True Confession: Life as an Introvert

Here’s a quick confession. I’ve told readers before that I’m an introvert. That’s not the confession. I’ve learned lots of pastors are introverted.

In fact, I can appear fairly extroverted at times.

When I have a definite purpose and responsibility, I can be the most extroverted person in the room. On Sunday, for example, I work the crowd, shake tons of hands, and talk non-stop. It’s hard for people to believe I’m really an introvert. I go home exhausted on Sunday and need hours to recuperate. When I’m speaking at a conference, I work the room well.

Unfortunately, my introverted personality kicks in when I’m simply attending a gathering, especially with people I may not know.

Here’s the confession:

I’ve missed a few social gatherings due to my introversion.

Not only that…it gets worse…

There have been times, if attendance is optional, and Cheryl isn’t with me, I’ve intended to go to a social gathering, driven to the event, pulled into the parking lot, sat in my car for a few minutes, decided to drive around a little while, never went in…and missed the party completely. I skipped the fun, the opportunity to connect, and only left disappointed in myself.

Don’t misunderstand. I love people. I love meeting new people. I’m always glad when I go. I simply can’t push through the introversion sometimes.

This time of year, it’s easy for me to allow my introversion to keep me from enjoying the season.

Here’s my advice…

This is to me and anyone else who will admit to being this introverted:

Push through the introversion. Put your party hat on and do the social gathering. You’ll be glad once you did. I always am.

Anyone else brave enough to admit being this introverted?

By the way, you may want to read these posts about my introversion:

7 Pitfalls of Being an Introverted Pastor

How an Introvert Handles Awkward Situations

7 Ways Extroverts Can Help Introverts

7 Ways I Work with Introversion to Protect My Ministry

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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87 thoughts on “True Confession: Life as an Introvert

  1. I was not eligible to make it when it first started, and it’s been made a few times.

    Well, first, let me clarify that it is NOT an actual virus–it’s more of a hack, though
    many people are considering it a virus.
    Just learning of this donation need I wanted to make sure my readers were aware as well.

  2. This brings up something I have wondered for some time. You have mentioned, more than once, about “pushing through” your introversion; I don’t understand why I need to. It’s not like I asked God to make me like this. I don’t always enjoy the reaction I get from others when they ask why I didn’t go to a Christmas party, Church fellowship, or whatever else is going on, but I am a blacksheep in my family this is common for me! I feel as though I am being told I need to be someone else so I can fit in. Understand, I am not trying to be snide, nor hostile, I just don’t get it! Are you telling me I need to change to fit in?
    Twitter: bryankr

    • No, not at all. I am suggesting you not allow introversion to keep you from doing what you want to do or need to do. I'm a pastor. Not much chance to be “successful” in my role if I always followed my preference. As for the social events….I genuinely want to make the connections. I want to make new friends. But, my introversion gets in the way if I'm not careful and I regret it after I skipped the party.If you're good…you're good…but many times my introversion keeps me from being good.

  3. Not a pastor, just a guy. Several times I've started out to a party and turned around and gone home. Most of the time when I don't go to a planned, I don't even get out of my apartment. I'm not married or in a relationship, so I have no impetus to push myself. And, introversion coupled with depression? That's a match made in hell. Or at least purgatory.

  4. Wow. I could have written that (minus being a pastor). It took me a long time to even realize i was an introvert…that’s how well I can hide it.

    Now that I know…things make more sense… I know why I’m exhausted after certain events…just like you describe. : ). So glad to know there’s others out there too!

  5. This is something I’m struggling with as a Christian. I’m not a pastor, but I’m an introvert. I’ve avoided a few social gatherings and much prefer to be by myself, although I do sometimes push myself. Is is wrong to be introverted? Didn’t God make my personality? Any biblical wisdom you could share would be appreciated.

  6. I hear you on this one, Ron. Introversion can be the loudest voice I hear sometimes. Other times it's not so bad, but there are definitely times when I just want to recharge at home alone or with my family.

  7. You treat introversion like it was some sort of communicable disease.

    You've sold out to the prevailing culture that says that it's better to be out there yammering away, no matter how inanely, rather than stepping back from it. The churches push this at me. The social networkers push this at me (the latest excuse that people won't look at me for a job is that I don't have a public profile on the Internet).

    God loves me as I am. He'd love you too, if you didn't pretend to be something you aren't

    • Sorry you get that perception. Not intended. Just dealing with the reality of the culture and expectations placed on me.Yes, God loves you (and me) as we are. Don't take everything personal.

