Introverts living under the Extroversion Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are.
– Quiet: The Power of Introverts, Susan Cain
I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain and I have to say it made me very angry. Not about what Susan had to say, which was interesting, quite informative and shared some fascinating facts about the introvert mindset. What angered me, is that such a book needed to be written at all, that someone felt they had to stand up, speak on my behalf, and defend my natural way of being.
What angered me, is that we introverts needed an extroverted voice to educate the rest of the world on why it was ok for us to be “different”.
Do I need to explain why I am the way I am? Do I need to provide a list of geniuses and talented people to justify it?
Well, yes. I think I did need someone to stand up for my right to Be. I shouldn’t have, but I did. I do.
In a world of constant chatter and noise and self-promoting, the idea of someone who doesn’t check Facebook every hour, or upload a photo of every meal they’ve eaten is terrifying. The enjoyment I get from sometimes leaving my phone at home so I can have a quiet day to myself is in my friends’ opinions nothing short of perverse.
But it’s more than the frustrated sighs I get from my friends when I refuse to communicate with them via Snapchat all day long. It’s the personal judgements made against me that I find most offensive.
Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.
Because of my quietness, I am mistaken for being timid, or insecure. The assumption is that the reason I don’t want to engage in conversation with every single person I meet is because I don’t have the confidence to. All my friends admit that when they first met me, they didn’t like me much because I was quiet and seemed timid and uninteresting. Opinions of me have greatly improved I should add, hence the current loving friendships.
I noticed similar prejudices when I was at work. My involvement wasn’t recognised enough, I was passed over for promotions, given lesser jobs to do because the louder members of the group dominated and handed out the better jobs amongst themselves. So I spoke up.
I would tell people when I had an interest in working on something else, and would freely correct an outspoken co-worker when they’d laid claim to a piece of work I’d done. But the looks of shock and amazement I would receive, it was as if they’d just met a talking rabbit.
She speaks? Gasp. She speaks!
I want to be clear: Being introverted does not mean you are weak, insecure or have low self-esteem.
Can we not confuse extroversion for confidence; introversion for insecurity. Extroverts can have low self-esteem and … wait for it … bombshell! … introverts can be (and generally are) very secure, confident people.
I am confident, and have great self-esteem. I am opinionated about things, and can disagree with the opinions of others. I’m not a push over, I have boundaries. I have a sense of humour and make fun of my friends. I laugh when they do the same back. I like to talk and share my views. I enjoy being in the company of others and socialising.
I just don’t enjoy doing it all the time, or doing it in a extroverted manner, with people I don’t know that well. I prefer to socialise in my own, more quiet way, with people I feel close to. And then, once all the chatting and giggling is over, I like to quietly retreat into my own space and enjoy the peace and restfulness which can only come from being solitary.
Solitude matters, and for some people, it’s the air they breathe.
I like to have time alone, to be in my own company. I crave it. I need it. It helps me recharge. I get sustenance from sitting and thinking and imagining things to myself, just as extroverts feel fuelled and energised by the company of others. We’re different; it’s ok.
Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.
There’s nothing wrong with me! I don’t need counselling or help to ‘come out of my shell’. I’m not unhappy or miserable when I’m not speaking at the dinner table. I’m not timid or afraid to speak my mind. I’m not missing out on life or enjoyment or fun when I stay home. I’m not lonely or deprived of great, loving relationships.
So, can we all just have a bit more introversion awareness please? Quiet people are in the room too. They have lots of interesting things to say so maybe stop talking for a little bit once you’ve shared every detail about yourself to them, and ask a question. Learn about them and their interests. Discover their personalities. They are funny, opinionated, lively people too.
Just make sure you give them some time alone afterwards.
[note: all quotes are from Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain]