Let’s face it: the world really isn’t geared towards introverts. From school onwards we’re subconsciously taught that being outgoing, outspoken and sociable is preferable to being quiet, reserved and needing that all-important alone time. From the emphasis on group work in classrooms, to the unspoken rule of ‘the more friends you have, the better you are’ that exists in the school yard, we’re immediately taught that being extroverted is ‘better’.
I certainly can’t have been the only one who was constantly getting ‘needs to contribute more in class’ scribbled across their school reports, anyway! Or whose parents were told at every Parent’s Evening that whilst my schoolwork was good, I was ‘too quiet.’ Because being quiet is apparently a problem, and that bias continues on throughout your life, with most employers favouring the more outgoing candidates over reserved ones. Not to mention the stigma attached to having a quieter social life – because if you aren’t out partying on a Saturday night, then you must have no life!
With all this going on, plus all those well-meaning comments you get about ‘needing to come out of your shell’ and ‘speak up more’, it can be easy to feel bad about being an introvert, and I think that’s pretty sad. Introverts have so much to offer, so it’s a shame that so many are made to feel bad about being who they are, and often feel as though they have to fake being an extrovert to get by. I know I’ve personally been to job interviews where I’ve had to pretend to be more outgoing to get the job, when I know full well I could do it fine as myself.
And so that’s why I thought I’d write a post about why it’s OK – no, great! – to be an introvert. It’s only really been these last few years that I’ve truly began to accept that I’m an introvert (and a shy introvert at that!), and that I will never be a person who prefers going out to loud, bustling social occasions over sitting in and reading, or having a huge amount of acquaintances over a few good friends. I’ve finally began to accept that needing to be alone a lot of the time isn’t bad or weird – it’s just recharging, so that when I am out and about with people, I can give my very best.
I’m finally OK with being an introvert, and here’s why you should be too:
- You have value.
Whilst it’s easy to feel like being quiet makes you inferior to someone who is perceived as bubbly, or outgoing, it simply isn’t true. We’re all equal, no matter what our personality type, and we all have something to contribute to the world and society.
In fact, you only have to look at the many amazing contributions introverts have made to the world in the past to see the value in introverts, despite the cultural bias towards more extroverted qualities. Van Gogh, Albert Einstein and J.K. Rowling, for example, are three notable introverts!
- You have skills extroverts don’t.
I’ve spent a huge part of my life being envious of the typical extrovert skills I know I’ll never have – the ability to be around large groups of people for a long time without feeling drained, or finding small talk effortless.
However, there are plenty of aspects of being an introvert that I think many extroverts probably envy. Being able to spend a lot of time alone, for example, without feeling bored or lonely, or being a great listener and thoughtful problem solver. The different skills introverts and extroverts have tend to compliment each other, and both skill sets are equally useful and valuable, but in different ways.
- You’re not just an introvert – you are you.
Knowing whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert can be very useful, as it tells you where you get your energy from, and how you need to recharge: introverts need time alone, whilst extroverts need to be around other people. It can also help you understand a lot about yourself and how you interact with the world, as when I first began to understand the differences between introverts and extroverts (largely through Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts) it felt like a revelation. I wasn’t weird for enjoying alone time and silence – I was an introvert!
However, you aren’t entirely defined by your personality type, as there are so many different kinds of introverts and extroverts (for example, there are probably some fairly outgoing introverts out there, and quieter extroverts!), and we’re all our own unique mish-mash of characteristics and quirks. As humans we’re so much more complicated than a simple label, and as Carl Jung said, a person who was all one way or the other would surely be completely mad: we exist on a spectrum of introversion and extroversion, with many other factors contributing.
And so whilst I’ve spent this entire post going on about introversion and personality types as if it’s the be-all and end-all, it really isn’t: you need to be OK with being an introvert because you’re OK with being you, and introversion (or extroversion) is just a small part of your make-up.
So are you an introvert, and how do you feel about it? Have you ever felt like it’s an advantage or disadvantage? How have you come to terms with your personality type?