Innie or Outie

When we were kids, we used to discuss our navels (among other body parts) and one of the questions among school friends was, “Are you an Innie or an Outie?”  Outies were considered rather weird in my elite circles of scruffy early-teenhood, so I was glad I was an Innie.  Of course, I still am, and in more ways than one.

(By the way, if you don’t know what I am talking about you can Google it (of course).  I was planning to illustrate this article at this point, but the Google images look rather disgusting and I didn’t want to turn you, my dear devoted blog-readers, off this rather interesting subject.  So I shall move on, imageless.  You can stare at your own navels, if you like.

I did an interesting character assessment thing as part of a team-building exercise at work some time ago, and “introvert” was one of the core features of my character.  This did not surprise me.  I know I am an introvert, and although sometimes I think I would love to be an Outie, I know in my heart of hearts that it’s just not… me.  Luckily, when we were all psychoanalyzed, my colleagues and I seemed to balance each other out quite well.

There is a new book out called “Quiet, Please: The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t stop Talking,” by Susan Cain. It suggests that although many leaders are extroverts, introverts can be too.  The Quiet Leader is often under-estimated.  I don’t come into this category, I should hasten to add.  I have all the characteristics of an introvert: I love being alone; I always feel tired after I’ve been sociable for an entire day, or after an evening of small talk; I would let the phone go to voicemail every time, if I could get away with it; I like to bury myself in a job without being interrupted by the sound of a human voice.  Anti-social?  Maybe.  Leadership?  No, thanks.  But retreating into myself is one way in which I recharge my batteries.

"Quiet, Please" and author Susan Cain
The book and author Susan Cain - a self-confessed Innie

When the phone rings at home I often say to my dear Mr. Petchary, “You answer it – it’s probably for you, anyway.”  And it usually is for him, because he is the exact opposite of me.  He loves chatting on the phone – just for the sake of it, it seems to me – passing the time of day, checking in with someone he hasn’t heard from for a while.  To me it seems unnecessary – to him, it is essential.  Communication is what it’s all about.

As for me, I would rather write.

When I was a child, I was called “The Bookworm” from an early age.  One of my favorite photos is of me aged about nine or ten, sitting cross-legged on the ground, a large book between my knees and my elbows resting on them.  Miles away.  My sister, on the other hand, would be busy socializing with her dolls, who seemed very fond of drinking tea.  The number of times I got dragged reluctantly to those pointless tea parties. Of course, the dolls were entirely mute.  My sister, on the other hand, never stopped talking.

Another interesting point this book makes is that it was once entirely acceptable to be an Innie.  Until the mass media started in the last century, and movie stars with red lips and long trailing furs swept up and down on red carpets, talking all the while.  And didn’t those old-style movie actors and actresses talk fast?  As if they were trying to make up for the intolerable quietness of the previous decades.  It was suddenly fashionable – and desirable – to be an Outie.  I wonder if some of those great stars whose careers failed and who fell by the wayside were, in fact, Innies who were tired of pretending to be Outies.  They wanted to retreat to their bedrooms with a good book, but they had to be out there, dazzling people.

Marilyn Monroe
I suspect that Marilyn was secretly an introvert


I suspect Marilyn Monroe may have been one of those.  Maybe even Whitney Houston.

Comedians, strangely, sometimes have difficulties maintaining the non-stop pressure of being funny all the time.  I can name several (starting with an incredibly funny old British comedian, Tony Hancock, who ended up drinking himself into a fairly early grave) who couldn’t handle it after a while.  Maybe being a perpetual Outie does not come so naturally.  There has to be a little balance.  I guess that is why, too, Mr. Petchary drags me out of the house from time to time, or invites friends over, so that like one of those little spiky hermit crabs, I am obliged to poke my head out of my shell. And it’s not unpleasant to do so, even if later on I find myself a larger and more comfortable shell to crawl into.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with being a full-blown extrovert.  Personally, I greatly admire them.  It comes so naturally to Mr. Petchary.  He is so interested in other people, and always wants to know everything about them.  When I display a lack of curiosity about people, he finds it odd.  He can (and will) talk to anyone and immediately connect.  When he goes quiet, I get worried.  When I start making noise, he gets worried.  We balance each other out, beautifully.

