What’s an introvert? How does introversion affect us at work and play? In our friendships? In our search for meaning and happiness?
I’ll explore these and other timely questions about introvert life in this column, as an introvert entrepreneur, artist and journalist.
Want to ask a question? Just use the email below.
P.S.: Even if you don’t think of yourself as introverted, you may find some helpful info here. Because, to paraphrase Ben Franklin, we assume our differences divide us, only to find we share common ground.
Today’s introvertastic question: Why do introverts prefer workdays to weekends and holidays?
We all know the cultural meme: Fun is the stuff we get to do when we’re done working.
But when it comes to introverts, that model gets turned inside out.
Engaging our brain feels really fun. Solving problems? So exciting. Pondering new ideas? So satisfying.
Engaging with the outside world by going to a party, sporting event, fireworks display? Those things can feel overwhelming to an introvert brain, given everything that’s already going on inside our head. Ditto, the external pressure to “have fun.” As opposed to simply uncovering it.
To be clear: introverts aren’t spoilsports. It’s just that thinking is our inner recreation room, with thick gray matter in place of wood paneling.
Let’s imagine introvert fun as a painting or a song
Here’s a little thought experiment that illustrates how working can be fun for introverts. Imagine Renoir, a painter known for capturing life’s telling moments, painted a portrait of introvert fun. Chances are it would look less like his “Luncheon of the Boating Party” with happy folks interacting, and more like his “Still Life with Peaches.”
In this painting, a pyramid of peaches sits neatly balanced in a bowl on a table, with a few freewheeling pears scattered below. Are those pears getting ready to do The Wave, go clubbing? Possibly. But the peaches are happily working with gravity, thank you.
Similarly, if introvert fun had a theme song it would sound more like a gentle breeze traipsing through aspen leaves than “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night” by Kiss.
Yep, for introverts, quietly working is a party.
Blame it on our choice of chemical messengers
This is your brain on acetylcholine
You know how some folks naturally prefer milk chocolate and others prefer dark chocolate?
Similarly, introverts and extroverts prefer different flavors of neurotransmitters to stimulate their nervous systems. In this case, the flavors are dopamine and acetylcholine.
Dopamine delights extroverts by revving up their sympathetic nervous system. By engaging your fight or flight mechanism, dopamine can make you feel like you’re the quarterback at the big game and inspire you to scream with pure excitement.
As you may have guessed, introverts find dopamine’s excitability stressful. Our preferred neurotransmitter is acetylcholine, which rewards focusing and solving problems with a soothing bath of feel-good chemicals.
So, back to working vs. weekends
The neurotransmitters of introvert and extrovert brains reward different kinds of activities. And yet, we all like to have our fun.
This is why you might find introverts happily working when the rest of the world is out happily playing.
One of my new friends is an introvert I met on Instagram. She’s a cloisonné jewelry maker on the Western Slope. We started messaging over a recent holiday weekend. And jumped into a pretty deep conversation, the way innies do.
After a couple minutes, refreshed and delighted, we signed off. And wished each other a wonderful return to the work we love.
Have a question about introvert life? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Sharon Glassman is an introvert lifestyle journalist and creator of Smile Songs gifts.***
The thoughts and opinions offered in this column are intended for entertainment and informational purposes only. Use of this column is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice.
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