Introverts have the advantage

from “Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures”

In this time of physical social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, introverts have the advantage, plain and simple. Putting aside the widespread disruption, financial hardship and increased anxiety, being told to stay home hasn’t required much of an adjustment for many of us who are already quiet, introspective, and enjoy the pleasures of domestic life.

I suspect that many of you who follow this blog have those traits, too. Further ahead in the post, I share my own story about living as an introvert in Confessions of a Homebody.

from “You and Me: Poems of Friendship”

Introverts are not all the same, but the general thought is that we are prone to exhaustion from too much social engagement, whereas extroverts are energized by being around people. So, for some, the stay at home order can seem like a reprieve from all the hubbub, while others feel as if they’re being sent to their room for punishment. No matter your personality type, we are all confronted by the seriousness of the virus, both individually and collectively. These dire circumstances are forcing everyone to face themselves and reflect on what they value most in life. And during this time when we may not like staying home for weeks on end, I think about the wisdom of this saying, “The place to be is where you are.”

Penikese Island, Massachusetts

I think that artists and introverts in general will get through this period of home confinement better than some, because they have an independent streak and already choose to spend time alone. Personally, I would not be able to make art if I had to be around people most of the day. Even for someone like me, who is cloistered in her studio 7 days a week, the idea of everyone staying at home all the time seems eerily unnatural, like we’re living in a dystopian novel. It takes all kinds to make the world go round and many people who thrive on social interaction are struggling as they try to navigate through this extraordinary time.

I marvel at the human capacity to adapt and innovate within a set of constraints, to get what they need. And if there ever was a time for creative problem solving, this is it. A person can’t really change their personality, but they can strive for a balance between people time and alone time. Just like I’ve had to push myself to engage socially, I hope that more extroverted people will take this opportunity to stretch themselves in the other direction and exercise their independent and contemplative side. However you look at it, people are looking at themselves, reflecting on their lives, and thinking about what’s important. The question is, can we all learn something from this experience that will benefit ourselves and society?

Confessions of a Homebody
I grew up in a family of introverts — mother, father and 3 kids. You could say that we excelled at parallel play. Just look at this photo of me with my siblings – we are either engrossed in art projects or staring into space, not looking at each other or talking. We were all creative, with rich interior lives. Our family connected with each other and our wider community through art, music and dance. It wasn’t until later, when I married a more socially balanced person and we had children of our own, an extrovert and an introvert, that I realized family life could be anything different. From a young age, I have grappled with how to interact with the world outside of home in a way that didn’t become overwhelming. Being a classic introvert, there was only so much socializing that I could take, before melting into a puddle. The length of a school day was about my limit. I enjoyed school and my friends, but enough was enough. After the Woods Hole School let out, I’d carry my empty Flintstones lunchbox, along the path through the woods to home, where I could recharge for the next day. I remember being horrified when a friend of my parents described living in a Kibbutz where the children were raised communally, all together all the time. For me, living in such an environment would have been exhausting, but for my more outgoing son, it would have been heaven.

Woods Hole School 1965 – Salley in middle row, 2nd in from the right

When I was about 10 or 11 years old, a friend called after school to ask if I wanted to come over and play. I remember fingering the cord of the 60’s wall phone in the kitchen and telling her that I couldn’t because I was grounded. I’d heard about other kids getting grounded, so I must have thought it sounded plausible, as well as a good excuse to stay home. I’m sure that I lied other times to get out of things, but I remember this conversation, because the idea of a goody good like me doing anything that would warrant being grounded was preposterous. It just shows how desperate and awkward people can be when they pretend to be something they’re not, just because they don’t want to look like a weirdo.

Self-Portrait detail, 2007

Over the years, I’ve built up a tolerance for social gatherings and can even pass at being moderately gregarious, but there is a limit to how long I can keep it up. My husband Rob knows “the look” when it’s time to leave, before I do the grownup version of melting into a puddle. I’ve come to understand my needs and have learned to communicate them better. And in doing that, I’ve found out that there are an awful lot of other introverts out there!

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18 thoughts on “Introverts have the advantage

  1. For the longest time, during childhood and through college, I knew there was something wrong with me. Not until late adulthood (if I could ever call myself and ‘adult’) did I realize the something wrong wasn’t me, it was society thinking that everyone should be/is an extrovert. There has only been the slightest of changes in my husband and my lifestyle since the stay-at-home order went into effect here in Indiana. Thank you for a post spoken so straight from the heart.

  2. So well said, Salley and I agree that many of us following you are in the same or similar boat!!! For me, the isolation is a bit much at times but the rest of the time, same as usual. The hard thing for me is that even though I have many creative things I want to do, doing what is easy is all I seem to be able to manage lately. So sewing my sweet bears is it for now!!! Thank you, love your posts and a huge fan!!!

  3. Thank you so much, Sally, for making a strong case that it is okay to be an introvert. I am a writer and my degree is in fine art. I have been married for 64 years to a delightful extrovert. We have five beloved adult children. So, finding quiet time for my work has been a challenge that often left me feeling selfish for not seeking to be part of the chaos. I appreciate your approach to your charming and engaging art. The moment I first saw one of your books, I knew I had found a kindred spirit. Your Blog is a lifeline. Again, my warmest gratitude for making this extra effort.

  4. Wow Sally, you have just described me. My perfect day is sitting in my little tv/crafting room doing needlework or some other craft. I have adored making your wee folk and it’s quite an obsession of mine. I count the minutes until my husband and I can politely leave a party or other social gathering. That being said, I do love to cook and have a couple of close friends over for dinner, as long as they don’t stay too late. Thank you for sharing your insights during this surreal time.

