As a Christmas present to one of my favourite introverts, I gave him a book called “Quiet: The secret power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking”. In the spirit of decency, I gave it to him before I read it and still haven’t managed to read it yet (unlike my brother who buys me books as presents because HE wants to read them), but the title struck a chord with me.
I’m a not-so-secret introvert.
Now, the idea of introvert vs extrovert is somewhat binary, and obviously a bit too narrow to describe the massive spectrum of human personalities. However, we can broadly split people into two groups – those who go to parties and are more or less energised by the idea of interacting with a a whole bunch of new folk, and people like me who more or less want to leave early. Make no mistake, I like hanging out with friends as much as the next dude, operative word being FRIENDS. Large groups of unknown randoms though? Thanks, but I’d rather go to the library.
Even with friends, there’s only so much interaction I can take before I feel rather drained and want to exit to recharge my batteries. It can be hard explaining to someone that really, it’s not you, it’s me. You have done absolutely nothing wrong -your conversation is stimulating and your body odour is on point, but I just want to be by myself right now.
Strangely though, I don’t feel like a shy person. In fact, I’m extremely forthcoming with my opinions, and even in a crowd of new people, if I really want to say something I’ll say it. I actually really enjoy public speaking – no anxiety about standing up in front of random people at all. Just please don’t throw me into that crowd of people and ask me to ‘network’ – there will be some socially awkward moments.
Some of my grumpiest moments have been at church campus where I’ve had to share a room with someone in a chalet full of people, surrounded by even more people, for a whole week. By Thursday, I’m over humanity. Not as individuals – just as a collective.
This world can be a cruel one for introverts though -if you’re not careful, you’ll be accused of being stuck up, arrogant, boring and stand-offish simply because you don’t bounce into the room like a ping-pong on speed. And there is nothing wrong with ping-pong balls on speed. In my circle of closest friends, I definitely have a couple of extroverts and I love their company. They are great to go places with and hang out with.They attract people to them like chewing gum to pavements- it’s remarkable to watch and I sometimes envy them. But we are simply different and that’s ok too.
Just like extroverts need to learn to be considerate of people who aren’t as extroverted, I’ve learnt to not be selfish in my introversion. Sometimes, I don’t feel like hanging out but I do. Why? Because growing up and learning to be unselfish means putting energy and resources into relationships that matter to you. Sometimes I don’t want to go to an event, but the rest of my friends might want to, so I go anyway, safe in the knowledge that if I want to leave early or find a quiet spot I can, but my friends value my company and I value theirs, so it’s important that I show up for the moments that are important to them .
Take courage fellow introverts, there are lots of us out there who might appear to be the life and soul of the party but secretly carry an extra can of deodorant to counter the anxiety sweats . Your favourite speaker is very likely an introvert. Maybe that actor or actress plastered across the billboards. And probably the guy who owns Facebook.
As long as you’re confident in what you’ve been given to offer the world, there’s no point wasting time trying to be someone you’re not. The likelihood is that your introversion is linked to sensitivity, deep thought and great genius. Well, that’s what I tell myself anyway.
Are you a secret introvert? Do you think extrovert and introvert are too narrow to describe people?