It was relatively recent that I figured out I was an introvert. OK, maybe identified as, or admitted to being might be a better way to put it – to those of you who know me and are saying “DUH” right now. Yes, I’ve never been big on crowds, or going out and being the life of the party, but… but yeah, particularly in America, I could tell that an introvert is not a thing to be. Stigma might be a little strong of a word, but America goes for flash. To be popular and successful you’re supposed to be outgoing. Being an introvert carries the implication of being shy or socially awkward. OK, maybe I was different than you’re “supposed to be”, and that doesn’t necessarily mean bad, but, had you asked me, I would have been reluctant to say I was an introvert.
The defining moment came when reading an article on the intarwebs (game-changer, and generally a boon for introverts) about introversion. One of those articles that I can’t remember how exactly I came across it, and thought I’d be able to find again so I didn’t book mark it, but of course never saw again. Anyway, there’s been more, and care-and-feeding (how to interact with introverts) guides that go around every now again, so maybe it doesn’t matter I can’t give you the exact link. The point was, how one gets energy or recharges. Does that happen around/with/from other people, or does it happen when you are alone?
Lightbulb moment. All of a sudden it all made sense. OK, maybe not all, but quite a bit. And what a weight off to say, “Yep, that’s me.” I need my alone time. And have an explanation for it, and know that I’m not the only one.
Later I came across Susan Cain‘s book: Quiet, which is subtitled The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. The author discusses the rise of what she calls the Extrovert Ideal, and the problems of excluding or ignoring the more introverted. She includes research in psychology and neuroscience about the differences between extroverts and introverts, but in a very readable way, and also includes stories of successful introverts. There is also information for the introverted or those with an introverted child as to how to negotiate the Loud World.
One factoid which caught my attention was “According to a recent study of military personnel conducted through the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, introverts function better than extroverts when sleep deprived…” Which made me wonder if the percentage of introverts in the rando world is higher than in the general population.
And I found myself nodding along with the Conclusion. I could quote it all, but the bits I kept coming back to:
Figure out what you are meant to contribute to the world and make sure you contribute it. If this requires … activities that make you uncomfortable, do them anyway. But accept that they’re difficult, get the training you need to make them easier, and reward yourself when you’re done.
Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to. Stay home on New Year’s Eve if that’s what makes you happy. … Cross the street to avoid making aimless chitchat with random acquaintances. (insert rueful chuckle here)
(and again with the chuckle) Don’t expect introverts to get jazzed up about open office plans or, for that matter, lunchtime birthday parties or team-building retreats.
We know from myths and fairy tales that there are many different kinds of powers in this world. One child is given a light saber, another a wizard’s education. The trick is not to amass all the different kinds of available power, but to use well the kind you’ve been granted.