Introversion is a characteristic that 50 percent of the population possesses. Introverts are the kids in kindergarten who enjoy playing with puzzles instead of gabbing in flocks. Later in life they are promptly pegged as “the shy ones” and are often told to “Get a hobby or something! Make some friends!” If you have heard any of these concerns lately, and, naturally, seen the unawareness behind them, you are probably an introvert. Congratulations. Feel free to join the other 50% of the supposed “silenced” who, ironically, enjoy being quiet.
When I was five I was a soft-spoken kid. I quickly found my niche at my elementary school and was always deemed the responsible and sweet kid with just one major flaw: I was too quiet. My conversations were limited. My mind was constantly processing the people around me. However, I must note that I was never oppressed into introversion, even though my teachers sent me to counseling and told me to kick the “shy” habit. Introverted was just how I was, and I never grew up to be the super loquacious kid they thought was ideal for any classroom, workplace or community.
On the contrary, we introverts can be social. This is the greatest distinction between extroversion and introversion: extroverts, unlike introverts, actually need to be social and experience a clamorous setting to feel fulfilled. Similarly, I can play the “chumming around all day” game, but I need to come home and write for a few hours until I fall asleep. Moderate solitude fills up my happy cup and keeps me balanced, but it absolutely does not handicap my social interaction ability. Introverts just need to do stuff by themselves sometimes. Truly, there is no simpler concept.
There are few qualms among adults regarding introversion v. extroversion; the real pressure is on young children and teenagers. They are the ones who are told to “speak up” and “participate” and “play with the other kids.” They are the ones who listen to the socially-constructed groupthink. This is a sad reality to introverts who make it just fine in the real world, and who may even improve it with the skills they have cultivated through much-needed downtime.
To my fellow introverts: a lot of you may assume being introverted is something you have to “accept” about yourself, so let me throw a new perspective at your quiet aura: you do not have to come to terms with introversion. It really is not anything unique. Being introverted is not what makes you special. It is the things you do, in quiet settings or vociferous ones or even both, that define you. Soaking in my downtime as a means of recharging is something introverts do innately; it is not something we seek to achieve. We recharge our batteries one way, and the other half of the population does so using other methods.
Likewise, “introvert” is not a label meant to identify you as shy or socially handicapped, and it certainly is not something to be ashamed of or to feel like you have to grow out of. By the same token, just as an introvert should not be ashamed of what fills his or her happy cup, he or she does not have to be particularly proud of it either. It is just the way we operate, nothing more.
Want more juicy facts on introversion? Check out Bill Gates’ favorite TED talk of all time (and mine as well) on The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain below. You can also pick up her book “Quiet” from Amazon for a brilliant behavioral psychology read.