Stress Relief: My Hero Was An Introvert

by Doc Orman, M.D.

superman-149576_640This week, I’ve been focusing on the tension between introversion and extroversion, both in ourselves and in our society.  This topic was stimulated by my stumbling upon (literally) a 2012 19-minute Ted Talk by Susan Cain called “The Power Of Introverts.”

In case you missed either of those two posts, here are the links:

Stress Relief: I’m An Introvert…And Darn Proud Of It!

The Stress Of Being An Introvert…And Wishing You Were Someone Else

In both of these posts, I shared my own struggles with being an introvert in an extrovert-oriented society.  I also mentioned that my mother was an extrovert, and my father was an introvert.

I identified much more strongly with my father, which is why I tended toward the introvert side.  But I also had this strong internal dynamic of desperately wanting to be different from my parents.  So I had to “disavow” my introvert tendencies and try to fashion myself into an extrovert (but differently than my mother).

So as a teenager and a young adult, I viewed being an introvert as an undesirable attribute.

My father, on the other hand, was a devout introvert.  He was a loving, caring, honest, and hard-working guy.  He was also a man of very few words.  We rarely had long family discussions and we were usually silent when driving together in our car, with or without my mother and sister along.

My father was the youngest of 10 siblings.  He was close to them all, but closest to his older brother who had become a successful dentist.  My father owned and operated a small local retail store most of his life. But on Sundays, he would always visit his brothers and sisters who were living in town, and he would often take me along with him.

One of my lasting memories from these weekly sojourns was our final stop, which was always at my Dad’s older brother’s house (which was close to ours).  My father and his older brother would always greet each other with a big hug and then they would hang out together in his living room for an hour or so with the television being on.   They rarely said a word to each other, as if just their presence alone in the same room was all they really needed to feel meaningfully connected.

I remember looking back on these brotherly meetings and thinking of them negatively.  There was just so little human interaction and very little extroversion. So I judged my father to be “wrong” for being an introvert, and in the same fell swoop, I judged my own introverted tendencies to be “wrong” as well.

Never mind the fact that my father was beloved by just about everyone who knew him (including me).  He and my mother had a large group of lifelong friends who would have cut their arms off for them if the need ever arrived.

My father didn’t have to say anything for you to know that he cared about you and appreciated you in his life.  And if you ever had a need for help from a friend, he would always be there for you, eagerly wanting to make your life easier.

Ironically, my father—the ultimate introvert—became much more popular than I ever was.  And eventually, I had the wisdom to admit that being an introvert wasn’t necessarily a bad thing and that there were many positive qualities to it.

So I finally came to appreciate my introvert tendencies—like writing, reading, thinking, enjoying being alone, enjoying being a solitary long-distance runner, etc. And I also became thankful, rather than resentful, that my father, who died almost ten years ago at the age of 80, had not only contributed these valuable qualities to me (along with many of his other positive qualities) but he had also demonstrated for me, right before my eyes, how introverts can be successful, loved and cherished in this world, when so many people think that it is only the extroverts who become true winners.

Thanks Dad.  I love you.  And I always have.

Doc Orman And His Dad

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