A year later and I’m a happy introvert

I’m working from home today and I’m already on my fourth cup of coffee.  My Keurig isn’t the newest and the coffee has recently not been as hot as it should be, so I tend to drink it down rather fast.  I have my personal laptop playing Spotify in the background.  It’s playing the new Flaw album that came out only a few weeks or so ago and I’m amazed that they’ve kept the sound they had from 2001, yet making the new music relevant and fresh.  I’m in my basement office despite the house being entirely empty; daughter is at school and wife is at work.  Only the dog and cat are here to keep me company, but neither of them like the basement if I’m honest.  Like they know it’s a hole in the ground with a heavy two-story house sitting on top of it.

A basement is where you put the things that you don’t want normal visitors to see in your home.  The place where things are taken to be forgotten or stored for the next time it is appropriate for them to be taken back out.  The place where you can hide from the normal stresses and problems of the world if only for a little while until it is time to ascend up the steps.  I often see the basement as a pretty damn good metaphor for how my life is lived and conducted.  The basement is the place I go to remove myself from normal life and descend into a world of my own making, where my decisions are my own and thusly, I own the decisions I make.  Normal problems of life don’t follow me down here and in most circumstances, they don’t return until I’m ready to face them again.  In the past, I’ve spent hours and days in a figurative basement I created in my own mind shutting out everything except the most critical of things.

Fifth coffee down.

It is only now, while I’m sitting in a literal basement, that I finally see the potential for damage that my own descent into introvert holes can create.  There are people in my life that need me to be present in both physical and mental capacities, people who depend on the idea that I’m engaged as much as they are in the circle of life we’ve created together.  This was something that I did not truly understand until I wasn’t a member of the circle we created, where I had to be invited and even ask if it was okay to enter again.  A personal journey into my own life, as I now understand, required that jolt to the system that not being at home last year forced me to take.  At first I was a reluctant passenger, not wanting to admit that I was the cause, not wanting to admit that I had a problem.  In reality, I did have a problem, I was the cause, I was to blame.

After a few weeks, I knew that something had to give.  I had to learn that in order to get what I needed to stay out of the introvert hole, I needed to force myself through situations where I was uncomfortable.  Force is such a strong word.  Perhaps instead of force, I needed to choose to be in situations where I was uncomfortable in order to get into situations where I could retreat into solitude.  The people around me, the closest ones, needed to understand from me why this was a necessity.  That is exactly what I did, finding all sorts of online blogs that I could share with my wife to help her understand my introverted nature from her extroverted point of view.  We were, from the beginning, like oil and water, but I know now that is okay.  It’s okay to not be the same and see the world differently because that is what makes us unique and complimentary to each other.  We’re suited for different situations that, in turn, makes us together prepared for every situation that one or the other shares taking the lead on.

I’m okay with what has amounted to a continuous journey of learning.  Nothing is absolute and nothing is ever a problem that can’t be overcome.  The amazing thing about all of this is that not only had my wife given me another chance last year, but, together we have worked to get to a mutual level of understanding we can both be happy about.  We have started to, through actually talking (go figure), recognize the signs in each other when support is needed vs. solitude; taking charge vs. just observing; talking vs. listening.  We are by far not the perfect couple.  I’m scared of the perfect couple, it’s not natural.  Perfect couples, to me, are like sleeping volcanoes that will at some point blow up and decimate everything and everyone around them.  My sister-in-law is the Queen of bottling things up, creating pressure, and then to explode suddenly over something that essentially is trivial at best.

Sixth coffee down.

After a year of discovering with my wife at my side helping, I’m now in a good place where I feel that problems are recognized and talked about before they end up causing a larger problems.  We both talk a lot more now than we ever have in the past and it took us almost losing our marriage to understand why this is so important.  In a time where people get married and divorced at ever-increasing frequency, I’m happy with the fact that we decided together to work through our differences and adapted to our marriage at 16 years and stopped treating it like we were at 1, 5, or 10 years.  Marriages fail, in my opinion, because one or both participants failed to adapt to the change that marriage demands.  People get older, wiser in some instances, and therefore, it is logical to assume that a marriage needs to change in order to accommodate and stay strong.

I will always be an introvert.  My wife will always be an extrovert.  We understand that somewhat now.  We are cognizant of the fact we’re different people who need different things; sometimes not at the same time.  She gives me the time I need when I need it to regroup, collect, and process my thoughts.  I give her the time she needs when she needs it to connect and feel included to our lives.  We decided together to put the effort into our relationship despite the bumps and road blocks that life inevitably throws our way.  It wasn’t an easy lesson for me to learn personally as I have lived my life for more than 35 years clinging to a mindset that avoided life.  Enlightenment, to me, is understanding how you want things to be around you, but knowing that you’re not in control of anything other than your own actions.  The acceptance of that fact is what makes us choose to do things that aren’t what we want to do, but rather what we need to do in order to live.

