Feeling Alone in a Crowd

One of the places I feel most extroverted is on this blog. I’m able to write all about everything, put deep and tough experiences out there, and express scary and embarrassing emotions and not feel afraid of condemnation. I feel community, love, grace, and so much more. I long to be in community here. My heart craves it.

One little fact you can probably guess about me is that I am extremely introverted. Like 99% of this article was absolutely can-I-get-an-amen true for me. But one thing stood out that made me think [doesn’t that happen to me so much in my posts? heehee].

Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.

Ohmygoodnessgracious yes. It isn’t even about not liking those people, or wanting to be friends with those people. I have no problem being up in front of crowds. Before I had my daughter, I was on the worship team for our church for ten years! I’ve sung many-a-solo and have loved it all. But having to talk afterwards…oi. Its not my favorite thing.

Which makes sense for this translates to my blog and my life. I LOVE writing to the few readers I have and being active on social media. Its like the online stage. But when I get in a situation where I am in a crowd of bloggers, people I respect, I shrivel up. Example…

I went to the Influence Conference this past year. It was really one of the most amazing experiences. But I found myself feeling so incredibly shy and nervous around all these women that I had known and loved from afar. I shrank into the carpet. I didn’t say hi to some of the women I had desperately wanted to meet. I even found myself retreating to my room a couple times to choke back tears. I was overwhelmed.

My sweeeeeet friend Carrie helped me to discover something about myself. She may not even know she did it, but she helped me to see that my “social awkwardness” was simply that I am an introvert. Another sweet woman that helped me is Ellen — she may not know either how immensely she impacted me. I was holding back tears and trying to swallow the large knot in my throat as she lovingly talked to me about being an introvert and introduced me to the book Quiet. She was so encouraging as she nodded and mmm-hmm-ed while I spoke of the fear of being in the crowd and impulsive instinct to retreat to my room. She smiled with my confession that being around people often drains me. That I love people immensely but that recharging my spirit requires quiet and solitude. After hugs and tears, these women helped me to discover the gift of introversion. Even Jesus had to retreat from the crowds. And often I hear the Lord the loudest when I am in silence.

One thing that stands out a bit from that trip was the very end. I was sitting on a couch waiting a few hours before I was to take a shuttle to the airport when two gals that I now love [Annie and Amy] came up and started chatting with me. They invited me up to their room because they had some time to kill as well and wanted to know if I wanted to hang out. My introversion kicked in and I declined, saying I wanted to decompress [which was true].

But looking back, even though it was so small, I realize I regret that decision. I wish I would have stepped out of my introverted self and into community. These women were loving me and reaching out, and I denied it. Often, introversion can lead you down a tunnel into dark isolation. Where introversion is a gift, it can also feel like a curse. I have to fight my tendency to withdraw and consciously make the effort to reach out, to love, to connect.

This is so hard for me because right now, being in school keeps me insanely busy and being a mom adds a heap of crazy busy on top of that. That makes it way too easy to isolate and make excuses.

This weekend, my husband and I visited a church here in Phoenix as we are exploring which community God wants us to plant ourselves. And I felt it. The desire to withdraw, to smile and shake hands but not chat. To find the familiar faces and retreat from the unfamiliar ones. But I didn’t. I smiled and chatted. And it felt like home. It drew me in. I wanted to grow roots and do life there. Plant my family in the neighborhood and invite community in. A breath of freshness came into me when I let go and dug in even when I didn’t want to. When I felt scared to.

Friends, introverts just need a little hug and to be included in the conversation. We don’t hate you. ;) We’re not snobs. We like you. Lots! And desperately want to be included but are hesitant to step in. We love deeply but need to love ourselves and respect our own boundaries by giving ourselves space. I hope this encouraged you. And if you are an extreme extrovert, I hope that it gave you a peek into the gentle quietness of the introvert. Now, I’m off for an evening with a cup of tea, a book, and silence. xo

Comments

  1. says

    Erin, I totally get where you’re coming from on this. And I’m with Amy – we totally need to get that hang-out time in! But when you said you wanted some time to decompress I completely understood.

    One thing I’ve had to learn – and am still learning – is how to determine when, as an introvert, I truly need rest, as opposed to being socially lazy. And I have to fight that desire to withdraw, to put it the hard work of community. I’ve been doing this, not entirely successfully, at church for nearly a year now. It’s draining but I’m finding it’s so worth it. This past Friday I had a crazy busy day at work, and wanted to go home and not speak to anyone for a day and a half instead of going to girls’ night. But I did go, and it turns out lying on the couch watching the Olympics and eating ice cream, when you’re with your people, is extremely refreshing and rewarding and its own source of energy renewal.

