I recently read “Quiet” by Susan Cain – it was about “growing up as an introvert in a world that can’t stop talking”.
As a child, I didn’t even know what “introverted” meant. But now I know that I’ve always been one. I’ve struggled with it – often worried what people think of me, thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t want to do what everyone else my age was doing, and was made to feel embarrassed of my quietness.
Introversion always seemed like a bad word; something you wouldn’t want to be, something that was shameful to be. Whereas extroversion was seen as something positive, a confident person who people craved to spend time with. I’ve always been led to believe that Quiet is a weakness.
Some aspects of myself that (I think) make me introverted:
- I enjoy being alone with my thoughts and can often be found daydreaming – my own mind is my favourite place to be
- I always struggled with social situations, making small talk and being able to keep a conversation going – I tend to limit my human interaction to people I actually like and enjoy spending time with, and conversations I actually care about
- I often get over-stimulated by loud noises and always have to take time out of these situations to re-energise myself – my energy comes from quiet and being on my own and is sucked by spending all my time with people
- It takes a long time for me to open up to people and for them to get to know the real me – I prefer to choose my words carefully than just speak for the sake of talking
I was made to think that being introverted was a bad thing. At school, I had amazing grades and preferred to just sit, listen and work hard. But that wasn’t enough. Every parent’s evening, my teachers would tell my mum that I was “far too quiet”, that I needed to speak up more and engage with the class. I seriously struggled with putting my hand up in class, asking and answering questions so engaging more with the class was out of the question. Because of my introversion, I was made to feel that I was failing in class and that my efforts weren’t good enough. I couldn’t understand why people were penalised for talking too little at school, but were given detention for talking too much…
“Or at school you might have been prodded to come “out of your shell”—that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same.” – Susan Cain
In my head, there was a word limit between being an introvert and an extrovert. When I could muster the courage to tip over into a 2-sentence conversation, I would become an extrovert. This never happened. I just felt awkward saying things that meant little to me and that I didn’t feel comfortable saying. I felt embarrassed about my quietness (and I still do!)
“Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.”- Susan Cain
I couldn’t understand why some people just couldn’t sit in silence – there were always children who felt the need for incessant talk and noise. Yet people always assume that these loud, talktaive kids would be the next Prime Minister and CEOs of huge companies. Being extroverted was always associated with success. Regardless of whether what they were saying actually meant something or it was just hollow, empty words. The world is modelled on extroversion (and once you realise that, things start to become easier).
“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” – Susan Cain
I lost count of how many people have asked me “why are you so quiet?” and having no idea what to say. What can I say? That’s just me, that’s just the way I am. Why don’t people ask extroverts “why are you so loud?”. Both are acceptable ways to be – you don’t have to change or wish that you were different. When you constantly criticise a child for being who they are, they start to think that there’s something wrong with them. But you can’t fix something that’s not broken.
Plus, some of the best people in the world are introverts! Including Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, JK Rowling, Meryl Streep, Emma Watson… I think that’s a pretty cool group of people to be a part of.
“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. Skip the committee meeting. Cross the street to avoid making aimless chitchat with random acquaintances. Read. Cook. Run. Write a story. Make a deal with yourself that you’ll attend a set number of social events in exchange for not feeling guilty when you beg off.” – Susan Cain
Thanks for reading.