How perception defines our view of the world and ourselves

All of the time I’ve spent on self-reflection and inner feelings reminded me of a recent science show on how perception can change drastically with seemingly identical subjects. Take for instance the compelling example of Abraham Lincoln, which most people immediately recognize when they see the below picture. He was the 16th President of the United States and is credited with not only abolishing slavery (that took over 100 years to partially work) and winning the United States Civil War. His amazing ability to manipulate words in such a way so as to evoke emotion and passion in everyone that listened or read was second to none. Several former U.S. Presidents would use his speeches to craft their own speeches so that radio addresses could have the greatest impact in times of need. Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John F Kennedy, the list goes on. Once television came into popular use, the need for powerful words diminished slightly, as now body language and facial expressions could convey what words typically would have trouble doing on their own.

ALincoln_World

Who likes to see a picture of themselves? I sure don’t, and I can bet most people all over the world have trouble or are uncomfortable seeing themselves in pictures. From the day we’re born, we get a sense of self-perception that defines us for our entire lives. That self-perception comes in many forms, such as our own voices, observable interactions with others to our own actions, even our image in a mirror. The reason we have difficulty seeing ourselves in a photograph or listening to our recorded voices, is that it doesn’t match our self-perception. In fact, it will NEVER match our self-perception as the circumstances that defined it just don’t exist. Below is the same picture of Abraham Lincoln as he would have seen himself in the mirror, which is a reverse image of our actual appearance. A camera by design will take a real world representation of how we appear to the world whereas a mirror is, well, a reverse image of how the world sees us.

ALincoln_SelfImage

Having written about introversion lately, this was fresh in my mind especially after I recalled the science show. Perception is in the eye of the beholder. It is a clear and simple truth that self-perception and real-perception, that is the case with physical/auditory appearance, don’t and will never match. Our voices, to us, have added acoustics of our head that add to the sound that exist our mouths. A lower range that others don’t hear that travels to our ears from our throat to our ears on the inside. As I can’t speak to other introverts, my own self-perception in the past was the reason that I avoided contact with others. I was unable to stand up to the potential scrutiny from someone elses perception of me if it were somehow different. What I didn’t understand at the time was that it would always be different. The pictures above show solid evidence of this statement. If you showed anyone the second picture, they’re reaction would be one of confusion as something about the picture is just “off”.

What I had to understand and accept for myself was that perception is subjective and involves more than just outward appearance or home someone sounds. Perception takes body language, actions, meaning of words, and facial expressions as well. The full range of human interactions basically helps us form a perception of the people around us. Knowing that my uneasiness was a result of unsubstantiated emotions was the key to learning to push them aside and rely on all the queues to establish a more logical and truthful perception. I don’t discard them completely, but no longer let the uneasiness stop me in my tracks to work on forming relationships with others. After all is said and done, it’s the intangible thoughts and feelings in our brains that finally decide how we form or don’t form relationships. I think this is the reason that online friendships, like the ones we all form through blogging, are so important to introverts such as myself. It removes the awkwardness of on-the-spot conversation until such a time, finally meeting in person, there is a base of reference to start and hold conversations with greater ease.

I personally have not met anyone yet that I’ve interacted with online through here. If given the opportunity to do so, and given enough online interactions, I would welcome it. That day is almost certainly well into the future though.

3 types of people I tolerate, but would rather avoid

There are some people in this world that really put me in a bad mental space. The types of people who suck your limited energy and demand so much of you that its easier to avoid them rather than engage them. There are all kinds of people in the world that have been shaped by their parents and environment to interact appropriately with others around them. I question the motives such people have and how they’re personalities benefit them in the long-term. Being the type of person I am, I have a lot of time to observe the people around me in most situations. Knowing a little about the person I’m talking to (or going to talk to) in advance provides me the most efficient approach to as not to drain myself too quickly. Once I’m “done” in a social situation, I will and have just decided to leave for quieter surroundings.

An introvert almost always has a smaller “energy tank” than extroverts and what is their energy source is our drain. Meeting or interacting with the three types of people I detail below, to me, is like opening a sinkhole under my lake of energy and it disappearing quickly. In my experience, it takes an hour of solitude or deep thinking to recharge enough to have a 30 minute social interaction. Interacting socially with one of the three people below doubles or triples that drain. Again, this is subjective and based on my own experiences over the last 20 or so years.

1377174052_giant_louisiana_sinkhole_swallows_trees

A really good example of the drain an introvert feels in social situations

Topper

This type of person is notoriously going to always have something to that is more interesting, more surprising, more expensive than anything you’re talking about. Not always the truth, they feel the need to validate themselves and stay in the conversation by making sure everyone knows they’ve topped whatever you said. Here are a few examples of what a Topper might say to you in response to a statement you’ve made.

In response to your vacation length: “Well, when I went there it was for 7 days, not 5 like you.”  In most cases, they never went there.

In response to what you’re driving: “Oh, you have a 2014, mine is a 2016 and newer.”  They’re also in more debt than you, a chance to top a topper 🙂

In response to the new house you just purchased: “That sounds like a nice house, but mine is 1,000 sq ft bigger and has a pool in the backyard.”  May or may not be true, but a larger house means more debt.

