Ruminations about being an Introvert
Introversion is different about being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about, how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. So extroverts really crave large amounts of stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments. Not all the time – these aren’t absolute — but a lot of the time.
— Writer Susan Cain in her TED speech “The Power of Introverts”
I am an introvert and like many others, I grew up in a culture and time, where I didn’t know what the word ‘introversion’ meant. I was pressured to think that if you want to be successful, intelligent or to even look beautiful, you got to be an ‘extrovert’. Of course, back then I didn’t know that word too, so I just thought one need to always talk about something or keep on socializing. I have read copious amount of self-help articles to beat this ‘introversion’ and also the ‘shyness’ (it’s vital to understand that being shy and being introvert are not always the same thing). So, I was naturally thrilled the first time when I discovered the word ‘introvert’. I was elated to see many people on internet recognizing my need for solitude as ‘socially acceptable’. Nevertheless, internet says too much of a good things on a particular ‘topic’ that it becomes either a ‘myth’ or a cool ‘label’ to flaunt around.
One of the things that bothered me even after discovering the meaning for ‘introversion’ is my inherent hunger to be an extrovert (or to borrow the famous lines from Goodfellas: “As long as I remember, I always wanted to be an extrovert”). Yes, I have read numerous quotes, small books and watched inspirational Hollywood products which all says ‘embrace who you are, not what people expect you to be’. But, the minute I stepped outside into this ever-socializing world, I wanted to be a performer who can come across as ‘extrovert’. Of course, I have immensely failed in this. Even if I achieve some success when trying to be an extrovert, I feel like trapped inside my head. Susan Cain in her book “The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t stop Talking” noted that ‘introverts prefer cooperative environments, while extroverts favor competitive ones’.
We shouldn’t generalize introversion with this statement, but I felt this is somehow true, especially when I see a group of alert individuals in the extroverted work spaces, (working for 12+hours) who want to win over others and forever be an energizing device. I strive to be competitive in the wall-less offices, while clacking at the keyboard (and think about ‘cool’ things to say to others). All I want to do in those spaces is to achieve something from a cooperative effort. Not statements like ‘you’re not a perfect fit’ or ‘you aren’t quick on your feet’. As I said, internet loves introversion nowadays, but internet’s love could quickly turn the term ‘introvert’ into a glamorized doll. Our social media says introversion is the hip thing. I feel good that it is considered hip, but introversion is definitely the most exhausting thing. Just like everything else in this world, this too has its ups and downs. So it’s annoying to see when social media states how introversion is a field of sunshine & rainbows.
If movies tend to glamorize mental illness, social media is the tool to glamorize character quirks and anxiety disorders. And, being socially awkward is not a badge of honor. I hope that people stop using the words ‘socially awkward’ in their profile, status updates, and in any social gatherings. I have come across many so-called ‘introverts’ talking about how socially awkward they are. Even if I can relate to that awkwardness, it is irritating to see how this awkwardness or being weird is related to introversion. You see, the path we take in our lives, in general are weird and so every one of us have been awkward & had uncomfortable moments in life. So, one’s self-proclamation on social awkwardness doesn’t make him/her the adorable person. Another stupid thing the digital space says about introverts is that they will be rude, when you ask them too many questions.”Leave me alone. I want to be quiet”. No, we introverts don’t reject our friends’ concern and of course we always don’t have miserable look in the face. All of us human beings are rude, at one time or another, irrespective of introversion.
As an introvert, I like solitude but that doesn’t mean I hate conversations. A true, meaningful conversation with a person who really ‘gets me’ (& vice-versa) imbues an elated feeling greater than watching beautiful films. Sometime introverts do charge their batteries by preferring to be with people than solitude. The energy that flows in those conversations gives me a transcendent feeling stronger than the ones we all derive after hours of meditation. While this routine job in this competitive, yapping world drains the introverts, these meaningful talks are what keeps our mind active and energized. On the contrary, I have laughed and looked intrigued in some mundane conversation with friends, while thinking inward “I hope this conversation end soon. I got to get back to the interesting passage in that novel.” Maybe, it’s a feeling everyone has regardless of being an introvert. May be, as a human being who spends quite some time in social media, I have also learned to generalize things.
Susan Cain’s book on introverts was really inspirational and allowed me to come in term with my own introversion. But, there was a long debate within my mind about declaring the words ‘I am an introvert’. Of course, I am not doing it in front of people, although through this meandering article it may reach few people. There are times, I don’t believe in the terms ‘introverts’ & ‘extroverts’. There are times I think that these terms are used by many sites or blog to increase their traffic (now our site has also used these terms!). And, more often I think extroverts have all the fun in the world. I think they are above us in offices or in the spaces for socializing. One of my fellow introverted friend said to me that the extroverts are now conspiring together to pass off as ‘introverts’ in social media to attain the coveted ‘cool’ status and to continue their domination over introverts by passing off new set of rules for ‘introversion’. Yes it is ridiculous to think like that. Alas, in our world of dichotomization, sometimes all the things seem ridiculous & meaningless, introverted or not.