Our Society Hates Introverts

Okay, hyperbolic title, you say.  Maybe.  Sorta.  True?  Somewhat.

Okay, hate is a strong word. Perhaps I should say, our society tends to favor extroverted traits. Hell, I’ll let Susan Cain say it better than I can:

I like that she points out up front that introversion is not the same as shyness. I grew up shy, and I do have social anxiety, which may contribute to my natural introversion to some degree.  That said, my introversion may also be informed by the fact that I grew up an only child, in a rural area, and thus, had to entertain myself and develop interests which I could fully immerse myself in, such as writing, drawing, etc.  These are generally solitary pursuits, which I cultivated in hours spent alone in my bedroom.

Being a child of the 80s, there were no cell phones, no internet or social media. There were long summer days spent reading, and long winter nights spent drawing.

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Yup. I’m an introvert, who just happens to have social anxiety issues which cause me to be relatively shy with most people, until a pretty visceral level of comfort develops, if it ever does. I don’t “hate” people, I just dislike being forced to interact with others unless I choose to do so. I prefer my own thoughts, company, etc. generally speaking. As Susan Cain points out, introverts are at our most creative and “switched on” when we’re in the environment that is best suited to fostering those aspects of our selves.

I also happen to be a leader in my workplace, newly appointed to supervise my team. Whoa boy. I feel perfectly capable doing the job, and I do feel like I can be a good motivator and leader for the group. True to form, for me it’s more about developing a relationship with my team through my personal interactions with each member of the team. I much prefer one-on-one interaction to group settings.

For some reason, society deems it better to be outgoing, talkative, assertive, and so forth, than to be inward, quiet, and calm. Perhaps people don’t quite know what to make of someone who keeps to himself and doesn’t feel the need to blather on and boast all the time.  Blah, small talk – don’t even get me started on that one.

For me, a great evening would be a quiet night in by myself, or maybe with a really good friend (at most, two really good friends) with a movie, maybe some wine, some good food.  Just chilling.  I’m a total homebody.  Sure, I did more than mine-and-your-mother’s fair share of partying when I was in my 20s.  But I simply prefer a good Netflix show or a book to a night at the club.  And, here’s the takeaway, readers – that’s perfectly okay.

Sometimes I feel bad for “not getting out more” or some other such nonsense. Introverts shouldn’t shame ourselves, or be shamed by others who may not understand why we enjoy our quiet activities. We should work to foster understanding, by explaining our interests to others, and also by listening to our extrovert friends and loved ones, and trying to understand their interests. And most of all, we shouldn’t really worry about it, or let ourselves be pressured into activities that we aren’t attracted to. Sure, in life, we all have to make compromises sometimes – such as my job role, or going to a friend’s birthday party at a crowded restaurant when we’d really rather be at home with our cat watching Downton Abbey or painting our hallways – whatever. You get the point.

So, if I decline an invite, don’t feel bad.  it’s not you, it’s me.  No, really.

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