I am part of 33-50% of the population – an introvert!
I am not a big talker (although the older I get, the more that is shifting)! I think a lot. I mull things over. I organize. I can easily get lost in my own head. I can put on a brave front and tackle the world, be friendly, lead. But when life starts to bustle and I have too many appointments or too many deadlines, and my “to-do” list starts to hang over my head (even if it’s just my perception), I crave solitude. I get cranky. And I just need “space”! We claim that we highly value individuality, and we’re certainly more accepting of our differences, but generally extroverts are more admired. Talkers are rated as being smarter and better-looking. They are considered more interesting because they appear bold and comfortable in the spotlight. Extroverts are energized by social interactions.
By definition, an extrovert is “an outgoing, overtly expressive person.”, while an introvert is “a shy, reticent, and typically reserved person”. Even the recently revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders includes the fear of public speaking in its pathology. In other words, if am an introvert, I am a psychologically unsound and self-centered person who seeks restoration through introspective activity?
Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking wrote “there is zero correlation between the gift of the gab and good ideas”. Introverts are often noisy internally, and combined with noisy environments, they become distracted and overstimulated. Cain explains that “introverts work more slowly and deliberately…They like to focus deeply on one task at a time and often they have mighty powers of concentration”. Introverts are often creative and make good leaders because they are less likely to seek the spotlight for themselves. They are socially different, but not anti-social.
Extroverts didn’t used to be as highly-esteemed. In fact, personal character attributes were more highly valued until the 1920’s, when self-help books shifted the focus from developing our inner character to developing how we are viewed by the outside world. As a result, countless introverts have tried to look like extroverts – not only do they appear like phonies, but they lose a part of themselves.
Thankfully, with new technology (like this blog), there is hope for a greater understanding and appreciation for both extroverts and introverts. More introverts are meeting and developing relationships with new people, as well as finding and expressing their voices online. I’m not sure if I’m finding my voice, but I’m certainly excited at the prospect that I can have one!