  8. Wow, did you hit the nail on the head! I've so often wondered how I can get up and make pitches and announcements and enjoy being at "the party" while still get so tied up in knots about actually walking in the door and working the room. I can have a great time in a gathering but then suddenly, I'm done. I've got to go… I'm exhausted! Or conversely, I can have such anxiety about going to a gathering and then get there and have such a great time and suddenly it's over. When it's my responsibility to be "out there" or to lead, I can do it, but when I've got to make it happen for myself? It's so much work! And… I'll do the work, but it's exhausting to put yourself out there.

  9. I'll admit it! I'm a total introvert. I'll also admit that I don't always think that pushing through is a good idea. I've pretended to be something I'm not many times before and only discovered extreme discontent. I am learning to be okay with being introverted even at social events. I feel like introverts have their own, unique ministry and that it's okay to not be extroverted. I am learning to go to social events and to be my introverted self and to still enjoy myself. Might mean I have only one or two conversations (they are usually quite meaningful though), but I am perfectly okay with that. I also think it's okay for me to just sit and listen, and often that's what I prefer. When I'm just me and happy with that, others generally are too.
    Twitter: KariScare

  10. I am with you Ron! I have always atruggled to attend a social gathering. My parents used to push and try to get me out of my comfort zone. Thank God, I am not the only guy in the world feeling so.

  11. You are not alone. I too pull up the party and never go in. This time of year is always tough with ALL the Christmas parties. I no longer feel guilty about saying "no". I like smaller groups and quaint gatherings. I'm very selective this time of year as to which parties I say "yes" to.

    • There are many gatherings, however, where I could make tremendous connections, even for a Kingdom purpose, but I often pass…too often.

  12. Me too. I actually smiled that you used the expression, "push through it." I think a lot o us introverts use that expression about ourselves. I wrote this a few months back , and it includes the same expression.:

    I am very good at developing strong personal relationships. I get to know people well. My friendships are deep. This is a strong plus for pastors, as everything in ministry is done through one kind of relationship or another.

    By the same token, I am naturally an introvert. I can be unsure and even shy the first time I meet with people I do not know, especially if I sense a person is unwelcoming. I do not sense the least bit of hesitation in front of large crowds, but feel a terrible stage fright when making a phone call to someone I do not know. This is just a part of my personality that I always have to push though. I have been doing it regularly for a decade, here, as first encounters are a daily thing for missionaries.

  13. Am I "that" introverted? I don't know. If I get in the car and head to a social event, even by myself, I don't think I've every just not gone. My organization uses the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory and the last time I was in a training session that used that (Foundations of Leadership) as one of the tools, the trainer decided I am a "gregarious introvert." Many people are surprised that I'm an introvert because, like many, my work involves relating to and with people. The misunderstanding is that the MBTI introvert is the same thing as shy and withdrawn. They are not. An MBTI introvert is generally an internal processor whose "batteries" are discharged after heavy interactions with people — an MBTI introvert can be very sociable and outgoing but has to recharge by reading or taking a walk/run or listening to music or doing something away from a crowd.

  14. Thanks so much for sharing this, Ron. I'm an introvert as well, and have over the past year have really learned the ins and outs of being introverted.

    I force myself to "act" extroverted in some circles, but when I'm in a situation where I'm comfortable, everyone acts surprised that I claim to be introverted.

    The first step for introverts is really taking the first step. It's hard, I know. Once you've made that step, typically everything works out well.

    Have a blessed Christmas, and thank you so much for all the inspiring posts.

  15. People are amazed when I tell them I’m more of an introvert vs. extrovert. You wouldn’t know it from my personality. I’m super friendly around people and really enjoy meeting new faces. They say the extrovert can’t wait to get to the dinner party. The introvert is dreading it. I’m the latter. Although once I’m there, I have a good time and make lots of people laugh. Thanks for the post.

  16. I hope you've all read Jonathan Rauch's "Caring for Your Introvert" http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/
    It has tongue-in-cheek moments, but it is very insightful. There's nothing wrong with being an introvert; you don't need to "confess" to it.

    Introverts (like me) just need to schedule alone time to recharge after those events, but make it an unbreakable appointment, like sleeping. If you know you have time alone to look forward to, there is no need to dread social gatherings. Note how Rauch mentions the difference between being shy and being introverted. Introverts can most definitely be gregarious and the life of the party, the difference is that we'll be absolutely exhausted afterwards. I'm looking forward to four straight days of Christmas gatherings, because I've planned plenty of time by myself the next week.

