I’m currently 44 years old, but it wasn’t until my late 30s that I learned about my personality type, the “elusive and mysterious” introvert. I spent most of my childhood and young adult years growing weary of others continually asking me why I was so quiet, or why I preferred to spend time at home so often, instead of going out and painting the town.
All of us introverts can probably agree that society puts a great deal of emphasis on being extroverted, and that introversion is often seen as the “lesser” personality type. I feel like everywhere a person looks, there are messages from society that say “successful” and “well-rounded” individuals are loud, proud, and very social beings. I am the exact opposite of that — an introvert in the fullest sense of the word.
Like many introverts, I will never be comfortable as the center of attention, with all eyes on me. And no doubt, I will absolutely never look forward to speaking in front of a large group of people, or any situation that requires me to sell myself or “show off” my accomplishments.
That’s the lovely introverted soul in me. And, although it has taken me nearly half my life to do so, I’ve learned to be okay with my quiet nature — even proud of it. Here’s why.
I Thought Something Was Wrong With Me
As far back as I can remember, I felt like I had to apologize for not flourishing in social settings. It made me feel inferior and like there was something wrong with me. It got old quite quickly. Why couldn’t people just mind their own business and let me be me? Why did they care so much, anyways? If I preferred to sit back and observe more than to talk and participate, I didn’t see a problem with it.
So why did so many others? Why were so many people pegging it as weird?
I think it was in the 6th grade that a music teacher pulled me aside one day to talk to me. She told me that she thought I had a pretty singing voice, and that it could be a solo voice, but she wondered why I “sang as quiet as a mouse.” She literally asked me, “What’s wrong with you? You should be up front singing a solo. C’mon! Stop being so quiet and mousy and show the world what you got.”
I thought about what she said to me, and I was very happy that she gave me recognition for my voice, but the thought of doing a solo was not my thing at all. In fact, it gave me incredible amounts of anxiety and nervousness. The mere thought of it absolutely terrified me.
Of course, not all introverts would react the way I did to my teacher’s request, and introversion and anxiety are not the same thing. Nevertheless, a solo from me was never, ever going to happen. It was just too much attention.
And I didn’t appreciate her calling me quiet and mousy. That hurt my feelings.
The next day in music class, I politely told my teacher I did not want to try out for a solo part, and she seemed angry with me. She told me I had so much potential, and I was wasting it. But really, was I wasting it? Did I really have to show off my voice in front of others? Maybe I just enjoyed being a part of the choir!
About a month or so later, we had a choir activity that had us breaking off into small groups of five or six and performing as a little acapella group. It was really fun. And the best part about it was the fact that I got to stand in the back row (and admittedly try to hide a bit behind my much taller classmates) and not be the center of attention. But I still got to sing my heart out and feel proud about how good my group sounded. I knew we sounded great, and that it was partly because of me!
It’s Okay for Me to Be Quiet
I’m sure my teacher meant well when encouraging me to try out for a solo. I was flattered, but I knew right away that it was not my cup of tea. It took nearly 40 years of my life to realize that it is completely okay for me to just be myself around others and not want to be front and center. It’s acceptable for me to be quiet sometimes. It’s who I am.
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I’m not saying that introverts should never try to challenge themselves or step out of their comfort zone. But for me, I feel as if I’m finally growing into my own skin and realizing that as an introvert, I bring just as much to the table as anyone else, even if I present my talents a little differently than most. All the societal misconceptions about introversion are really just others’ opinions, after all.
Even though I’m a bit on the quieter side, I am always watching, observing, and soaking in my surroundings. I often notice little things others don’t. I’m not comfortable opening up to others until I get to know them. Small talk can be painfully nightmarish for me, and I avoid it at all costs. But on the flip side, I am very intuitive, unique, and creative. I’m okay knowing that I often march to the beat of my own drum.
And most of all, I am just me.
I’m done with constantly feeling the need to apologize for who I am. Instead, I’m incredibly proud to be one of the millions of introverted souls in the world. There is a place for us introverts, despite the fact that we may navigate life a little differently than our extroverted counterparts.
Introvert, You Have a Lot to Offer
Dear introvert, if you feel ashamed of your quiet ways, know that there is a lot of power in quietness. Since quiet people aren’t always talking, they take the time to really listen. I feel that many of us introverts have a true gift of making others feel valued, because of the fact that we listen to their story and do our best to understand it. We make the world a better place because we bring empathy and kindness to it.
If you feel ashamed or bad about being an introvert, try to focus on all the good you bring to the world. I think you may be surprised at how much you have to offer.