One definition for the expression “navel-gazing” is “excessive introspection, self-absorption or concentration on a single issue”. What follows may qualify on all three counts although who is to say what amount of introspection is excessive?
One of the unexpected upsides of discovering my Wealth Profile was realising that I am 50% introvert where earlier in my life I had inhabited a 100% extrovert space; I had been just half of me. I have spent the last 2.5 years going inward much to the surprise, chagrin and frustration of a lot of friends and colleagues, extroverts all. I am grateful to the friend who gave me space in an email exchange last week to try and explain this journey, most of all to myself.
If you are 100% extrovert and not interested, please click away now. If you too are on this introspective journey, this might help. And if you have always known you are an introvert: Hi, lucky you. Nudge over, I’m coming in!
Here’s what I wrote to my pal. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. May I apologise in advance that it is all me, me, me? It was written in that context, friend to friend, but it has value beyond us two, I think, which is why I am sharing it here:
“Re going to ground, relatively recent personality profiling has revealed that I am 50% introvert but had led all my life in the extrovert half. I had been socialised into being just half of who I really am, meeting other people’s needs for noise, activity, succour of various sorts and much, much more. It took a while but eventually this resonated very profoundly for me. I really cannot begin to describe how much.
So began a twofold journey, going inward to discover the other half of who I am and enjoying that and really relishing not needing others socially or in any other way. Remember that a woman who has loved living alone all her adult life, by choice, could only do that happily if she has my personality traits. This makes it difficult, I understand that. And many write, as you have done, within their own frames of reference, about people “needing other people” and most drawing their strength and happiness from others. I do not. It really is that simple.
The only reason I am on the third sabbatical in my life is because everyone wants to be my friend (or so it seems to me) or wants something from me and because I find it impossible to say no, I find that absolutely draining. When I find myself thinking and feeling that, I know I am going a tiny bit barmy and it is time to withdraw again, the world’s demands onerous.
And when I become that drained and have literally no emotional resources left for others, I have no choice but to withdraw and use everything I have for my own survival. It really feels like that; please believe me. When I have an abundance of everything, I give all or most of it away but when I have nothing, when I am running on empty, at last I have the tools to say “No, enough! Stop. Keep away.”
A couple who have been in my top three friends since 1979 have, like me, chosen to be childless and recently we had a conversation about our own life choices in our fifties and sixties and not doing anything any of us didn’t want to do anymore, and the difficulties that presents. And surely if the direction one’s life has gone in (childlessness) has any upside it should be that we should be able to do precisely that, please ourselves? I know many will call this selfishness. So be it. For me it’s a luxury.
One of those two close friends is also an introvert. And the difference between intros and outros is where you get what you need from, externally or internally. Because I get so much internally and because I am finding it such a joy and increasingly essential, that’s why I have to keep people away from me – for spiritual and self-discovery reasons. I need the peace and the space. They are both as vital to me as air now. So while I don’t want to be answering questions about my life, and definitely not while I am going through this voyage of self-discovery and other perfect storms, I feel that the normal social things about needing others do not apply to me. I am self-sufficient.
A chap I grew up with, who is outwardly successful at the expense of his marriage, but who has known me all my life, he says I was always like this. All of them needed to be married to be with another human being. I did not. Clearly, if this was obvious to him when I was in my teens and twenties, then it is part of my DNA; self-sufficiency, emotional self-contained-ness.
This is quite difficult to explain but worth doing for me alone and I’m not sure I’m doing a very good job, but thanks for provoking my attempt at explaining the thinking which has developed over these last couple of years.
I don’t want to see anyone. There, I’ve said it!
And I’m not depressed or going mad or anything. No man is an island, but I am more of an island than most and want to go and live a long long way away from everyone I know – on an even smaller island. It might only be a phase and part of me suspects it is and then I shall reinvent myself again in a decade or so’s time, perhaps sooner. The couple of pals to whom I refer above said I haven’t changed since 1979 (!) so what do even our closest friends ever really know about us? I think I have changed in those decades nearly as often as my cells have regenerated.
One of the stresses has been the imposition of others’ frames of reference and their expectations – people who are all externally focussed, they suggest I should get out more. They know nothing of what it is to be introvert, even in part, so I ignore them. Since beginning to explore this phenomenon, I have found some wonderful books and other comforting resources (see list below) on the quiet power of the introvert in our world and how important we are and how much we have been overlooked to the planet’s detriment.There’s a wonderful film on TED by a woman called Susan Cain who wrote a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking. I learned a lot from her but not as much as I have done from my own navel gazing.
