Identifying with Introverts

Living in an age where boldness is always in business and shyness is out of style, it’s almost an anomaly to be an introvert. But that’s the personality I’ve identified with my whole life. As a young girl, I didn’t like meeting people, hated making small talk and would rather bury my head in a book than strike up a conversation. I definitely preferred solitude to socializing and I guess that’s how I acquired my love of reading and gravitated towards writing.   

Introvert? Absolutely. Lonely? Absolutely not.   

Left to my own devices, I would always find ways to entertain myself. I was never a social butterfly who needed people around me to be happy. I loved anything that had to do with books and words and as long as there was something to read, I was never bored. As an eleven-year-old, I remember picking up the dictionary to do some research on my own. The research? Searching for the names of birds, animals and flowers and painstakingly making a catalogue of my findings. To this day, I still have a very close relationship with the dictionary. It’s now www.webster.com but hey, I’m all for technology.

As I grew older and became an adult, I learned to leave my shell and interact with what was going on around me. This was mainly due to my involvement in the sphere of religious activities that kept me engaged and fostered in me an awareness of my social and human obligations. But even though I learned to change my behavior on the outside, inwardly I still had the leanings of an introvert.

There’s this saying that a leopard cannot change its spots, meaning one cannot change one’s essential nature. But the spots on a leopard is a physical characteristic which the leopard has no control over. It has nothing to do with the behavior and tendencies of the leopard. They are not mutually exclusive. Similarly, a person cannot change the physical features they were born with (I know there’s sex change and plastic surgery but you know what I mean here) but they can change their behavior and tendencies.    

So the question is, if people could change, why can’t introverts change to become extroverts? Psychologists, this one’s for you.

All I know is, there are things no matter how much I try, I still don’t feel comfortable doing them. I don’t do public speaking unless absolutely necessary. I still find it difficult to make small talk. I dislike phone conversations that’s more than two minutes long. I’m not comfortable in large gatherings and I’m even more uncomfortable among strangers. I prefer being on the sidelines than the center of attention and I’d rather be quiet than talk. These are all classic characteristics of introverts.

With all that being said, you would think that introverts are socially awkward and unsuccessful people. You couldn’t be more wrong. Yes, there might be some socialization issues to work on, but on the whole, introverts can have highly successful careers. Those who are celebrities may have a tendency to shun the limelight and be media shy but it doesn’t stop them from excelling in their chosen field.

Case in point is J.K. Rowling, the author of the famous Harry Potter series. Rowling confesses to being shy, and yet she is one of the most successful authors in history. There is a host of other famous people who have reputations for being introverted. Like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. As Gates says, “Well, I think introverts can do quite well. If you're clever, you can learn to get the benefits of being an introvert, which might be, say, being willing to go off for a few days and think about a tough problem, read everything you can, push yourself very hard to think out on the edge of that area.”

So I think being an introvert doesn't have to be the death knell of one's ambitions and aspirations. When necessary, introverts can crawl out of their cocoons and stand cheek by jowl with the extroverts. I mean, look at me. I’ve got a book, a website, a blog and a Facebook page out there. I’ve sure come a far way from that shell.

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