During the past few years, I have had this urge to rediscover my childhood self. As a little girl, I felt comfortable in my introverted skin. I was the girl with glasses – too big for her face – who read as many library books as she could get my hands on. I had this tight little circle of friends, loved gymnastics, and lived on the same road as my entire extended family. I was known.
My family moved, and I changed schools just as junior high started. With the intense social pressures of a new school, junior high and then high school – I started wearing a few masks to make it easier to fit in with the popular crowd. As the new girl, I had this urge to “self-promote,” to be seen and understood. By the time I entered college, I was exhausted with the act and finally ready to settle back into my true nature. After a turbulent first semester (isn’t everyone’s like that?), I found my routine – going to bed before curfew, reuniting with my high school sweetheart (and soon-to-be husband), and focusing on academics, instead of climbing the social ladder.
But somewhere in the back of my mind, I wondered if I had given up or if I was less than, because I wasn’t seeking out attention and was more comfortable with a small circle of friends and spending quiet nights at home relaxing. Was it wrong to be introverted?
While reading the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I felt this burden lifting from my shoulders. The book explains how our culture has managed to create an ideal of extroversion that leaves some of us feeling marginalized. The seriousness, sensitivity and shyness of introverts are often portrayed as weaknesses. Using a combination of scientific studies, cultural comparisons, and personal stories, Susan Cain argues that introversion is not a character flaw, but a powerful force to be harnessed.
Here are a few things I am re-learning about myself:
I prefer listening to speaking. But if I’m passionate about something, like teaching, I can work outside my comfort zone. I usually prefer reading to partying (like “clubbing” in college…yuck). I recharge and problem-solve best when I’m alone. The meanings and feelings surrounding an event are important to me, while extroverts simply live the event. I often find myself analyzing situations, and I’m “in my head” a lot. I am highly sensitive to sounds, meeting new people, and overwhelming social environments (about 70% of introverts are “highly sensitive”). I blush easily. I have high concentration capabilities and work best when uninterrupted. And like most introverted bloggers – I express myself best through writing.