These days, there is more and more literature coming out in defense of the introvert. And thank goodness for that! Psychologists, behavioral scientists and human resource experts use introversion and extroversion as one (of a possible hundred thousand) way of classifying human beings. The general theory is that extroverts are people who draw energy from being around others. They’re more outgoing and outspoken. Introverts, on the other hand, draw energy from being alone. They’re more comfortable in social situations where they interact in small groups. They’re generally quieter and more soft spoken. Often times, introverts are misunderstood as being aloof or shy since they don’t interact as actively as extroverts.

The goal in this particular personality classification is not to judge who is better or worse, neither is it to determine who is more productive or not. The goal is first to understand that people operate in varying ways. Second, it is to understand one’s personality so that one can choose more uplifting and life-giving social situations. And third, it is to accept one’s limitations in controlling social situations that may be uncomfortable.

So, in the interest of self-awareness and self-acceptance, I am outing myself as an introvert. This means that I work better when my surrounding area is quiet. I don’t speak up at meetings until I am absolutely clear with what I have to say or ask. At a party, I would much rather spend time with one or two people than chatting with a whole group. Small talk is burdensome to me. If I spend the whole day in the company of others, it takes me a couple of hours to get my bearings back—hours that I spend either writing, reading, praying or sometimes just spacing out. I often get overwhelmed by large and loud gatherings like concerts and rallies. And sometimes, even when I am in the company of the people I love most, I will withdraw into myself.

It took me a while to understand this part of myself. Filipinos are such community and family oriented people that I naturally assumed that I would be too. But even in school I would prefer individual work to group assignments. When I was in college, I would take walks alone. I would sometimes eat alone. Just to get away from everyone else. Don’t get me wrong, I loved living in the dorm and my roommates are some of my best friends, but some days, I just liked being alone. Once, I had walked to the nearby fast food chain to grab a bite to eat. A fellow well-meaning dormer asked, “lonely?” “No,” I said without thinking, “independent.” He smiled at that. I wonder if he understood what I really meant. Or maybe he couldn’t think of a better comeback and just decided to laugh it off. Oh well.

I guess the point isn’t so much that I’m an introvert (although everybody by now should get that I am); the point is that I’ve embraced my introversion. I am no longer bothered that my reaction to some social stimulus isn’t what I think is expected. I am no longer bothered when people don’t understand why I sometimes prefer to be alone. And more importantly, I am no longer strenuously bothered that I can’t always get the “space” that I need. Just because I have accepted my introversion doesn’t mean that the rest of the world has to. I just have to deal with it. Just as I’ve dealt with being curly haired when every hairdresser seems hell bent on rebonding my hair. Just as I’ve dealt with choosing the teaching profession over the corporate world. Just as I’ve dealt with Just as I’ve dealt with choosing single-blessedness in a couples’ world.

Now, please excuse me. I’d like to be alone.

[Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo]

About Nancy Unchuan Toledo

When Nancy started teaching high school at age 21, she didn’t really think she’d make a career out of it. She was right. Ten years later and she realized teaching isn’t her career, it’s her passion. Writing is her passion, too, and she writes a bi-monthly column for the Freeman. Mostly she writes about her family, her friends, her students, her experiences in teaching, her love of books and her faith. Because those are the things that she cares about the most–although not necessarily in that order.

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