  17. Oh, thank you for posting this! So I'm not the only one … what a relief!!

    Now I can be very extrovert … I'm a teacher, for crying out loud. I work with people!
    But tell me to go to a party or a meeting where I know I won't know a few people and I'm like you … driving around the block and finally going home, trying to find some lame excuse to tell in the morning.

    The times I did push myself (trembling and slowly) turned out to be very nice of course.
    Sigh …

  18. That is so true! But then we just feel guilty and relieved in the same time… To me the best way to force myself to forget that I am introverted is to be with very social friends to push me!

  19. Nothing like a post on introversion to bring all the introverts out of the shadows to start an engaging conversation… :)

    It just proves we are not antisocial is the topic is worth discussing.

  20. Ron, this is you and me both. The scenario you described about preaching, working the crowd, talking all the time is me to a "tee". The other one about "optional involvement" is me also, almost to the letter.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  21. I think it depends on the environment to me. I love authentic relationships. I love hanging out with large groups when we're doing something. But I was never one for parties where you just eat finger foods and talk. It always seemed awkward. Now, a Super Bowl party? Count me in.

  22. Totally introverted here. I typically find other reasons to not even go to the gathering to begin with. Though do go when the family is going or it's not an option. Social awkwardness when you don't know what to do at an event but sit there and pretend to listen.
    Twitter: tijuanabecky

  23. As a fellow introvert, Ron, I share your angst at the prospect of crowds. And every one of the things you confessed? I've done them too.

    It's a crazy thing to admit, but pushing thru my introverted tendencies is one of the toughest things I do, both as a leader and a follower of Christ.

    • I'm with you! Me too. I had some wise advice early in my career that helped me form the discipline to push through it…most of the time.

        • Basically, I used to disappear after I spoke at a church. A wise deacon pulled me aside and said, “If you'll disappear to the back to the church, shake their hands and make them feel welcome, they'll be more likely to return the next week”. He was right. I've been doing it ever since and have carried that advice into other settings.

          • Good advice. Keep your heart open. Be available. Practice willingness. I often draw courage remembering that when Jesus fed the 5,000, he was actually trying to get away from the crowds. Compassion compelled him to engage. (Matt. 14:12-14).

  24. Introversion isn't a bad thing… and I've learned to quit apologizing or acting like it's a restrictive condition.

    Innies get their batteries charged from internal stimuli (e.g. deep thought, conversations, and time alone) and outies (extraverts) get their energies from external stimuli (engaging in activities, parties, 5 continent in 5 day tours, etc.).

    Innies need to ensure their batteries are charged BEFORE they go into situations that charge the batteries of an outtie. We cannot withdraw from life, but build times of recharging into our life in order to live life to its fullest potential. We will never achieve that if we try to live the life of an introvert… it's much like "the ear cannot say because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body".

    I've been researching this topic for an upcoming blog post, and much of the most credible and insightful information I've found on thriving as an introvert is in a book by Dr. Mari Laney called "The Introvert Advantage" – available through Amazon or at her website (http://hiddengiftsoftheintrovertedchild.com/about-the-author/the-introvert-advantage/)

    She highlights research that brings out the physiological differences in how I's and E's are wired to receive "Hap hits" or stimuli that brings us satisfaction and pleasure.

    So often, the reluctance to engage in social settings is that we do not have our batteries charged. As an introverted leader of a technology team, I have to build in "charging times" into my schedule to offer my best to my employer. I also have to ensure that the Innies on my team (and there are a lot of them in technology roles) have time to process and respond.

    Sorry for the long comment, but this topic has been forefront in my mind of late.

    Thanks Ron for bringing it up for discussion.

    The important thing to remember is that building relationships is one of the most important thing we are called to do as Christians, but that in the beauty of diversity, we may need to approach life differently.

    • I love the long comment. This is very helpful. Great information for those of us who are introverted. Nothing wrong with that! I actually kind of like it :)

    • DOH!… Sorry… One edit… 3rd paragraph

      We will never achieve that if we try to live the life of an EXTROVERT… it's much like "the ear cannot say because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body".

    • I think you are right on. Introverts derive their energies not from people fully but rather from other avenues. I have also found that being an introvert generally means you like to grow deeper with a smaller

  25. I'm kind of an odd duck in this, Ron. I consider myself a big people person. I love meeting new people, talking to lots of people and being in front of people, but I don't like feeling like I have to 'run the room.' I like crowds, but smaller ones. Not sure what that makes me. Confused? haha
    Twitter: jonathanpearson

    • Have you done the Myers Briggs? Artie has talked about me doing some staff development with you guys. I could come down and do the Myers Briggs with everyone there sometime. Make sure Artie sees this suggestion. :)

  26. Oh, I'm absolutely an introvert! I took the MBTI most recently for a class a couple of months ago. On a scale of 0-30, I'm a 28, and I'm pretty sure those other 2 points were a fluke. : ) But like you, I can act like an extrovert when absolutely necessary. It's hard and I need some serious alone time when it's all over, but I can do it.