Interestingly, too, Mr. Petchary (a great lover of the Internet like me, especially since we got our glorious Mac) much prefers videos.  When he is on the computer, it is always talking at him.  I love music, but I hate talky-talk videos.  If I want to listen to talk, a good movie will do it – or Bill Maher, whom I would definitely put in the Outie category.  Stand-up comics are the ultimate in extroversy (no, that’s underlined in red so it can’t be a word).  Extrovertedness.  Nope.  Extroversion.  Aha, that’s it.

I think, actually, that I can be quite extrovert when I want to be.  It’s almost like putting on makeup, though.  I can switch it on, and walk around a room saying “Hi, how are you?” to total strangers.  And when I am comfortable with someone, I will chat away ad nauseam.  But I like to listen, too.  My voice often irritates me, and when I hear a recording of it I think, “Good Lord, is that me?  Why do I sound so affected?  And what a dreadful accent.”

There are some occupations, I suppose, which just go with being introverted – literally, turned inwards.  Writing is one of them.  I guess this is why I love to write, whether anybody reads it or not.  It is my way of communicating.  The social media is, of course, a godsend to Innies like me.  You don’t have to talk.

Of course, while browsing Amazon I recently found a book subtly titled: “Introverts Suck.”

Well, there’s two sides to every story.  An Inside and an Outside.  And somewhere In Between.

8 thoughts on “Innie or Outie

  1. When reading this blog, I am thinking to myself, I relate to both of these. I don’t get exhausted after talking to someone or having after an amazing day. (which whenever I say that, it always ends up sucking afterwards)Sometimes I just let my hands type freely without much control- apart from spag and I just drift from one subjust to another. Part of my ASD I suppose. Well what I was saying about the innie/outtie thing, well I like to sit and listen to music, and sometimes I say that I feel alone when I think I do but after saying so (not literally so) I feel like I didn’t actually feel alone. I dont like being alone but some people just drain your energy. Like if it is someone who is insistant on being constantly negative or refusing to persue a relationship but instead just bringing you down because they wont try. I dont know if you can follow my thoughts but if you can tell me. It would be nice to know if others can feel like this too. I mean, I don’t mind being completely isolated on this thought proccess (or anything really) but perhaps if you do understand, we could have more in common. I just realised how creepy that sounds. I just wondered. By the way, this is the first time reading a blog and commenting in a style so similar.


    1. Dear Liz: I think I know what you mean. My “innie” time is often a kind of recharging of my batteries, and also quietening myself down so that I can re-engage with people. As you have noted, it’s hard to engage with some people, in the first place. And I do believe there is nothing wrong with just “drifting” for a bit, without control. Psychologists say daydreaming is a normal thing, it’s good for you, and you should do more of it. So, there. Thank you for your comments! And I am glad you found this post quite satisfying… Please comment again.


  2. I am an Innie. I can masqerade as an Outie so most of my friends probably think I’m one. But I feel exhausted after having people over for dinner and however much I enjoyed it, I always feel as if I’ve sacrificed something: MY time – ridiculous really, I’ll have plenty more time to spend time with myself!
    I like to read and think and write. In my little world I’m always on verge of making an important cerebral breakthrough. I think best when I’m in the shower or washing up (always when my hands are wet and I can’t easily write something down!)
    When I was growing up I was called Moody because I preferred my own company and my emerging Borderline Personality Disorder with it’s maddening mood swings didn’t help. When I try to be extrovert I sometimes feel fake and I hate artifice, so being extrovert can make me dislike myself.
    Oh, and I used to HATE any group work at school!


    1. Yes, I do the same thing… masquerade as an Outie! And it is indeed hard work. Reading, writing and thinking are my favorite pastimes, too. I always used to think my “moods” were something to do with me being an Aries (!) and “emotional,” but understand myself better now… All the best!


  3. What annoys me is this everlasting emphasis on groups. Group think and group work and group brain storming (which I suck at – I think best all alone in front of my computer or my car). Thank goodness my work accommodates that. emm…I feel a blog post coming on lol


    1. I couldn’t agree more! I write a lot (not only this blog) and that’s something where you just have to turn completely inward – you can’t chat with someone while writing of course! We had a whole day’s training at work about “The Team” – it was quite enjoyable and satisfying and our trainer/facilitator was engaging and clever, and we did clever things and all said “Wow!” at the end of it all. But the next day we went back to our old ways! We all work together well I have to say, but it is more a question of pooling our individual strengths when we need to. And we all have our own personalities…not a group one…


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