of privacy around yourself.

Nature and nurture come together powerfully in my exceeding — possibly excessive — pickiness about where I put my time and energy. I rarely plunge into friendliness without assessing a person for a while from safely within my introvert force field. Before I let down my guard, I have to decide whether to invest. And I can't exude warmth from within the bubble.

The truth I have to face is that I don’t seem warm, because I’m not. And I seem judgmental, because I am, though I'm not judging people objectively, but only as to whether they suit me personally.

I do like people. Really. But often just from a distance. 

Sounds not nice, doesn’t it? Certainly not warm.

So that's who I am. Not warm, not "nice."

I should be fine with this. Yet sometimes, when I’m with friends who can make friends with anyone, I feel a little ashamed and sad for myself. I question my likability, wonder what’s wrong with me, and envy their ease in the world.

Maybe I’ll try to change this. But probably not. I am who I am.