    • You're in! You did it! You pushed through!Seriously, as leaders, we must remember the introverts in the room may have the best thought, but may not express it unless we pull it out of them.

    • INFP, that's a unique personality type. Using the NF, I would guess you have introverted values that you hold strongly, but you are extroverted in your creative thoughts. Also, you probably say things you later regret and it bothers you if you hurt someone's feelings with your randomness. That's just a guess though. :)

  27. I am SO an introvert and am exhauseted, too, after facilitating a retreat, teaching an all-day workshop, or participating in a conference – I get back to my room (or in the cab) and have no words left. But I love the connections and the people – it has helped me (and our team and clients) to understand how Introverts and Extroverts are energized and respect and feed that energy!

    Ron, thank you for being a morning “centering practice” for me with your 7:30am blogs. Your posts are on-point, real and relevant. You’ve helped me be a better leader in 2011 and I look forward to all we are about to experience in 2012! Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

  28. Being on Christmas break in a foreign country is a great experience for an introvert because of the limited engagements one "must" fulfill. As the break approached, Marla (my wife) and I were talking about plans, I found myself nixing every potential opportunity we had to be with people. Thankfully, I am overly aware that I am an introvert because my wife is an extrovert and I've had to train myself to keep Marla's extroversion in mind. So I gave in, and tomorrow we are going to a PACKED Christmas party at friends house. I will be the one holding up the wall.

    Funny enough though, I've found, using Strength Finders 2.0, that I am a "relator" which throws a weird twist on the whole introversion thing.

    • Relator is my number one on strengths finder too, which only makes the times I don't “relate” that much harder. I love connected with people. I especially love making connections.

      • What I find difficult as a relator is that I make really good connections, but I can't sustain the pace of interaction that some people desire to have in order to maintain that connection.

        • When I discovered that I am a relator, it helped me understand and embrace my introversion. I, too, can be an extrovert in certain situations, but where I am strong and shine is in the more intimate, one-on-one or small group settings. And, I realized I don't have to be like my extrovertered, Woo husband (and my business partner is a Woo Extrovert, too – funny how that works!) who both can exhaust me! We support each other's strengths and preferences – including our own.

          • My partner, who I planted my current church with, is WOO strength also. It is a great compliment to each of us. I do find I relate better one-on-one and get to know people well enough to connect them to others. That's perhaps one of the greatest strengths I bring to a team.

  29. I've always attributed the fact that I drive somewhere, sit in the car for a while and then leave to the fact that I just don't want to be there alone. I think that if I were married and had someone else to go with me to social functions, I'd be more likely to go. Looks like I'm right about that. See? Being married *is* better.

  30. I'm horribly extroverted. I can't get enough of people. When I haven't had enough interactions with real, live, people I feel run down. I need people to refuel but I'm also one the ones that exhausts you introverts. :) My husband is an introvert and I think he hides even from me sometimes! Two of my children fight me tooth and nail on my social calendar. They just want to be at home with a book. But what I have learned is that being introverted is not a bad thing and should not be apologized for. We need the balance of both personalities.
    Twitter: CarissaFiggins

    • No apologies here. I do hate that I allow it to keep me from doing some of the things I'd love to do. Good to hear from the side of an extroverted…especially the energy side, which is ultimately what the extrovert/introvert labeling is identifying. Thanks

  31. This is so good. I have a hard time pushing past it as well. I am married to a man who is more introverted even than I am- ( I am the worship leader at my church.. he serves as an elder) … we really struggle on Sunday afternoons. I have to be not only balanced in my own approach to ministry but also protective as to where he is and how much he can deal with on a given Sunday. Delicate balancing act, at times.

    • My wife is extroverted, so that helps me a great deal. She is sensitive to my introversion, usually protecting my Sunday afternoons.

  32. I am with you! I am marrying a pastor, and before we dated I uses to just talk wwith a few friends after church, then go home and nap. Now he likes for me to be alongside him (which I appreciate) and go home with some of the church members for lunch, and then back for an evening service and youth group. Then I go home and crash! It's hard to push through, but I am thankful for the challenge and growth. It's hard to explain the introvert dilemmas to him so I'm forwarding this post! Thanks for sharing.