Being an introvert is often considered weak. They aren’t quite as good as the extroverts out there, who just seem to breeze through life. Not quite as confident. Not quite as fearless. Not quite as popular.
But that’s not necessarily true. Nothing should stop an introvert getting where they want to in life, even if they don’t sell themselves as a born leader.
People easily confuse the words shy and introverted. Of course, typically, introverts are quiet and reserved individuals. But I know extroverts with social anxiety. I know introverts who have sung on stages and performed main parts in West End shows. Just appreciating time to yourself, rather than a constant need to be surrounded by people, can be enough to know that you have introverted qualities.
As a child, I remember seeing J K Rowling on the TV, doing a live reading of the first chapter of Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone. The crowd was huge. Everybody had their eyes on her, yet she spoke in a calm, unraised voice. I shuddered at the possibility of having to do anything like that myself – how terrifying. But JK Rowling is an introvert. And so are many other successful people.
We live in a society carved out by extroverts. Don’t be a sheep. Participate in class. You won’t go far in life unless you speak up. This can make it seem as though the only way you’ll be the best version of yourself is to throw away the introvert in you. What people forget is perhaps the introvert in you is the best part of yourself.
While extroverts tend to speak more freely, introverts often hold back. When I haven’t added much to a conversation, it’s not because I’m being rude or antisocial – I just won’t say much unless I have something worthwhile to add. This means introverts are generally quite focussed people.
Being able to put your head down and be productive also means introverts can be very creative. We’re good at getting deep into things.
I used to wonder why my friends concentrated better while listening to music, while it just distracted me. But it’s not a case of introverts always preferring solitude – it’s more that our creativity thrives in lower-stimulation environments.
Introverts can be sociable people, but rather than getting our energy from others we recharge when alone. This is why many introverts may not have mountains of friends, but you know what? We make pretty good friends. We form deep connections with people and listen carefully, rather than just waiting for our turn to speak.
As society seems to favour extroverts, introverts have learned to adapt well. Sometimes you’ve just got to grit your teeth and work your way through that small talk. We are constantly teaching ourselves to blend in, but maybe it’s about time the introvert in us all stood out.