My name is Sarah, and I am an introvert. I am generally quiet, soft spoken and have little to say. Though I enjoy the company of close friends, I prefer solitude. When I’m in a large-group settings, I tend to stick to the sidelines and still find my energy quickly drained by such events.
Being an introvert isn’t a conscious choice. Most likely the result of both my biology and upbringing, I have always felt more comfortable on the sidelines, observing and analyzing. Even as a very young child, I was pensive, and often lost in the imaginary worlds I dreamed up. From very early on, I was known as the quiet one, but it wasn’t until about the 7th grade when it became clear that it was a bad thing. Like many introverts before me, my quietness was often misinterpreted by my peers as “antisocial”, “closed-off”, “snobby” or “aloof”. Since this realization, I saw my introversion as my most notable flaw.
I tried to appear as outgoing as my peers, but at the same time, adolescence kicked in and I also became very concerned about what other people thought of me (the combination adding yet another label to the mix: awkward!). While some accepted me for who I was, others were perplexed by my nature, and some were routinely insulted by it. As a result, I folded inwards and became even more introverted. My quietness continued to be a major source of insecurity through my teenage years, and even young-adulthood.
As a teenager, I was both shy and introverted. These terms are not synonymous. Shyness is a fear of social judgment, which can change as you become more comfortable with yourself. Introversion describes how you respond to mental and social stimulation. While extroverts thrive in environments with high amounts of stimulation, where they are surrounded by people, introverts thrive in low stimulation environments, in solitude or small groups.
After years of pushing myself to fit in, by trying to be ‘out there’ and take more risks, I have become more outgoing but lo and behold… I am still an introvert. I’ve come to understand that no amount of pushing myself out of my comfort zone will change the fact that most of the time I would rather listen than speak. No amount of socialization will change the fact that group settings exhaust me and the only way for me to recharge is to be alone for a while. Nothing will ever change the fact that where I feel most alive is here, with me, myself and a blank piece of paper.
After watching this TED talk by Susan Cain, it became clear to me that something is wrong with the way I have seen myself since junior high. Because we live in a society that values charisma and personality, I’ve made the assumption that extroversion is greater than introversion, but one is not inherently “better” than the other. As Cain states, there is zero correlation between great talkers and great ideas. Society needs introverted types as much as they need extroverts.
No matter how you identify yourself along the introversion-extroversion spectrum, you will do the world a favour simply by doing what feels natural and right to you. No one should feel like they need to change the core of who they are to fit into the current standard of popularity. Everyone should push themselves out of their comfort zones, whether that means daring to ‘speak up’ or daring to be ‘quiet’ once in a while. How about you be you, I’ll be me, and none of us take it personally?
My name is Sarah, and I am an introvert. Exclamation point.
This blog is in response to Susan Cain’s TED talk about ‘The Power of Introverts’. I highly recommend watching it. I haven’t read her book ‘Quiet’ yet, but it’s on my list!