This is a message for the introverts, written by an introvert. It is a topic very near and dear to my heart because, until I understood myself, I couldn’t fully embrace who I was. For a long time, I was trying to live up to a standard that did not suit me. It depleted me of all energy and lead to crippling social anxiety.
Even as a child, I remember playing outside with friends and longing to be up in my room with a book. When I would slip away from the crowd, there were murmurs and snide comments around why wouldn’t Mindy prefer to be outside playing? There was this idea hanging in the air that it was unacceptable, that there was something wrong with me.
Sadly, that mentality settled into my subconscious and I took a negative self-image with me into my adult life. When extroverts talked over me, I assumed it was because my contribution was not as interesting. I had trouble formulating an opinion or retort quick enough, so I remained silent. I knew I had opinions and valuable ideas, but I need to mull things over before I could articulate them intelligently. There must be something wrong with me, I thought, that I couldn’t come up with them quick enough.
In social situations, I couldn’t understand why I was energetic and talkative at some events and quiet and uncomfortable at others. I found myself compensating with alcohol to make myself more social. I remember a “friend” commenting to me, “You’re only fun when you drink.” That simple comment cut deeply into my already frail self-esteem and further buried me in the harmful dialogue running through my mind. Constantly, I would hash situations over and over in my head. Why did I do that? Why didn’t I say this? Why can’t I be more like this person? What I have to say is stupid.
Then, one day, I discovered a book that changed my life forever. It was called The Introvert Advantage. As I flipped through the pages, it felt as though, finally, someone understood me. Here was proof that I was normal, just an introvert.
Reading through the book, I learned that introversion and extroversion are hardwired into our temperament. There’s nothing we can do to change it, but we can find ways to work with it. Introverts require quiet time to “re-charge” after stimulating events. They work best alone and prefer to thoughtfully consider all angles before reacting. Extroverts, on the other hand, are energized by the same stimulating activities. They can easily talk off the top of their head and react quickly with ideas and decisions.
If you take a look at our society today, extroversion is the cultural ideal. It probably goes back to colonial and pioneer days, where grit and determination were required to take destiny into our own hands. Then, as demand for products and technology increased after the industrial age, so did the need for the charismatic salesmen. Even today, corporate America values the ability to make decisions quickly, orate eloquently, and react assertively.
If you are an extrovert reading this, this is not meant to disparage you in any way. My husband is an extrovert, and I love him dearly. There is value to both personality types, and we can each learn from each other. It’s just that introverts have to fight harder to be understood. As introverts have already had to adapt to the extrovert environment, we ask that extroverts also recognize how they can learn from us.
So introverts, be encouraged. I’ve learned to work with my nature, not against it, and embrace who I truly am. You can to.
Are you an introvert? Find out here.
Keep an eye out for my next blog, where I’ll talk about all the qualities introverts have to offer.
Check out these books:
The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.
Quiet by Susan Cain
Photo by Alexander Solodukhin via Unsplash