It is interesting to have a foot in both camps and it explains why I have been able to be in the extrovert space so successfully and for so long but now it is bliss to fully comprehend at last why I dread telephones, meetings and fancy dress parties amongst other abominations. I feel there is something of value at the end of this quiet self-exploration period and I don’t fully know what it is yet. Time will tell. And it will be marvellous and miraculous, I just know it.
In short I don’t really want to meet up until I’ve got all my shit sorted, though I much appreciate the offer. I feel we have met up over the last 2.5 years when I didn’t want to because I didn’t know how to say no to you and others. Again, this is about me, so please don’t take offence. I want to get my shit together and then go out into the world for a celebration before I take off for my desert island (or a world tour) on my own.
And I feel very much as though the Universe has given me the opportunity to have several years’ introspective preparation for that because, at least initially, I shall be on my own. Now I know that won’t be a problem, whereas back when this Caribbean idyll dream began it was very much part of what I thought might have been wrong with the plan. My self-reliance muscle has grown enormously in that time and I discovered it was already surprisingly robust but its reassuring beyond words to know that about my inner resources.
I am so lucky to have myriad virtual pals and colleagues and clients I talk to every day and yet a good day for me is one when I don’t have to rise to that and can focus on myself in exquisite silence and concentrate on unveiling my own heart and core needs and values and meeting them myself, through infinite choice.
I appreciate all you say in your email and am glad to hear your good news but I rankle at your diagnosis because it doesn’t fit; it isn’t appropriate for me. I do belong to a community, several in fact and I lead most of them and yes they are all virtual but again, I like it like that because it’s easier for me to say no and keep people and their needs at the distance I prefer.
Recently there was a request from a virtual pal to meet up when she comes to London. I’d rather stick pins in my eyes! Not because she isn’t a nice person, she is – she’s delightful, but because I like my friendships virtual. She wants to meet because she is a people person and an extrovert and it’s all about her needs again, not mine. It feels hard to say no, but say it I must for my own sanity. I must prioritise my own needs and again this is training time for the new introvert me. All these opportunities to say no feel like a test, one which it is getting a bit easier to pass nowadays. A bit, note.
I now see that my introvert entrepreneur is what makes me successfully self-employed because many do not enjoy working at home alone, whereas I love it. They need others like they need blood and oxygen. I don’t. And isn’t it bliss we aren’t all the same? All the time I spend trying to understand other human beings usually ends in my shaking my head, knowing I shall never truly understand, but having enjoyed the attempt, the frustrating, exasperating, stimulating attempt.
If I had known my third career break was going to last this long what would I have done differently? Well, I made a short list of three things earlier in the year, hindsight being a wonderful thing, and have set about a couple of those at last and I have received some amazing support from unexpected quarters, and some expected ones as well.
I think one of the mistakes I have often made historically in my life is the idea that a friendly visit/phone call from me could shake someone out of whatever they were going through and in the main I think I was probably right. But that doesn’t apply to me, not right now, nor is it ever likely to again now that I know who I am. But I am lucky in that I appreciate that you are one of an abundance to whom I can reach out should the need arise and I am grateful for that every day of my life when I count my blessings which I do nightly, I honestly do.
Our friendship was forged in my extrovert years but now I am following primeval gut instincts when I keep people away. I know in my very soul it is the right thing for me to be doing. This is a lull in friendships, not a break, though for sure many so-called friendships will not survive this time in my life and I see that as a good thing, they are the needy and I don’t want them anymore; I am clutter clearing – shh, whisper it – and some of those who are being cleared are needy mutual acquaintances. Drains, all of ‘em, sapping my energy, creativity and peace. Thanks for prompting me to get my thoughts in order on this one, just the beginning I feel. So much is new.
The fabulous cartoon I found on Facebook explains all this far better than I possibly could. Perhaps it explains it better to us introverts than to you extroverts, but it explains it all the same.”
Here’s a list of recommended resources which may help with excavating your inner entrepreneur if/when you feel the time is right:
Take the Wealth Dynamics test. What percentage of you is introvert? Do let me know what you discover and what the results mean to you.
The Introvert Entrepreneur on Facebook.
The Film on TED
Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts