Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I took the Myers Briggs personality test as part of a group bonding activity at one of the schools I taught at. In the test there are four indicators that tell you about your personality and I only can ever remember that I tested as an introvert. Learning that I was an introvert had a huge impact on me.

At first I was embarrassed. We live in a culture that values extroversion. Extroverts are cool, confident, say the right things at the right times. And introverts stand around with blank looks on their faces watching it all go by.

But then, the more I thought about it, the more and more it made sense to me. I am terribly shy and quiet in new groups. I don't have lots and lots of friends. I like working alone. And that all means: I am an introvert. It has a name. And the name isn't: socially awkward. or: weird. And, not only that, but I'm not the only one. Lots of people are introverts.

There are perks to being an introvert. I may not have lots and lots of friends, but the friends I do have are terribly close and know all kinds of things about me. I value vulnerability. I like really knowing people. And I think all of that has to do with introversion.

A friend told me that one of the main differences between introverts and extroverts is that extroverts are concerned about how they will impact the world. And introverts are concerned about how the world will impact them.

And knowing this about being an introvert and about introversion itself helps me understand my voter anxiety this morning.

I have been worried about voting for days. Not worried about who to vote for. I figured that out a few months ago. I worried about my name being on the list. I worried about going to the right building. I worried about the little old ladies that volunteer and if they would be friendly. I worried about how voting would impact me.

And that anxiety almost messed it up for me. I stepped inside the voting booth with Isaac strapped to my belly and panicked. I got Joe Biden and John McCain mixed up. Which was which? I got so nervous that I couldn't work the machine at all. I had to ask the little old lady for assistance.

But then I voted. I did it. And it didn't do me in.

So, my fellow introverts. Don't be worried about going to vote. Don't be worried about how voting will impact you. Don't be worried about the machine. You'll figure it out. Just go and do it.

You'll be glad you did.


Melissa said...

I think there's an introvert theme here. I'm just about to publish an introvered-themed post.

I remember when I took that test that they talked about introverts and extroverts not so much based on how outgoing or shy people were or how many friends they have. But introverts are energized by their alone time. And extroverts are energized by people time. That's me and Chris.

I also remember hearing once that extroverts are happier and introverts make more significant change in the world. I don't remember where I heard it, and I don't think I believe it anyway.

I love talking about this kind of stuff.

Firefly said...

I love how the title of your last post takes on a different meaning in light of this post.

Firefly said...

Also, just wanted to tell you, I am voting right now...snug as bug under a blanket at home. I've waited til election day to fill out my mail-in ballot so I could feel a little bit of the excitement when I go downtown to drop it off. But no fussing with voting machines for me.

And I am kind of disappointed... I think I'd like the world to impact me a little bit more on this enormously important day.

Go Obama!

Mama V said...

So, every time I've taken the Myers-Briggs (oh, at least 6 times) I've tested borderline in EVERY category. Clearly that's a function of my personality! Basically I hate being categorized so I seem to do my best to avoid it.

Have you ever heard of the Enneagram? It's another one of those personality systems, but I like it much better than the Myers-Briggs. I find it to be much more nuanced but also its explanation makes so much more sense to me. I also like that it intentionally uses numbers (as well as one-word descriptors assigned to each number) to designate each "type" so as to avoid placing a perceived value (positive or negative) on attitudes/behaviors. It also helps you understand/recognize when you're being your "best self" and when you're stepping into related but unhealthy types. Check it out!

Firefly said...

So, when I got there, I was reeeaaally glad I just had to hand in my mail-in ballot. There was a really long line and it was noisy and chaotic. I just walked to the front of the line, dropped off my sealed and signed ballot and left.

It was great. I got a tiny bit of election crowd excitement but totally stress-free. I am definitely planning on doing it that way every year now.

Miss Vicki said...

I am so proud of you for voting. I could not imagine how you would do it in Brooklyn w/ two small children. When I saw stories of long lines I was afraid that that would deter you. I am proud of your civic spirit! What an example you set for your children.
By the way, Gov. Douglas won w/ 54% of the vote. Perhaps your Dad's job is safe.

debs14 said...

hmm I'm intrigued to know what this machine is that you are talking about! Over here we have a very 'low-tech' system. We still have the volunteer old ladies but we have little booths, where a pen is tied with a bit of string to the shelf and we take our voting slip which the volunteer has stamped and we mark our cross in the box of our choice. Then we fold our paper in half and post it in a metal box at the front of the room. No machines in sight!
Also in my opinion, doesn't matter if you are introvert or extrovert, just so long as you are happy in your own skin, don't bother about labelling yourself! and certainly don't change what is natural to you, just to fit a category.

Robyn said...

Deb- I wish it was as simple as that! That sounds great! As a lover of paper in general I would probably vote ALL THE TIME if I could write on a box (Maybe I'll do what Firefly did next time).

And- learning that I am an introvert has made me more comfortable in my own skin. It's helped me understand why I am quiet in new settings without being hard on myself. I give myself more room, in the sense that when I go into a situation where I am generally uncomfortable, I know ahead of time that I will probably not say a lot and that that is okay. So, oddly, the label has been liberating for me.

Robyn said...

If anyone is interested in taking the personality test it is here:


Robyn said...

just to note:

My brother called me last night. He said, that he too, at 6 foot 6 inches tall, is scared of the little old ladies on voting day. He proudly flies the introvert flag as well.

To be clear: he isn't scared they'll get mad at him. He's scared they'll call him 'honey' or 'dear'.

the nightmare...