The tutor in my online art class this week was ‘artist / writer / naturalist’ Cathy Johnson. Before I had even read anything about her, or seen any of her work, my first thought was ‘Oh Oh. Naturalist. Does this mean I have to take my sketchbook out-of-doors again this week . . . because I am still not really comfortable with that. At all . . . ‘
So I was pleasantly surprised to see that the first part of Cathy’s video class was all about how she, a self-confessed-dyed-in-the-wool introvert, handles going out and about in the big wide world to do her sketching and painting. (She wears big hats and sunglasses, uses earbuds so people will think she is listening to music or a podcast, and positions herself in corners or with her back to a wall so that ‘no-one can sneak up behind me’ . . . )
At first I shook my head at her suggestions as it all seemed a bit silly but then, quite unexpectedly, I caught myself seriously considering whether that old hat I bought at the markets years ago would be big enough for me to hide under . . . and, you know . . . I’ve got some big sunglasses . . . if I wore that hat and those sunnies . . . and kept away from the main walking paths . . . then maybe I could go out and about with the sketchbook and no-one would bother me or even know who I was and . . .
Oh.My.God! Hi. My name is Sally, and I think I am an INTROVERT!
Gasp. No, I must be mistaken. I have never, ever thought of myself as an introvert. I like my personal space, that’s all. And, sure I’m not really a party person, or into the pubs and clubs scene . . . and I don’t like to be in the cinema when it gets too crowded . . . or sketching where anyone can see me. And some weekends I wouldn’t bother to go out at all if the dogs didn’t need walking. Okay. I can see where this is going. Perhaps this does merit further investigation.
The dictionary defines an introvert as ‘a shy, reticent person’. Pfffttt. Well, I am not in any way shape or form ‘a shy, reticent person’ so there has to be more to it than that. Time to do some extensive research on the subject (i.e. ‘google’ it).
The terms ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ were originally used by psychologist Carl Jung in the 1920s to explain the different attitudes people use to direct their energy. Extroverts were generally determined as being outgoing, having a wide range of friends and being comfortable working and playing in large groups. Introverts were seen more often as reflective, preferring to know a few people well, comfortable being alone and liking to do activities they can do on their own.
Well, I guess when you put it like that . . .
But I am not just going to take Jung’s word for it. There are loads of on-line personality tests out there. Let’s shake it up a bit and see what they think.
The Quiet Revolution indicated I was definitely an introvert. Okay. Let’s try that again. Lifehack. Different questions, same result. Introvert. Mmmmm. One last time. The Psychologies test stated I was a ‘public extrovert but a private introvert’. (I do believe that is what is what is called ‘hedging your bets’.)
So there you go. Introvert. (Not even an ambivert, which, considering I had never even heard that term before today, is no great loss anyway.)
But seriously—although I have never associated myself with the word ‘introvert’, I can’t say I am all that surprised at the personality test outcomes. I have always needed to spend a lot of time on my own. My social energy definitely has an expiry date and I often spend an inordinate amount of time deciding whether I want to go out somewhere or not. And then, more than likely, I won’t go. (And if I do go, I usually have an ‘escape plan’ already in place . . .)
And it seems I am in good company. Depending on where you get your information (i.e. which google search you believe) about 25% of the world’s population are introverts . . . or maybe it’s closer to 50% . . . or (my favourite) ‘a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population.’ (Gallagher, 1990; Hoehn & Birely. 1988.)
So now that I know, and (grudgingly) accept, that I am (probably) an introvert (at least that sounds better than ‘socially retarded’) what difference does it make? None at all really. I’m pretty happy being who I am and doing things the way I do them and I have no plans to make any drastic changes.
Except maybe I will take some of Cathy Johnson’s advice. A rummage around the house for a quick ‘disguise’ and I might just go and find myself a quiet corner out in the world (preferably with a brick wall behind me) and try a little outdoor sketching.
It could be the start of an all new (quiet) adventure . . .