In response to your new job: “I can’t talk about my job, I’m under a non-compete.”  I added this one as this was an actual response I got. He meant to say NDA, and when I pointed that out, he walked away to start topping someone else, LOL

Interrupter

This person will consistently interrupt a conversation with whatever nugget they have to add. There is no vestige of manners with this person and most find them ultra annoying to be around. Being the type of person that I am, I respect others and don’t like to interrupt, ever. I wait my turn to speak and often with this type of person around I just don’t bother trying. An interrupter is often the person that asks “Why are you so quiet?” and is almost always an extrovert. I get the fact they’re trying to recharge their batteries from the conversation, but the lack of etiquette is inexcusable in my opinion. The only time I find this type of person helpful is when you’re having a debate with a group of people and they’re interrupting the people with a differing opinion other than your own.

“My shit doesn’t stink” (aka Politician)

Probably the most annoying person on my list. This person does no wrong. They continually remind everyone how awesome they are and when pointed out they made a mistake, they have a plausible reason as to why it was someone else’s fault and they’re the unfortunate bystander. In my experience, these people are naturally suited for politics as it takes a certain level of self-centeredness and arrogance to fit this category. This person also sees being labeled in this manner as a crowning achievement in their life.

Compliments to this type of person are usually responded to with a condescending and patronizing comment that reminds you that you couldn’t possibly be better than them. I’ve found in my life that I should avoid these types of people due to the fact they not only suck energy, they also take shots at your self-esteem and self-worth. Any imperfection is pointed out and highlighted in an attempt to make themselves feel better. These types of people are often bullies their entire lives.

To be social or not to be social? That is the question.

I get asked a lot about my social media habits being in the Information Security field.  Generally, they revolve around security and privacy and what I do to keep things protected in a world that seemingly gets hacked all the time.  I see social media as more of a bother than something useful, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a Facebook or LinkedIn account.  I’ve even given Google+ and Twitter a spin just to realize they were a tremendous waste of time.  Being the private person that I am, social media presents a complicated problem that after several years still is not completely understood.

Facebook

Everyone knows what it is.  Even my Mom has a Facebook [FB] account.  No, I’m not friends with my Mom.  Before you tell me that isn’t a nice thing to do, let me explain first.  I see Facebook as an extension of my circle of personal friends (more acquaintances) only in a digital form.  There isn’t a single person on my friends list that I have not at least got to

Yes, its a real phone!

Yes, its a real phone!

know in person first.  I’ve had a FB account for almost 8 years and only have 89 friends to my name.  I don’t see family fitting into my social life much in the way that you don’t take your Mom or sibling on a date with your wife.  Therefore, I don’t have any family members listed in my friends listing.  I use email and this old school concept called “talking on the phone” because texting infuriates me (that’s another post topic for another day).

FB, for its intent and purpose, is a good model for sharing with people that you normally wouldn’t have contact with except on rare occasions.  One of my friends from high school lives in California and I haven’t seen him in person for about 5 years, but we stay in regular contact via FB.  The problem with FB, especially for younger people, is that it allows a pervasive anti-social behavior pattern to develop.  I’m sure you’ve seen the family out to dinner at a local diner, all with their phones in front of their faces, not talking to each other.  Further observation reveals that the children of the group are in fact texting each other while sitting next to each other.  Personally I see this as disturbing and an ominous trend of the current generation not being able to socialize without an electronic device.

LinkedIn

I call this service the Facebook for Business [FBB] as it is catered to the business person to socialize and advertise themselves online to prospective employers and colleagues.  FBB is actually quite useful for my purposes as it provides the work-personal segregation that I fiercely support.  In fact, I would not be moving into a new job on Oct 1st if it weren’t for FBB as the recruiter found my profile and solicited me for the position.

I’ve supported people getting onto LinkedIn countless times in the past several years as I see its value clearly.  The more you detail your work history, obtain recommendations and advertise your accomplishments the easier it is for potential employers and recruiters to find your profile.  FBB requires a finesse to achieve a balance between base and high level detail so that you’re standing out in the crowd.  The fact there isn’t a ridiculous reliance on the social aspect FBB doesn’t have the same issues that FB has.

Social Balance

At the end of the day, you’re going to use social media so that it fits into your life style.  My life style doesn’t support FB, but does support FBB.  Others would see FBB as a waste of time and just another social media account to cultivate and keep up to date.  My use of FB is out of the necessity of keeping in touch with people that hold value in my life; it is NOT a replacement for physical socialization with family and local friends.  I find it to be a necessary evil that I utilize sparingly.  FBB on the other hand, is something that I log onto every day, tweak consistently and ensure is as precise as possible.  For every 9 solicitations from “linked in sharks” there is 1 solid lead that actually pans out to a real offer.  In my case, I was given that real offer.

Tread lightly into social media as it is the largest human experiment in history where no one knows anything about the conclusion.