Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on July 4, 2012.
It can only be divine intervention that has brought me to this café/coffeeshop this morning to write a column. Alone. Sans Children. Actually, it’s because my five-year-old is in camp, and my wonderful husband volunteered to take the two-year-old to the park.
It has always been a dream of mine to be able to sit alone and write in a coffeeshop, and I know you are probably laughing at me for that. But for these past six years of child rearing, any time alone is a dream. I can hardly believe I’m sitting on this hard seat, listening to dishes clink, the murmurs of other coffeeshop goers and soft jazz in the background.
I used to think my penchant for being alone was unique, but after reading Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe, PhD, I’ve realized that I’m not “alone.” Nearly half our population is introverted.
She writes, “What constitutes an introvert is quite simple. We are a vastly diverse group of people who prefer to look at life from the inside out. We gain energy and power through inner reflection, and get more excited by ideas than by external activities. When we converse, we listen well and expect others to do the same. We think first and talk later. Writing appeals to us because we can express ourselves without intrusion, and we prefer communicating this way. Even our brains look different than those of extroverts.”
Although I’ve always known that I’m introverted, and I thought I knew what an introvert was, I learned much more about myself after reading this book. She explains how introverts prefer one-on-one interactions with people, and they appreciate deeper conversation. She thinks coffeehouses have popped up everywhere because introverts need places to “read, write, draw or just chill.”
When I read the book, I thought some of Helgoe’s comments about our culture being extroverted was far-fetched, but after I thought about it, I realized she was right. When I was younger, I never felt comfortable telling my friends I didn’t want to join the crowd. When I worked in an office environment, it was difficult to get out of going to lunch with the work gang. Our culture assumes that you’re being rude if you just want to have some time to yourself.
Now that I’m home with my children, I’m much happier, and I think this is due in part to not having to socialize in large group settings anymore. While I desperately need social interaction, I am more able to pick and chose when and with whom.
The book has given me a new resolve to cease worrying about the “socialization” of my homeschooled children too. This doesn’t mean I won’t give them plenty of opportunities to socialize with other children, but it does alter what most people think “socialization” should look like.
It’s pretty clear that my eldest son is an introvert. Some people may say “shy,” but over this past year, he’s proven that he isn’t shy. He can talk a stranger’s ear off – as long as he’s talking about what matters most to him. He doesn’t like to jump into playtime with large groups of kids, but he loves to play with one or two good buddies, and he can spend ample time by himself in his own make-believe world.
Helgoe writes, “As a psychologist, I have yet to see a child brought in for therapy because he is too social and his parents are concerned that he seems to have little access to his inner life. Yet, child after child is brought in for not talking enough, only having a few friends, and enjoying time alone—for being introverted.”
So I am going to stop apologizing for wanting to be alone, for needing breaks, and for indulging in a couple of hours in a coffeeshop. “You think it’s the coffee?” Helgoe writes about the coffeehouses. “Half. More than half of us now have a place to be publicly introverted.”
9 thoughts on “Introverts and Coffeeshops”
Just wanted to tell you that you look beautiful in that picture. Must be the look of peace and happiness pouring out of you. 🙂
* blush * Thank you.
Okay, I love this post too! Have you ever read “The Highly Sensitive Child” (author also wrote best selling “The Highly Sensitive Person”)? I read the former. I was one (am one!) and so are my children. 20% of the human population is. It explains SO much of why (if you are highly sensitive) you don’t “get” most people. It’s because 80% just aren’t like you and certainly don’t “get” you either. They don’t process like you, they don’t care like you do, they are as sensitive…etc. It was one of the most validating books I have ever read. It also helped me be so much more accepting and understanding of my eldest daughter. The first time I took her to the Aquarium when she was almost 3, she just became a complete basket case. The crowd, the overstimulation…Then there was the time we went back when she was almost 7 and my youngest was 4. We went into the Aquarium 3D Nemo theater and 3 seconds after the movie started both children started crying and we quickly exited stage left. Our first real movie theater experience was a couple of months ago (youngest now 6, eldest 9). We went to see the Lorax and it was a SUCCESS! However, we still have decided to stay away from movie theaters (the noise, the previews…etc). Home theater works much better for us. Even as a grown up, I’m only going to Tara in Atlanta from now on. It seems like the “kinder, gentler” movie theater experience.
Thanks, Angela. It’s obvious that you are a sensitive mom, in a good way, and you are paying attention to your children’s needs. I think that’s awesome, and it shows you’ll be a good homeschool mom. I have not read “The Highly Sensitive Child,” but I think I’ll have to put it on my ever-growing must look into list! lol My son was never good at jumping into playtime with new homeschool kids at the park, etc. He always wanted to play on the sidelines in his own way. I always felt this was just fine, and I’m glad it made me think more about our personalities and different needs. Take Care!
I love this article! Thank you for your thoughtful and humorous words. I am learning to be ok with being introverted and feel encouraged by your insight.
Thank you for your kind words, Roselinde. It’s my understanding that so many of us have this same experience! That is, understanding how we’re different and what our needs are. I’m glad if my column helped you in that. Good luck to you!