Photo credits- @goldicarus
Championing the introvert in a world catered for extroverts.
As an introvert one finds themselves going through life weighed down by the idea that they need to be fixed, that something is wrong with them. The world seems catered towards those who thrive in social situations, those who thrive off social situations, and the simple fact of the matter is that for some of us that is entirely too overwhelming. Extroverts need not be given the limelight because they are all too willing to take it for themselves. But in a world that has lived through a pandemic and learnt the benefits of slowing down, stopping and smelling the roses, maybe there is something more we can learn from wallflowers.
A good place to start is clarifying the difference between extroverts and introverts. Personality quizzes have taken the world by storm, from the enneagram test to the Brigg Myers indicator. It is a great way to better understand how you function and how to optimise your talents and potential. But people seem to commonly overlook the fundamental difference between an introvert and an extrovert.
An extrovert is a typically gregarious and unreserved person who enjoys and seeks out social interaction. Whilst an introvert is a typically reserved or quiet person who tends to be introspective ad enjoys spending time alone.
Let’s take a moment to break these definitions down. According to Merriam webster dictionary an extroverted person is “gregarious”, or outgoing and social. This is a person who seeks company because it in in this environment, an environment surrounded by people that an extrovert thrives.
An extrovert gains energy from the people around them, they bounce off the energy of those around them. This makes socialising easy and beneficial. An extrovert feels good after socialising which encourages them to socialise more, creating a knock-on effect.
This description and the adjectives associated with being extroverted have become something to aspire to in our society; extroverted traits are desired traits. Being extroverted has become the way to excel in a professional environment, considering how essential networking is (it’s not what you know but who you know), as well as succeed in an educational environment. Social skills and charisma are considered foundational in these settings, arguably giving those who are naturally more extroverted the upper hand.
On the other hand, introverts are described as “reserved, quiet and introspective” by Merriam webster dictionary. This means that introverts prefer to be solitary and observe. This is a person who may prefer staying home rather than going out. The cause of this is the social drainage experienced by introverts from social interactions. Whilst extroverts are charged up in the company of others, introverts feel the adverse effect of their energy tanks decline. Introverts feel charged up and energised by spending time alone. Society has deemed this a negative personality trait, with social constructs such as loner or antisocial, asserting the idea that if you are introverted you are in some way broken.
As a result of the stigma around being introverted or solitary many introverts may find themselves in a position where they are constantly forced out of their comfort zone. Whilst it is good to have new and different experiences and growth does begin outside of your comfort zone, constantly forcing yourself to participate in activities that you do not enjoy does not change your inherent nature. It can also be exhausting keeping up the pretence.
Constantly needing to be vocal can push you further inside your shell. Its high time that, as a society, we normalise the effects of social drainage. From personal experience I can attest to the fact that forcing myself to socialise beyond my limit means I am overcome with a wave of intense tiredness like getting hit with a truck load of bricks. Everyone is wired differently.
So, let us champion the characteristics of introverts as a celebration of our differences. This is not something that needs to be fixed about ourselves. It is not a coming-of-age movie where the character development consists of the protagonist being transformed from the shy awkward geek into the prom queen in a 2 hour period. Your introvertedness is a personality trait not a problem. You don’t need to change. Your appreciation of silence and life’s small moments is extraordinary.
Introverts, those of us who are social awkward, socially anxious, socially inapt come together in solidarity. We sit on the sidelines, we line the walls but do not count us out. Do not overlook our potential because we take a backseat in conversations. Do not mistake our quietness for lack of ideas. Our minds are effervescent, that is why we are so happy in our own heads, why we do not seek out the company of others. We are enough on our own.
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