I recently listened to a TED Talk on Introversion by Susan Cain, http://www.ted.com/speakers/susan_cain.html, and this is a reaction to that piece.
My life has not been a series of Unfortunate Events-I could give countless examples of people trying to change me, looking down on me for not being outgoing and trying to coerce me into fitting in with everyone else. I think sometimes quiet people come off as haughty and self righteous, like I know what’s in my head is right so I don’t have to verbalize it, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am scared of social interactions and outgoing people intimidate me. And the more I am criticized for who I am, if I’m lucky and feeling extra strong, I’ll get angry, but usually, I’ll move deeper into my shell. Another common misconception is that introverts are lazy and by not taking risks, they have an easier time of it and so being quiet is an active and manipulative method to get ahead, to do better than extroverts. Again, if this were something I could change, I would!
Society has made me feel guilty for who I am and I’m never happy with my actions. I always scorn myself for not just saying something in class to participate and on the rare occasion when I do, I hate what I say and I wish I’d just stayed quiet. I would say that I’m shy also which isn’t a quality of introvertism but the combination of the two makes life pretty miserable at times. The way that I respond to social stimulation is evident in most parts of my life. I never rise to the occasion, like in big races in running, because I dislike stimulation, I’m content to run alone. I fail at oral presentations because I am so uncomfortable that I seize up. All of my school life, I have had “poor grades” for class participation because of being an introvert.
Like Susan Cain said, people have it in their heads that creativity and leadership comes from the extroverts. So in school, everything is designed to force each individual to become part of a group, like group projects, group work on questions, even the set up of the classroom where more than one student sits at a desk and students face each other. Most people wouldn’t think twice about introverts vs extroverts, they would even just categorize them as shy vs outgoing, but what we introverts feel is close to the end of the world when we have a bad encounter. I don’t want to be completely cut out of society and to be all on my own; I just wish people were more aware and sensitive. People just never know what another is going through and it is the worst feeling to be criticized while already feeling very fragile. To that end, without going into too much detail, I had a miserable cross country season and went into track so excited for a completely different yet familiar experience. One of my coaches accused me of alienating myself and acting like a prima donna in the first week of practice. I know that is not who I am but my feelings and self esteem were crushed in that quick instant that my coach probably never thought twice about.
I think the worst part about being an introvert is knowing that people are worried about me and see my actions as problematic. Extroverts are actually problematic for me! I have become more focused on making other people happy and think positively of me that I have little room left to be who I want to be. I know that the reality is that introverts need to figure out how to work in a world of extroverts. But I think more people are introverts than we/they know and our world could be a much better place if more people recognized who they are and saw it as a strength. I especially enjoyed Susan Cain’s 3 simple recommendations-1.stop the madness for constant group work 2.go to the wilderness-get inside your own head 3. take a good look at what’s inside your own “suitcase” and show others what you have inside occasionally