My senior year superlative in high school was “most talkative” – and trust me, I won by a landslide. Now, as a community professional my job is essentially to engage in as much networking and meaningful conversation around the company I represent. I’m outgoing, personable and charismatic. A great public speaker. But that doesn’t make me any less of an introvert.
Why is there such a stigma surrounding that word? Well, let’s attribute a large part of it to misunderstanding; very few people know what it truly means to be an introvert. It’s not that we aren’t social or don’t enjoy human interaction, it’s just that we aren’t fans of self-promotion and more importantly we find the whole thing truly exhausting. I’ve always hated the conundrum of explaining that to people and furthermore, feeling so completely misunderstood. In today’s culture of social media and frequent over-sharing, admitting to being an introvert has become a true insult. And yet – I refuse. I refuse to be ashamed of my contentment with myself; it is my introversion that has allowed me to do things so many others would never dream of doing. We just need to clear up a few things. And so I present – the idiot’s guide to introverts:
Introverts know themselves better than you realize, and that gives us our confidence. We’re often thought of as self-conscious wallflowers because we need so much alone time and aren’t dancing on tables at parties. It’s not that I don’t prefer the company of others, I just need lots of breaks per social interaction. This mostly translates into a lot of recharging and “me” time. We’re hesitant to put ourselves out there, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t confident. All of that alone time has allowed me to get to know myself in ways some people don’t in a lifetime, and I’m probably happier with myself than 80% of my peers.
There’s no FOMO, and a lot of time for me to do the things that I love without waiting around for someone else who wants to participate. I’m thankful for my introversion because it has allowed me to discover who I am and truly have the confidence in that person to just be me.
As an introvert, I’m not afraid of you…I’m afraid of me. This is the part I have the hardest time explaining: yes, I’m afraid to openly share a huge majority of my ideas. It’s my biggest fault. But it’s not because I’m afraid of you judging them, heck I think I made it pretty clear how comfortable I am with myself a few sentences back. What I’m more afraid of is failure, and perhaps disappointing you. I don’t like the positive spotlight because I always fear how quickly the tides can turn – if I get too comfortable in the glow, who’s to say it won’t flash to darkness tomorrow?
What it really comes down to is some weird form of self-doubt that I can’t truly put into words. So really, it’s not you – it’s me. Most introverts are perceived as quiet and passive, but the fact is I want to be 100% sure of what I’m putting out into the world. This is actually a plus for anyone working on a team with an Introvert – we won’t speak often, but when we do it’s sure to wow your socks off.
I’m fueled by self-expression – not self-promotion. I see so many of my friends posting on Facebook when they get new jobs, or finish marathons, etc. They check in to literally every. single. party. The list goes on of all the ways they promote their incredible lives via social media. As an introvert, I’m here to say I will never be comfortable doing that. I know I should be proud of all the amazing things I’m accomplishing, but it’s just not in my genetic makeup to be prideful like that. Today, the levels with which we self-promote have skyrocketed and you’re some sort of “loser” if you aren’t along for the ride.
The fact is I love social media as much -if not more than – the next guy, but for me it’s about true artistic expression (or let’s face it, that amazing joke I just came up with waiting in line at Starbuck’s). I don’t get the personal satisfaction from likes or people knowing the cool place I’m at; I’m satisfied putting my thoughts into the world and finally having an outlet to unabashedly express the real me.
Sometimes Netflix will be more interesting to me than a crowded bar full of new people. Sorry. Or maybe that’s just a me thing? Are all introverts like that? IDK. When is the new House of Cards coming out???
So there you have it folks. Introverts are amazing, one-of-a-kind people. Bless us with patience, and I’m promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised. That shy guy at the office might have some of the best ideas on your team, he just needs the right atmosphere to get ’em out there. That girl you’re dating that definitely likes you but sporadically agrees to dates? She just needs a little social recharge! Start giving the introverts in your life the benefit of the doubt – it’ll be worth it, I promise.