Growing up, Debbie Tung was convinced something was wrong with her. Rather than going to parties and hanging out with friends, she preferred spending time alone, quietly diving into her passion projects. Not knowing she was an introvert, she felt compelled to try to “fix” herself and live up to what she would later understand as our society’s obsession with extroversion, the “extrovert ideal.”
Then she took a Myers-Briggs personality assessment and got the result INFJ, one of the eight introverted personality types. Finally things clicked into place, and this new way of understanding herself inspired her to begin drawing comics about introversion.
“Creating comics became the best way for me to express myself,” she told me via email. “It helped me to be more open, understand my flaws, and take things from a more positive and humorous point of view.”
Tung now lives in Birmingham, England, with her husband and young son. Before embarking on a career as an illustrator, she worked in an open office as a software developer (hell on earth for a quiet introvert like her). Constantly surrounded by people and noise, her job left her feeling exhausted and unfulfilled.
Eventually, she left her job to focus on making art. As an introvert and a highly sensitive person, she says there’s no place she’d rather be than in her home studio. Surrounded by books and art supplies, she feels free to be herself and create. “That’s the best feeling in the world,” she said.
Her first book, Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert’s Story, perfectly captures what it’s like to be an introvert living in a world made for extroverts. It follows Tung through graduate school, marriage, her first job, and finding her way as a young adult. “It documents moments in life when I was struggling with my quiet personality and eventually learning about my introversion and embracing it,” she told me.
She hopes her comics will show fellow introverts that they are not alone, and they don’t need to be fixed. “We all experience introversion in different ways and some, like myself, who are highly sensitive, also experience lots of anxieties and moments of self-doubt,” she explains. “Everything can feel intensely overwhelming at once, but in time, we will find the best ways to cope. When we learn to work with our quiet nature, that’s when we will find our voice.”
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Her advice to introverts who feel out of place in an extroverted world: “The important thing is to always stay true to yourself. It’s so cliché, but it really is the most important part of finding what works best for you and finding the right people who will support you and bring a positive energy into your life. There will be tough moments, but you will come out stronger. Remember that you’re not alone, and this is all part of the journey. Focus on your passions, the people you love, and what makes you happy. Life is too short for anything else.”
Quiet Girl in a Noisy World is available now. You can purchase it through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Tung’s website. Her latest book, Book Love, was nominated as one of the best graphic novels of 2019.
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