Introverts versus autism

I posted this already, but it’s very apt. In fact, most of the points here apply to me so completely that it’s almost frightening. The key word here is “introvert”, apparently – and I’m really not sure that one applies to me. But all the traits described here, could just as easily be myths and facts about Asperger’s Syndrome. And that definitely does apply to me.

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

In my case:
I genuinely can’t stand the polite kind of conversation. People talking to me just for the sake of it only tends to irritate me. In fact, I’ve often put up literal and metaphorical barriers to prevent this sort of thing from happening. I “hide” behind books or laptops, and adopt various strategies purely to discourage conversation a lot.

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

In my case:
It might seem like a contradiction to “Myth 2”, but it definitely depends on the circumstances. In the right company, or with the right conversation, I can be scintillating, sparkling, charming, friendly and incredibly modest.

Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

In my case:
I’ve learned diplomacy over the years. Not because I wanted to, but because it was a key skill I needed to work on. I still believe that most diplomacy tends to involve “pretty lies” and I still often fail at it. Sometimes I fail spectacularly. But I’ve definitely become better at it.

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

In my case:
It’s true that I don’t have a huge amount of friends. There are people I get on with and people that I enjoy hanging out with. But there are currently only about three people I will fully and unreservedly consider to be my friends. I am very protective of them and will tolerate things from them that I will find absolutely unacceptable in other people. This is something that has developed over time. Sometimes without me actually noticing.

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

In my case:
This can be variable with me. I can sometimes absorb a lot of information very quickly, but not always. I used to joke that I spotted the things that other people missed, but missed the things that absolutely everybody else could see. My friends wouldn’t be able to work out how I made some connections, but once I pointed out my logic, they’d find it to be uncontestable. I do like to go out. But I need a reason to do so. Without such a reason (or an excuse) I could literally stay at home for days.

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.

In my case:
I can be fairly sociable. I do like parties. But only if there’s at least one other person there that I enjoy the company of and can talk to. Someone I already know. If I’m on my own and if I don’t find a connection with anyone else pretty quickly, then I usually won’t stay long. Apart from that, though, I don’t struggle too much with social situations.

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

In my case:
I’ve been called weird for my entire life. I didn’t choose to be outlandish or to have different opinions and perspectives from the mainstream – this sort of thing just naturally occurs with me. It got to the point where I’d call myself weird before other people had a chance to do so. This became a sort of shield for myself and a warning for other people. My cousin has the perfect way of introducing me to his friends. He says “This is Graham. He’s probably going to piss you off.” It’s an overstatement and isn’t meant to be taken entirely serious, but it still serves as a bit of a warning.

Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

In my case:
I’ve been called “arrogant” a lot. I’m not entirely sure how warranted that is, but I generally accept it, these days and don’t try to argue with my accusers. Which tends to irritate them, which tends to amuse me, which probably proves their point. But… since I’m choosing not to debate the accusation, the proof probably isn’t really required, anyway.

Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

In my case:
A curious one. I actually enjoy some adrenaline pursuits. I don’t like a lot of noise and can suffer from sensory overload at times, but if it’s only one sense at a time that’s being assaulted – depending on which one it is – I can generally cope pretty well. I think I have most trouble with tactile elements, but some noises come a pretty close second – and those can actually be genuinely painful. And I really don’t like being crowded.

Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.

In my case:
I tried to “fix” myself when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I read a lot about body language and scrutinised the way other people interacted. I made a strong attempt to emulate speech patterns and ways of behavioural. I kept this up until those things stopped being affectations and became normal to me. So they were learned, rather than natural. But those are just symptoms – not the condition itself. There is no possibility of “correcting” that. And, like a lot of people who have something that the mainstream population would consider to be a defect or a disability… I would turn down any offer to “cure” me. Unless – and this is pure fantasy – I was promised some kind of temporary cure. Because it would be a fascinating experience, and an amazing insight to be able to think like a neurotypical person just for a little while. Just so I could walk around inside one of those tiny little minds and find out what all the fuss was about.

Journal Comments

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