Last summer I read an article in The Huffington Post that literally changed the way I viewed myself.
The article, ’23 signs you’re secretly an introvert’ – was a simple enough piece and perhaps not all that scientific – but revolutionary in what it conveyed.
Reading the article and steadily checking off the attributes, from being ‘easily distracted’, ‘noting detail’ and always picking a ‘seat on the end of the tube’;’ to ‘alternating between work and solitude and social activity’ , ‘screening calls’ and being ‘better at communicating in writing’, my ‘secret introversion’ all clicked in to place.
I always felt awkwardly ‘quiet’ deep down; but thought I had outgrown the days of reading books on my own at breaks in junior school. Now I work in communications and my core hobby is meeting up with my friends to chat shit over wine. When I mentioned my newly discovered introversion to some friends they were surprised, even sought to reassure me it wasn’t true, although my family have always known.
Admitting to being an introvert can feel like just another thing for shy people to feel shy about. Introverts can be seen as anti-social, lacking personality and confidence. There are certainly some ‘signs’ on the HuffPo list that it feels a little embarrassing to admit to – for example while I enjoy live entertainment, I hate crowds and don’t get ‘high off my surroundings’. I’d have more fun one on one with close friends.
In the workplace – especially my area, communications and marketing – introversion can be viewed negatively – almost as a sign of weakness, an awkward characteristic that needs to overcome. Only on Friday I had a discussion with an extrovert about how minority introverts should be ‘integrated’ into teams of extroverts so they can adopt the same level of confidence presenting. I found myself standing up for those individuals, telling my colleague there is often a difference between being shy and introverted, but that introverts might often spot the details others miss by listening and analysing more. One friend – and fellow introvert – summarized the quandary perfectly: “E’s’ never have to justify their behaviour to ‘I’s”, he said “whereas we have to explain ourselves all the time”.
Susan Cain author of ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’, said in 2012: “A widely held, but rarely articulated, belief in our society is that the ideal self is bold, alpha, gregarious…Introversion is viewed somewhere between disappointment and pathology.”
So without turning my introversion into full introspection, I plan to read up on Cairn’s the secret power of introverts – some say it can be a real asset, but more than anything I’m aware that if I’m not careful it could hold me back.