08.21.12 Truth & Wisdom
The term “introversion” is frequently misunderstood and these misunderstandings can leave introverts feeling inferior to extroverts. Often introverts are wrongly accused of being anti-social or shy. Talk to an introvert and they will most likely be able to recall a time when they have been rudely asked, “Why are you so quiet!?” Anti-social is a personality disorder that tends to disregard the feelings of other people while shyness is feeling anxious or fearful in most social situations. Introversion is neither of these things. Rather, it means introverts recharge by spending quality time with themselves.
I am an introvert and have been my entire life. Only in the last few years did I finally understand what introversion meant and embraced this characteristic of myself. In school, I was never the teacher’s pet or the class clown. Other kids would try and pair up in class projects and say “You’re smart, what is the answer to this?” Sure, I did well but I came to realize I was given this title because I was on the quieter side. Many thoughts run through an introverted persons’ head, but they only feel compelled to speak when there is something of value to add to the conversation.
The problem introverts face is that our society tends to favor extroversion. Extroverts are seen as fun, friendly, and capable leaders. It becomes infuriating to consistently be told to “participate more” in school and in jobs. The truth is introverts are incredibly competent and being called out for their introversion can be debilitating to performance. It makes us feel that the way we are is the wrong way to be and we should try and force ourselves to be something we are not. This way of thinking caused me to feel embarrassed about my personality for a long time. I felt that I was weird and somehow not as good as the outgoing kids in school. Unfortunately there were a number of teachers in my past that did not seem to understand introversion and unintentionally would do or say things that made me feel worse about myself. What’s more, even introverted adults can be infuriatingly patronized by their peers because they prefer to spend time by themselves.
When I finally had the euphoric moment of realizing that I was in fact an introvert, I felt a weight had been lifted off of me. I no longer carried around this shame and envy, and I learned just how common introversion really is. We feel like outcasts but the reality is that extroverts are stimulated by being around others while introverts perform best when they are by themselves. Finally I found an explanation to why I would rather be alone in my room after a long day of socializing than continue engaging in social situations. If the topic of introversion is brought up and I mention that I am in fact an introvert, they almost do not believe me. “Really? But you’re funny!” or “But you’re fun!” they would say. Yes, introverts can be fun and funny too. In fact, many actors, comedians and entertainers fall into the introverted category. I have no problem getting onstage and performing in front of large crowds or giving a presentation in a classroom. If I have had a chance to prepare and feel confident with my ideas, I enjoy being in front of people.
Just because someone prefers to spend quality time alone does not make them sad or depressed. This is when we are at our best and most content. Sometimes at a party or a meeting I am happy to sit back and comfortably absorb the experience. Other times I can lead the conversation because I think the topic is particularly important or interesting. I like being introverted, thoughtful and creative on my own. The thought of consistently craving social attention is exhausting to me. I would much rather have one on one conversations about interesting ideas than be in a large group making small talk.
When I stopped listening to the idea that I needed to change myself to fit into an extroverted mold, I felt free, happy and more at peace with myself. Introversion should not be used as a label to define people, but rather an idea to help us understand ourselves and one another.
Featured image by JHawk on Flickr