“Oh, don’t mind her; she’s just a little shy.” This was my mother’s default response to her friends whenever I, as a child, “failed” to smile or speak on cue.
While this explanation seemed to satisfy her friends, I felt as though there was something wrong with me. I also suspected my mother’s concern for my well-being. I think secretly she hoped I would become “normal” and outgrow my shyness.
It must have been unsettling for her when, as I grew into adolescence, this did not happen. I did not have a gang of friends, nor was I part of the cool kids’ club. Rather, I had a couple of good friends, focused on school, and just lived the life of a normal introverted teenager.
It wasn’t until I went off to college that I realized how different I was from other people. I expected a fun-filled college experience stuffed with parties, good times, and, of course great educational moments.
I got the education, all right. Socially, however, I experienced a deeper sense of insecurity and alienation. For, it was during these not-so-magical years that I sadly discovered that college and the world, in general, aren’t designed for the introvert, but rather the extrovert.
Take for example: the large classrooms, group assignments, and public speaking prerequisite classes. These do not play to the introvert’s strengths. In fact, I suspect that these activities are designed to “absolve” introverts of their “affliction” and shepherd them into the fold of “normalcy.”
Trouble existed outside of the classroom as well. My shyness made others perceive me as cold, aloof, and even weird. Like high school, I had a few good friends. I was once again excluded from the cool kids’ club.
After surviving college, I did what any normal person would do and shackled myself to a soul-sucking, stress-inducing 9-5 job.
In the work environment, I was once again excluded, ignored, and even berated because of my shyness. By this point, I had suffered enough!
Was there any help for an introvert like me trying to make her way in an extroverted world?
Still darker thoughts ensued. Was I as weird as others believed?
Then one day I watched a TED talk by Susan Cain, and things began to change. From reading Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I learned that my introverted ways are not weird.
According to the extroverted world, we introverts “live in our heads.” Nevertheless, what they don’t realize is that introverts gain power from being in this headspace. Introverts are generally focused, observant, and problem-solving oriented. The more I read the book, the more I realized that my quietness and preference for solitude, were in fact, the sources of my creativity, focus, and power.
I found Susan’s book very liberating. For the first time, I felt it was okay for me to be myself. This “ah-ha moment” lead me to complete a personality test, which in turn allowed me to gain an even deeper understanding of myself.
According to that test, I discovered that I am a pretty incredible person. My personality type is ISFJ, which stands for Introversion, Sensing, Feeling, and Judging.
Here’s what I discovered:
- I don’t make decisions without examining the outcomes.
- I am very analytical and detailed-oriented.
- Once started, I am committed to finishing a project. This is probably why for me, deadlines provide a sense of structure as well as a goal to work toward.
- I am altruistic, sometimes to a fault, and I put other people above myself. I always knew this, but now it makes sense.
- I enjoy social interactions, but I do not pull energy from being around people as an extrovert would. Rather, social interactions, even with trusted friends, can be draining after a few hours. People are great. But in my quiet time I recharge, regroup, create, and problem solve.
So, what did I learn from my struggle of being an introvert in a world of people who just won’t shut up? I learned that it is incredibly important to always be true to myself. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have found my identity or, worse yet, I would have lost grip of who I am in an effort to become “part of the crowd.”
Am I to wear the scarlet letter “I” for introvert? No, I think not! It’s okay to be an introvert.
Hey mom, I turned out okay after all. In addition, I am in excellent company.
Famous people who share my complex, but wonderful personality traits include:
- The beautiful actress, Halley Berry.
- Mother Teresa, the charity worker.
- Kate Middleton, the UK royal.
- Samwise Gamgee, Frodo’s trusted friend from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
All you closet introverts, pretending to be extroverts, are free to join the club. We have cookies!
Image credit: Deviant Art