I am an introvert. I had heard the terms "introvert" and "extrovert" before, but didn't quite know what they meant until Christmas of my freshman year of college (2012), when my dad gave me a book called, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. It's a running joke in my family that we are split down the middle; I look almost exactly like my mom (she and I have both been told over the course of our lives that we look like Molly Ringwald) and am very similar in personality to my dad, while my brother looks like my dad and acts like my mom. I put the book aside, meaning to get to it when I "had the time" and then came across her 2012 TED talk. I watched it late one evening when my roommate was home for the night, and it quite literally changed my life. Ms. Cain spoke about going off to summer camp with a suitcase full of books and believing that, at camp, she and the girls in her cabin would sit around and read books together. Instead, she was encouraged to be more "rowdy" and not read by herself so much. Immediately, I felt a connection, because I was (and still am) that girl, too. I never liked summer camp or huge slumber parties and preferred to work by myself on school projects. I had never understood, however, why I felt so different. This TED talk finally put a name to trait that my dad and I both share: we are both introverts.
Introverts are quieter and value our alone time as an opportunity to recharge and flourish creatively. It's not that we are shy (afraid of social judgement) or anti-social; in fact, there are plenty of introverts who love being around people. Being an introvert means that you function best in peaceful, more solitary situations or in smaller, intimate settings. We are more sensitive to stimuli, so we don't like a lot of noise, and being in large social atmospheres can be a little overwhelming and sometimes tiring. We need time to ourselves to recharge which can be quite frustrating to the extrovert who thrives from the high stimulation of large groups.
After watching the talk, I finally picked up her book and as I progressed through it, so many of my personality traits began making sense to me. We live in a world that praises extroverts; more and more office spaces and classrooms have open floor plans that rely on group collaboration which don't give people, especially introverts, time to work on their own. Personally, I have always detested group projects and "breaking off into groups" during class. Is working with others important? Absolutely. I just like working by myself more.
My most natural state is solitude. I love my friends and I have a great time when we're together, but if I want to go to a museum or a bookstore or a monument in the city, my first instinct is to just get up and go on my own. I could never understand, during my freshman year, why "going out" to a bar sounded so unappealing to me and why an evening curled up with a book or a movie clicked with me. It drove me crazy and I was panicking that I would never "fit in" and I tried to force myself to get out there more, but it never made me as happy as quiet settings did. I took some time this past weekend to rest and recharge after a few very long, hectic, and sleepless weeks, so I got plenty of sleep and spent quiet time in my room here. Let me tell you, it was fantastic. I feel so at ease and at peace right now, and ready to start my week because I had my time to myself. This book and Ms. Cain's talk taught me that it's okay to be an introvert and to embrace my intrinsic qualities and desires for quiet, more intimate settings. Rather than fight it, I should celebrate and embrace it and allow myself to be me. I love to read and write and practice yoga. Cooking and baking are meditative activities for me. I have always preferred independent sports like running, swimming, and biking. My happy weekend was spent reading and blogging and catching up on sleep and reflecting on what I need right now, spiritually, emotionally, physically, etc. Quiet has changed my life.
I am an introvert and I am inspired to be,
For more information on Susan Cain's book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, visit her website here