There was a time when I struggled with being an introvert. I longed to be the person who was always confident and charming in social situations, who could easily speak off the cuff without having to be prepared ahead of time, to not feel awkward when I was in a new situation, to be able to escape to that place where I could rejuvenate and be reflective without being thought of as anti-social.
People who know me (but not real well) and who have seen me in my professional life where I sometimes have to make presentations to large numbers of people do not understand that I am an introvert. They see me as someone who is extremely competent which does not meld with their ideas of an introvert. But they do not see the inner tug of war and the intense preparation I do to make myself come off as competent. They see that in social situations with large groups of my colleagues I am quiet and withdrawn, but still they do not recognize that as being an aspect of being introverted.
Maturity and life’s experiences have helped me to accept and embrace who I am, and I accept that there will be situations that are difficult for me.
In recent years there has been much written about the positive side of introversion. To me the attention given to the introverted personality is very exciting. There are two desirable outcomes because of this attention: 1) People who had low self-esteem because of being introverted will receive affirmation for the personalities that they are blessed with, and not wish that they were someone else. 2) Others will come to understand and embrace introverts for who and what they are and realize that introverts add a great deal to the rich tapestry of life.
The publicity has helped introverts to understand themselves better so #1 is accomplished. I do not believe, however, that others are more accepting of the introverted personality.
In a post Sisterhood of the World, blogger Word Nerd was asked a number of questions in accepting an award for which she was nominated. Her answer to one question reveals the plea that many introverts would raise in wanting to be accepted for the people they are:
Q. What one thing do you wish the whole world would understand or accept?
A. I’m an introvert. I like peace and quiet. If you decide I’m not quite your sort, well, too bad. I simply can’t stand such boisterous places where people drink themselves into unconsciousness. Is that too hard to understand?
Think about that. The one thing at that moment in time that she was asking the world to understand was to accept her as an introvert. The. One. Thing. Many other introverts are likely to add their voices to a chorus proclaiming the same idea. This isn’t to assume that introverts never enjoy boisterous places or never drink too much. Many introverts do enjoy going to sporting events or crowded concerts or other populous venues. It’s just after it’s over they are likely to need quiet time to recharge themselves. And many introverts do drink too much, perhaps partly to lose their inhibitions to become the life of the party that seems to be so much valued. We are all complex individuals. Very few are completely and truly an introvert in every aspect, nor are few completely extroverted. But absorb what she is asking.
I have noticed that many bloggers identify themselves as introverts. Rarely do I see people identifying themselves as extroverts. Why do introverts have a need to identify themselves as such? Is it being an extrovert is still perceived to be the ideal, and introverts need to ask to be understood and to be recognized for who they are? It takes a long time for social perceptions to change and in spite of all the research and literature, introverts still need to ask to be accepted.
Blogging is the perfect avenue of expression for introverts. They tend to have a lot to say, because for the most part they are introspective and deep thinkers. A blog allows them to express themselves without having eyes physically upon them, and if they are criticized they can reflect on the criticism without being embarrassed and humiliated by being in front of others. One common trait of introverts is that they hate to be criticized so they strive very hard to do things perfectly and may choose not to share until they think they have every little thing right.
I would make a guess here that most people who have continued to read this far are either introverts or have a close relationship with an introvert. Extroverts, if they even began to read this topic, are likely to have lost interest by now, not because they don’t care, but because this is not relevant to them. I would love to be proven wrong. I would love to learn that extroverts are as eager to understand introverts as introverts are eager to be understood. Comments would be welcome to either reinforce my little hypothesis, or hopefully to let me know that I am dead wrong–that extroverts are still engaged in this discussion. I could accept being wrong (even though I hate criticism) and would actually embrace being corrected. Because that would tell me that life might become easier for introverts.
Celebrating the differences in individuals as an introvert, just another thread of my life.
It is not my purpose to itemize the characteristics of introverts vs. extroverts. That is adequately covered elsewhere. A book by Susan Cain, Quiet subtitled The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking is a good resource. There are also many blogs and internet sites that cover the topic.