I’m an Introvert — Sue Me!
I spent almost my entire life trying to fit in, but once I figured out what to call this trait, everything changed.
When you were growing up you certainly heard things like “You should be more social!”, “Why don’t play with the other kids?”, “Why are you so quiet?”.
Well, that was also the case for me. I grew up thinking that I should be social, enjoy the company of others and look for that no matter what. I learned that staying at home reading or watching TV series wasn’t cool. I learned that I should want to go to parties because that’s what people do.
But it wasn’t what I wanted to do. If I could choose, I would prefer a thousand times to stay in with a book in my hands. To relax listening to music after a day at school with a lot of people and stimuli. I would prefer to stay at home on the weekends watching my favourite movie saga.
I knew what I wanted was not acceptable to society. So put on a mask, and went to the parties, stayed after school for lunch or dinner with friends, I went to loud gatherings that destroyed all my energy. It’s not like I didn’t enjoy it, but at times it felt like I was lying to myself, burring the real me.
Lucky, it all changed
When I was doing my Bachelors’ Degree in Human Resources Management, I had several courses regarding Psychology. And in one of those courses, we learned about personality traits. We learned about the different spectrums where people fall into. And I finally found a word that I could use do define and describe what I always felt inside.
I was an introvert.
Yup, there was a word to define what I ultimately was. And I didn’t felt ashamed anymore because it was normal, it was part of a spectrum, it was part of the world of possibilities. And it meant that I was not crazy for not feeling like everybody else.
So what is an introvert?
One of the personality’s dimensions is the continuum extroversion-introversion. Introverts are the ones who obtain more pleasure from and are more energized by their inner life and world than by social events (1).
Introverts prefer one-on-one engagement, calm environments. This doesn’t mean they are shy or they fear or dislike others. It’s just their natural preference.
While extroverts are outgoing and enjoy engaging with their external world and recharge by doing exactly that, introverts recharge in their own inner world and by being by themselves.
Introverts can exhaust their mental energy by being overstimulated by external factors, so they can only tolerate such exposition for a certain period of time before they need to yearn for solitude and quiet.
And I’m not alone
Although there are more extroverts than introverts in the world, I know for a fact that I’m not alone.
There’re plenty of introverts somewhere in a room watching movies or in a library searching for the perfect book. Plenty of us at some party wondering why the hell we left our house.
And sadly, there’re plenty of us still feeling guilty for not being suitable for the world we live in.
The truth is, even after I found a name to call it, it still took me some time to completely accept it. Too much time, now that I see.
The more I read about the subject the more I realized that accepting was part of the struggle.
For me, the turning point was reading “Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” by Susan Clain. This book opened my eyes and left me feeling proud of being just the way I am.
It talks about the origin of this age and society that celebrates extroversion, how it shaped everything from how the education system is organized to how we reward employees at work and choose our leaders. It allowed me to see the strengths of being an introvert and how I can use them to benefit others and myself.
It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I could breathe. I could be myself.
From then on, I never felt guilty for being who I am anymore. If I feel I need “me time”, I go on and get that, because I know I’ll come back stronger, sharper and ready to conquer the world. If I don’t feel like going to a party, I don’t come up with a million excuses. I am finally free to me be.
Introverts, Extroverts, you should feel free to be you
Living in a world where everyone seems to criticize how you deal with your own energy is hard. Like I said, growing hearing that something is wrong with you because you’re too quiet or you prefer to play by yourself, it’s a big challenge.
And I believe that extrovert kids also face their own set of challenges while growing up.
We need to understand each other to coexist.
We need to know not only how we work and what are our needs, but also how others work and their needs. We need to be aware, to want to get to know and respect. Respect differences, respect preferences, respect spaces and times.
We all should feel free to be ourselves. And that goes by accepting who we are and who others are.
It is a journey, of course. Who we are is something that is constantly changing and evolving. We need to keep rediscovering ourselves, finding out how we can grow and develop. Learning more, digging deeper, dreaming higher.
The perfect balance between accepting and self-development is hard to get, but it’s also what we should strike for.