    Although I will fully admit I was thrilled to get in my car by myself at the end of the night and drive home to silence.

    Love you! And I love how wisely and well you shared an introvert’s perspective here. I’ll be praying for you as you continue to search for your church home!

    • Erin Lauray says

      I get that. I have to be aware of my excuses too. Many times, I will try and justify declining an invitation to something, but I know deep down I will later regret not going. And you’re right, being with people, especially ones that are filler-uppers is such a good and gospel-centered place to be!

  2. says

    Loved this. What church did you try? And… I seriously think we should hang out sometime! That might go against all the feelings you describe here but I would love a friend in the valley who is doing the whole baby and school thing at the same time, because it is a CRAZY world we are living in.

    • Erin Lauray says

      I would love that Jen! I would love a friend like that too. Us moms to babies in grad school are few and far between, it feels like! :) I bid on some of your closet stuff; if I win, maybe we use that as an excuse to have lunch soon?? ;)

  3. says

    This is beautiful. I’m pretty extroverted but my husband is pretty introverted. I’ve learned so much through talking with an expert on the Myers Briggs test- have you taken it? The more we learn about others and what makes them tick (and what doesn’t) the better we can love them. Love others who think and feel and respond differently and not bc anyone is wrong or right, but that were created differently and uniquely and wonderfully. Beautiful post!

    • Erin Lauray says

      Thank you Breena! I have taken the Myers Briggs, and actually am an INFJ. One time, I had my husband, sisters, and brother in law all take it and it was so interesting to see how we each scored. I love how you said that we can learn how to love people the more we understand them. I am working towards a masters in marriage and family therapy right now, and it is really taught me a lot about how I see people. Thank you for your comment!!

  4. says

    THIS post is so me! I often feel like there is something wrong with me because I’m an introvert. So often I shy away from being with people, from living life because I am shy, nervous, ect. IT is hard being an introvert, but its who God made me!

    • Erin Lauray says

      LOL! A friend told me something once about personality that really opened my eyes…she was speaking specifically about a trait in her daughter that we would otherwise think is sinful. But my friend so wisely said, “I pray all the time and wonder how God is going to use this trait in her. How is He going to redeem it for Himself?” That rocked my world. I try now to consider different personality traits in myself and my kids and pray about them, asking the Lord, “How can you use this for Your glory?” :)

  5. leah says

    Oh my goodness, yes. I completely see where you’re coming from. being an introvert is hard sometimes, but I love that you call it a gift!
    I have a conference coming up and keep wondering how I will deal! it’s so beautiful you had these ladies to encourage you through it!

    • Erin Lauray says

      Yes! It is a gift, and if you feel like you’re an introvert, embrace it! At the conference I went to, I really had to learn to give myself boundaries. If I felt overwhelmed, I would allow myself a few minutes of quiet. I wouldn’t get embarrassed if I cried or felt shy. That is just who I am. Learn to embrace that beautiful part of yourself, and you will naturally give yourself grace when you need it. Good luck at your conference!

  6. says

    GIRL! I so, so feel you on this. I would say I’m an extrovert, but I most definitely need time alone to refuel. I can get so overwhelmed in crowds, and just feel my mind spinning. The extrovert part of me loves it, but I completely understand feeling the need to retreat. Love you! Love you heart. And I think you just need to plan a trip to Santa Barbara so we can get that hang out time in. :)

    • Erin Lauray says

      Yay! I got your reply! It accidentally went in my spam comments for some reason?? Anyway, I totally get that. I think I am MUCH more introvert than anything, but I do enjoy my time with people. It became clear for me that I am a true introvert, however, because I notice my husband gets antsy and craves hanging out with people after a day home with kids where I need quiet and solace. And a trip needs to be soon…like SOON. :) Love you too :) :)

  7. says

    I totally relate to this Erin! I was an associate pastor for several years always having to be around people in large groups…I love people but they suck the strength right out of me. It’s good to have people who understand where you’re coming from and know that you need your down time to refuel.

    • Erin Lauray says

      Wow, I wouldn’t know what to do with that kind of role and being an introvert! :) Because I am just within the past 6 months or so learning that being an introvert is just part of the way God shaped and crafted me, I am starting the process of teaching others about my introversion…not in a “lets sit down and chat about this” kind of way, but when I feel overwhelmed, I’ve been learning to communicate my need and do what I need to do to keep myself sane. Like you said, I get drained quickly. So I need that support :)