  5. Hello Salley
    That was a very interested read, thank you. Yes, I too am an introvert. My parents were, and all my siblings are. I no longer need to feel guilty or that there is ‘something wrong with me’. I’m just me. I used to stand sometimes in the playground in senior school watching everybody rushing around and playing. I thought then that I was ‘different’ but didn’t know why.
    I’m enjoying the enforced isolation for the main part, but I do miss seeing my children and grand children. All the best to you both. Sandra UK

  6. Dear Salley, I definitely agree that introverts have the advantage during this strange time of being forced to stay at home. As someone who has always thrived on my own imagination and creativity, I am less in need of social entertainment and engagement. I am happy to read, watch movies, cook, and go for walks with my husband to see the beautiful spring flowers, budding trees, and appreciate the clear blue skies. I’m a retired Children’s Librarian and I adore your books and wee folks. I’m toying with the idea of making some myself as I now have plenty of time to do it. And I just might! Thank you for sharing both your enchanting fantasy world as an artist and your thoughtful forays into commenting on the real world and we folks who live here.

  7. Self-isolation for me has been like the whole world saying “You have official approval to stay home and make stuff.” This is not to minimize the pandemic, but just acknowledge that if we can dial down the noise and fear, or harness it, there is space and time for the “creative problem solving” you mentioned. Susan Cain wrote in “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” that about a third of the population is introverted. There are kindred spirits everywhere. Thanks for bringing up this issue and for sharing your personal story.

  8. Salley I can totally understand your feelings as a kid. My grandmother used to complain to my mother that there must be something wrong when I holed up in her den and read books for days – coming out for meals and bed. I loved it! I am actually wondering why people are so upset about our current social distancing – I quite like it and am getting numerous old projects finished. I will be rather sorry to see all this lovely enforced privacy go away!

  9. I’m an introvert too. During this pandemic you will find me spending many hours in my craftroom. This mandated self isolation these past few weeks has only fueled me to dig even deeper into creating, exploring my craft. I know this time period is precious and I’m confident our lives will resume soon and we will talk about this pandemic for generations to come.

  10. Hi Salley, I had no idea you were an introvert. (Sometimes I can tell, but not always) Well, I am too. I was also raised in a family of introverts. Well, my parents seemed more outgoing than me and my 3 brothers, but they also needed their alone time. Yes, we are naturals at social distancing and staying at home. Best wishes for your good health and your family too.

  11. Salley–I was so glad to hear what you had to say about being an introvert. I am one in spades, and my husband is gregarious. When he was still working I allowed him to talk me into going to office parties. Where I stuck to him like glue. We raised sheep then, and his office mates knew we did, so every time someone approached me (I never approached them) they would ask about the sheep, or the sheepdogs. That’s all they knew about me, because I didn’t offer any other information. Those days are gone forever (thank goodness) and besides being terrified of the virus, I’m enjoying my social distancing. I’m getting lots of work done.

  12. Hello Salley,…and thank you for an interesting read! I love what you do and the pleasure that it gives one. I recognized Mrs Barrows and maybe Joanne Goudreau, front right! Be safe and well xx Stella

    Sent from my iPhone


  13. Thank you for sharing your status with us. I, too, are an introvert and am perfectly fine being at home during these times. It’s like I’ve been given approval to just stay home. I’m a fiber artist. My husband, on the other hand, is the opposite and so it’s been hard for him. He’s a golfer. We will make it through this. Even if it takes several more months. Stay safe and stay healthy.

  14. Love this post. I think all of us here are of a mind — the pandemic is the perfect excuse for we introverts to avoid socializing. I just wish the extroverts wouldn’t feel so obligated to “reach out” to me. I’ve started telling people rather bluntly that I’m an introvert, via email, of course. I’ve been enjoying British comedienne Miranda Hart’s “chatty rambles” on Facebook; she expresses similar thoughts so beautifully and calmly. Her talks are worth listening to, preferably while your hands are occupied with crafting.

  15. This post resonates with me. Truth be told apart from my sons not visiting, this isolation has hardly made any difference to me. I love nothing more than staying at home.

  16. Salley, I can definitely relate to this post. My pictures of elementary school look so much like this one shown, and I have also “pretended” to not be able to go out. Being a quilter is my escape from the outside world and I am “allowed” to stay home and sew. This chance to stay at home is what I most likely would be doing anyway!

  17. Salley, I think this is the most relatable post I’ve read in a long time. I grew up in a large east coast family of boisterous extroverts. Oy. Our house was rarely quiet, and so (so!) much talking — loudly and usually at the same time. Early on I was labeled “the shy one” which I never really understood, because I wasn’t fearful of interactions with others, I just preferred one-on-one connections with others who “got” me. I have always loathed small talk and team-building exercises. And parties??? Oh, the excuses I’ve made. I could never understand why others would put so much energy into getting the attention of others. But secretly I worried I might be weird (or, worse, boring) and always envied my older sister, who was the classic life of the party, popular, & hated being stuck at home. While there I was, a natural homebody, working on projects and creating stuff, happy to be out of the limelight. it wasn’t until decades later when I read Susan Cain’s book, “Quiet,” that I realized the interesting complexities of being an introvert and, more importantly, realizing I was in good company. Like so many others here have said, my lifestyle hasn’t changed much during this pandemic. I’m grateful to be well so far and am busy creating, finishing projects, never bored. I have a small group of close woman friends I cherish, mostly extroverts, but I like them best in small doses. :). Thanks for sharing your stories and your wonderful, truly inspiring creations.

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