Now that I don’t have to stress about tests and assignments, I now have the time to enjoy a hobby that gets placed on the back burner during school: reading.
A particular book I devoured in the first two days of being home is Quiet by Susan Cain, a book I had heard about in passing previously but never had the chance to hold in my hands. And boy, am I glad I got to read it. Really, I wish I had read it when I was younger and constantly thought something was wrong with me, that I needed to act differently to fit in and feel normal.
Basically, I am a very strong introvert. As in most questions and tests determining your place on the temperament scale, I usually answer every introverted question as a “yes.” Before I even knew what introversion was, however, I didn’t understand myself. I thought I needed to become more outgoing, I needed to talk louder and more often, I needed to have more friends. I needed to spend more time with other people than relaxing on my own or, of course, reading.
As I’ve grown older and more into myself, I can now see how much I appreciate and value my personality. I choose my words very carefully and know that I will only use them for the most important reasons. I am constantly observing the world and noticing every little detail. I have a select number of relationships that are extremely close and meaningful. I am ridiculously empathetic and can tune into the subtler moods of those around me and feel moved by the best and worst I encounter.
And as the book also mentions, this world, especially Western culture, is designed for the extrovert. To be very bold and outspoken and charm your way toward achieving your goals. School, church, and the workplace all cater toward these traits. If I feel like I’m fading into the background, it’s probably because I am. In a larger group of people, the loudest voices will resonate more. That’s what we grow up learning as we participate in classroom activities and (dreadful) group projects.
The fact is, we all have some qualities of introversion. It simply makes us human. We’re social creatures, but we each have our limits to some degree. Even as people grow older, they may realize that they truly do need solitude to recharge despite their outgoing manner. Solitude is important for all of us. We can’t design every major institution in our society in a cookie-cutter fashion thinking that it will benefit everybody. In fact, it leaves out a significant minority, or potentially half of the entire population.
Rather than emphasizing teamwork and group effort and socializing constantly, let’s teach and promote some solitude, as well. Just like Susan Cain, I crave balance. Admittedly, I could learn a thing or two from extroverts when I need to stand up for myself and participate in the classroom and give presentations. But extroverts could also learn how to be comfortable alone in your own thoughts, how to choose when to speak only when the words are worthy enough to break the silence.
Simply put, we need to respect each other. It’s a yin-yang situation, where there is no wrong way to be or live. Introversion could not exist without extroversion, except the way we choose to live does not correspond with that. If we weren’t meant to have both personalities exist, natural selection would have phased introversion out long ago. In fact, most species on the planet have some form of both temperaments, but we are a species sophisticated enough to recognize that fact.
Most people probably fall more into the term “ambivert.” You have a pretty equal mix of both extroversion and introversion. In that case, it must be either very easy to adapt to any environment or very confusing to try and figure out your true nature. You represent that sometimes awkward balancing act we as a population are learning how to master, and you too deserve just as much recognition as anybody else.
Without introversion, we would not have the inventions and masterpieces we cherish and rely on every single day. The level of concentration required to master a skill and conjure up the most amazing ideas come from some level of solitude. And, ultimately, I believe that if you can’t be comfortable being alone, you can’t truly appreciate being with others. I have definitely found that I can love my time alone, independent and doing my own thing, and can selectively choose my company and enjoy the presence of somebody else, somebody I know who uplifts me and makes me content. I don’t have much patience anymore with others who drain me. If I had to choose between never going to another party ever again or never having a quiet evening at home…that’s not even a question.
But again, nobody should ever feel compelled toward either pole. We need both solitude and socialization to achieve optimal wellness. We also need to understand each others’ preferences and know how to interact with each other accordingly. Don’t frown upon those who want to work from home nor those looking for an open office space shared by many others. Don’t devalue collaboration nor individual brainstorming.
Quiet is not synonymous for weak. Silence can speak louder than our own words ever could.
Take care, and keep the faith.-Allie