Introverts in an Extrovert World

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I am an introvert. Mostly. 

The line dividing introvert and extrovert natures in most of us is grey and a bit blurry. But we tend to lean more into one most of the time. Having said that, our ‘way of being’ can and does change throughout our lives.

I would not have described myself as an introvert 5 to 10 years ago. My last few years at school and my first few years into ‘adulthood’ were filled with excitable chattering, loud music, parties, energy filled activities and a happy confidence. 

But slowly my likes and dislikes changed. I found I had different needs and wants. I was no longer a night owl, but preferred to wake up early to enjoy the quiet before the rest of the world woke up.

I would listen to mellow music, or none at all. I enjoyed reading or going for walks alone. I chose to stay in rather than go out, and would hang out with one friend at a time, rather than a whole group.

I listened more and spoke less. I became gentle and noticed more in my surroundings.

This change did not happen over-night, as changes rarely do, and I had changed so much before I realised how different I had become from my younger self. I started to feel uncomfortable being so quiet and relaxed in my nature.

Many people question when others are quiet.

They notice the ones sat on their own and wonder why they are not joining in.

When other people did notice me and questioned my actions, or lack of, I found it hard to respond. I didn’t mind that they were more boisterous or lively. It didn’t bother me that we were different, so why did they seem to worry about me? 

I was always happy being left alone, but I started to realise that people who are more involved simply want everyone to be having a good time like they are. And quiet people draw attention to themselves.

If you’re the life and soul of a party and you see someone sitting by themselves, you want to make them feel as good as you do.

But often these people are happy by themselves or talking quietly with another person. And sometimes, just sometimes, they’d rather not be there.

They are thinking longingly of their beds and wondering how long they should stay until they can politely leave the ‘fun’. 

I know this, because I’ve been the quiet ‘unusual’ person at many gatherings and was usually content when socialising with the cat rather than with the other guests.

This isn’t to say that sometimes introverts can’t have excitable moments, or that some extroverts can’t be mellow and relaxed. It’s my view that we all have both sides within us, and are somewhere on the scale between the two. 

However, I never considered labelling myself as an ‘introvert’. To be honest, I’d never really felt the need to label myself as anything. I was happy for others who felt pride or who found the confidence they needed in describing themselves as one thing or another, but for me this didn’t matter.

I didn’t feel I needed to have a label and as I was changing so much I don’t think I could have decided on any one description for myself. Attaching labels can seemed final, solid, with no room for development or to evolve. They can feel restricting.  

But labels can be useful too. If you describe yourself as an extrovert, you immediately have a long list of characteristics which you can use to your advantage; confident, out-going, social, uninhibited, friendly.

Of course, there are disadvantages, but everyone is made up of positive and limiting characteristics. The only thing is, that introverted attributes are not so widely and loudly valued or considered.

I didn’t think in depth about the characteristics of introverts and extroverts until reading the book ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ by Susan Cain. 

Cain explains how, especially in Western cultures, often introverted qualities are underestimated and cast aside, leaving many introverted people undervalued and wasting their talents by trying to fit into an extroverted world. 

She refers to most aspects of life; family, romantic relationships, school, working environments, and social situations, giving in-depth explanations on where strength lies in being introverted or extroverted. 

She sets up a powerful message to everyone; we all have qualities and gifts which should be explored and utilized, never ignored, stifled, or taken for granted. 

This book is a beautiful read, it’s heartfelt and passionate. It definitely opened my eyes, and spoke to my extroverted side too. It’s been amazingly useful in understanding who I am, what my needs are, and how I can interact and be successful - without getting burnt out trying to catch up to the extroverts. 

It helped me to not overlook my own skills, or those of others, and to see how I can use my introverted qualities to contribute and be of service.

As an introvert I spend time reflecting and planning. I spend time meditating and practising slow yoga. I enjoy my own company and don't feel lonely. I enjoy quiet spaces and don't get distracted by the prospect of socialising. I don't feel the need to speak out loud or connect with people everyday.

I’ve found so much joy in my sense of quiet, and now really appreciate this part of me.

I've also learnt more about the seemly negative introverted tendencies I have and how to cultivate them to serve me.

For instance, I find it difficult to concentrate if there is loud noise or lots of people around me and I'm much less productive in group activities as I become distracted by other people.

I've noticed how more extroverted situations do affect me, and how to manage my time and energy to cope. And found it can be helpful to be around extroverts sometimes.

Extroverted people can encourage and motivate me, or offer different perspectives. It can be like hitting the re-set button and getting refreshed if you're hitting a wall with work or a project.

Sometimes, I have to say, I do spend a bit too much time alone and I realise that I haven't seen or spoken to another human being for too long. But this is great, it's my mind and body's way of telling me I need to socialise, and I get to choose when to reach other to friends and family.

Plus, I can suggest a more introverted activity, like going for a walk in the woods, watching a film, or sitting quietly in nature, no book, no phone, no distractions. Just being. Sometimes extroverts appreciate doing more relaxed activities too, and it can help them if they've been feeling stressed or are struggling with their work.

I’ve come to realise that it doesn’t really matter where you are on the scale of introverted and extroverted, you are somewhere on that line, and you do have power to embrace. 

There is strength in every way of being, and we are all so much more than introverts and extroverts. It can help to identify where you are on the scale, but if you’re not sure and you feel you move between both ends, then don’t worry.

You’re normal in being you, and you never, ever, have to compare yourself to anyone else. 

For those of you who do identify strongly as being introverted, then yes, you may find yourself living in a space directed towards extroverted people, but you have a lot to offer the world too.

Make room for yourself, and don’t hide away from the qualities you do have. They will serve you, and all aspects of your life, in the long run.

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