Introverts, Let’s Get Real…
We live in a culture where celebrity reigns, big personalities are praised, and all of society is urging us to do more, be more, go go go! We have a deep-seeded extrovert ideal in our world today, whether we realize it or not.
Susan Cain, in her book, Quiet, defines the “Extrovert Ideal” is “the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight,” preferring “action to contemplation, risk-taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt.”
Yeah, that’s not me at all. Hardcore introvert over here!
Introverts like me can feel so much pressure to act like extroverts: be outgoing, be loud, be on all the time and perform…but that’s not our nature.
How can we, the ones who might rather hang back and observe, listen, be quiet, and spend time alone, live and thrive in a world that holds extroverts in such high regard? How can we be truly ourselves without feeling like we have to play charades or put on a façade just to keep up with everyone else?
Hint: it’s not by acting like somebody (or some type) that we aren’t, and it’s not by hiding who we are. It’s about being real with ourselves and those around us.
Here’s what I (introverted through and through) have found to be helpful:
I let people know I’m an introvert. Straight up. Let’s silence the stigmas—we aren’t loners or recluses or social outcasts. We just interact differently with the world and the people in it. I bring up my Myers Briggs in conversations as a way of helping to explain why or how I feel a certain way about things (I’m an INFJ—anyone else?!). I say the word “introvert” freely, not hesitantly or cautiously. I am an introvert, and I’m proud of it.
I make adjustments to social settings and scenarios. I know that if I walk in to a full room or a crowded party or a full sanctuary, I’ll be overwhelmed, so I arrive early. I know I hate feeling trapped or stuck, so I make sure I sit on the aisle. I know I don’t like being in the spotlight, so I volunteer for behind-the-scenes roles instead. I don’t make a big deal out of it all, but I don’t apologize for it either. I’ll be happier and feel more comfortable if certain things happen, so I make the necessary adjustments.
I spend time in solitude. I know my heart and soul need this. I also know my creativity needs this. I need to recharge. I need to disconnect from people and pressures and technology. I need to put my pen to paper instead of typing all the time, need to read ink on paper instead of staring at a screen, need to breathe fresh air, seek adventure, connect with nature. I find time to get away from all the noise, the people, the to-do lists, knowing that when I return, I’ll be more present and engaged and ready for action.
I could tell people when I needed a break or just needed some silence, and they would learn to understand. Trying to hide it or fake it or lie about it was helping no one—my being real and honest and transparent, in contrast, helped everyone.
I’m real with the people around me. Authenticity and vulnerability are absolutely essential in forming and building strong relationships. For so long, I tried to keep up with my more extroverted friends, tagging along to all of their parties and staying up late with a room full of people and always traveling in groups, but it was exhausting to me. I learned that I didn’t need to act like an extrovert to be friends with the extroverts. I could say no to invitations that came my way without losing friendships. I could let my roommate know that I needed to go to bed at a reasonable hour instead of our room being the social hotspot. I could tell people when I needed a break or just needed some silence, and they would learn to understand. Trying to hide it or fake it or lie about it was helping no one—my being real and honest and transparent, in contrast, helped everyone.
Introverts, I know the world seems to rank us second-best. But here’s the thing—we aren’t any less than those who are more outspoken or expressive or action-packed. The world needs us to be really, truly, authentically us, and that comes from us being real with who we are, quiet and introspective and independent and all.
Images by Sandra Pagaimo via Flickr
Check out more of Rachel’s writing here: www.racheladawson.com