This post has been in the making for several months. I first had the idea to write it back in December over my Winter break. As I was reflecting on my first semester in graduate school, I thought a lot about how my personal identities and activism meshed with my tendency toward introversion. Like a lot of my posts, this one is very personal in nature. I hope that it speaks to your whether you’re introverted or feed off of being around others. If you’re also an introvert I hope it might stand as testament to the fact that you’re not alone and there are a lot of us out there. If you’re more extroverted in nature or are somewhat of a combination of both sides of the human interaction spectrum, I hope this post might give you some insight into what it’s like for those of us who need and value some space from others. As always–feel free to reach out to me via the comments section, or via email (available in the “Contact” tab above) if you’d like to open a dialogue on these issues.
Ok, so I’m an introvert. I’m not fond of large crowds of people, loud noises, and I’d much rather have a long one-on-one coffee session with a friend (which I was lucky enough to do this past weekend! Ok several weekends ago now…) than go out with a group of “girrlll frannds!” shopping or to a bar. I rise to the occasion with presentations and public speaking–to the point where some of the feedback I’ve gotten has really surprised me. (It’s just dealing with a bunch of people coming up to me after that is somewhat bewildering.) I spent my first few months at graduate school thinking a lot about my new location and place within academia and how it collided with my tendency toward introversion. Then I found this article from Huffington post. I posted it to Facebook. As trivial as most people likely think that is, for me it was a big deal.
Let me rephrase that: it was a HUGE, MIND-BLOWINGLY ENORMOUS PERSONAL EVENT TO POST THIS ARTICLE TO FACEBOOK!
With the posting of the article, the façade of strictly internal pondering was gone. The walls were down and armor off.
I am an introvert.
“Think of each of us as having a cup of energy available. For introverts, most social interactions take a little out of that cup instead of filling it the way it does for extroverts. Most of us like it. We’re happy to give, and love to see you. When the cup is empty though, we need some time to refuel.”
BOOM. Me to a T. Down to the very last detail. So when you’re in a group setting (introvert or extrovert) how do you go about maintaining your personal activist agenda when that cup gets rocked or is suddenly called into question? While I’m getting better and better at it, I often find it difficult to speak up, especially in social situations. Usually this is when the contents of my social interaction cup are running low. So how do I negotiate my activism (not just vegan but queer, feminist, progressive etc.) when a lot of time it’s hard for me to expend the contents of this cup?
My introverted mantra, always in my mind: you do you.
Let me say that there are days, there are situations where speaking up just isn’t going to happen. Does that make you a bad activist? No absolutely not. For many of us, our politics (especially for many vegans) are very personal. If you ever feel that you’re in a situation where you might be verbally attacked, shamed, or made to feel badly about yourself or lifestyle in any way and you don’t think speaking up is the best course of action, don’t do it. And perhaps more importantly, DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP ABOUT IT. If you’re in a safe space that invites dialogue and where people are interested (without being defensive) and you feel that’s a good platform to share your views by all means, go for it! If it’s just not going to happen, for whatever reason, that’s ok. You’re not a bad activist. You do you.
If you feel uncomfortable speaking up, do it. Don’t rethink or overthink it, but go ahead and put yourself out there. The more you do it, the easier it will become. And again, if you’re in a situation where that just can’t happen for whatever reason, don’t feel badly about it. Be sure to attend to your needs. You can’t be a good activist if you’re overtired or stressed or super nervous. If you need to recharge before you go to vegan meet up group or before a rally or a show or whatever else, don’t deny yourself what you need.
This is something I’ve struggled with a lot. I’ve found that in many circumstances I push myself out of my natural comfort zone. While this can be a very positive thing that provokes new experiences and growth, sometimes it is exactly what its terminology suggest: really and truly uncomfortable. Often, that can mean unpleasant.
It always surprises me that others don’t realize my introversion. I always get the same slew of responses: “But you’re so polite/friendly/nice/personable!” First off, introversion doesn’t necessarily negate the presence of any standard social niceties or ability to be congenial in public–it only means I have to try a little harder than most to exert them. Most introverts do enjoy people for the most part, but need to balance that out with time to themselves. While I used to see this social approach as an impediment to my activism, I’ve come to see it as a useful tool. Though I don’t speak up as much as some of my friends or colleagues, when I do I make sure that I’ve really thought about what I’m saying.
If someone asks me about my veganism/feminism/gender (neutrality) politics/queer theory etc. I’m glad to talk about things that I’m passionate about and meet that person where they are with the way I frame what I’m saying. For example, if someone’s interested in veganism, or just likes vegan food I try and talk mostly about foods rather than factory farming. If someone’s using discriminatory language, I try to speak up and tell them not only a more PC way of phrasing a term, but also how and why we should speak about certain topics differently. Respecting boundaries either physical, social, or ideological is the most comfortable way for me to approach my activism, regardless of the topic at hand. I’m a live and let live vegan, after all.
All badass cartoons found here.