Last time I wrote a blog for the Project, I wrote about body image and dealing with people around you who may tell you that you shouldn’t look the way you look. I tried to make the point that you should do what you want to do and feel good no matter what people say. That’s want to talk about today, too.
So, I’m an introvert. And for a long time, I’ve felt really insecure about this. I’ve never been the person who’s had a big group of friends or who would go out several nights a week. When I was younger I used to be pretty quiet and I would have to get used to a new situation before being comfortable enough to speak. I’ve mostly grown out of it since then. It’s easier to talk to strangers for me now but I still consider myself to be extremely introverted.
When I was a teenager, everything around me was telling me to do things. Go out more, meet people, drink, experience things. And because I’m a teenager and I’m easily influenced, I felt obligated to do these things even though I didn’t feel like it. For a long time I felt extremely guilty for having to answer ‘nothing, just hung out at home’ to the question ‘so, what did you do this weekend?’
And it wasn’t even just socially that it had influence on my life. When I was in college, I had to do three internships/work placements. On several occasions I was told in my assessment that I was too quiet, I didn’t show enough of myself, I didn’t show enough initiative. And naturally these things made me feel really bad.
It wasn’t till later, when I was about 21, when I came across a book called ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain in Waterstones, that I started to understand why I didn’t want the things ‘normal teenagers/students’ want. What caught my attention was the sub-title ‘The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’. I had identified myself as an introvert before but I didn’t really start accepting that until I read this book.
Cain goes to explain that the world has an extrovert ideal. We are told that we need to be extroverted to be successful. Introverted qualities such as sensitivity and seriousness are often considered to be negative or undesirable. Introverts are being shamed for being introverted, basically.
When I started reading Quiet, a new world opened for me. I started to understand and see the extroverted ideal that Cain was talking about in her book and I really took to heart the extensive research that she’s done on the difference between introverts and extroverts and the positive qualities in being an introvert. And, for the first time in my life I started to say to myself: you know what? I’m staying in and that’s okay.
We’re often told that ‘nothing will ever happen if you don’t go out there’ or that ‘being bored is for boring people’ but I think that some of us don’t feel the need to be adventurous all the time. I’m 23 now and in my last year of university. This would be the time to get wasted and go out every night and be a ‘typical student’ but I don’t feel the need to. I’d rather stay in and watch episodes of Hannibal while updating my blog than go out and go to a busy nightclub which will cost me loads of money.
I guess the point I’m trying to make, which I also tried to make in my last blog, is that you should do what you want to do and not let society convince you that it’s not good enough. If you want to go out, that’s absolutely fine. Go have fun. If you want to stay in, sit in your PJs on friday and saturday night and read a book, that’s absolutely fine, too.
I recommend Quiet for everyone who’s an introvert and might not be completely comfortable with it yet. This book will let you see yourself in a whole different light.
Be proud of who you are.
Some quotes from Quiet
“We live in a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal – the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight. (..) Introversion is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are.” (p. 4)
“Those considered charismatic by their top executives had bigger salaries but not better corporate performance.” (p. 53)
“Since when is solitude one of the Seven Deadly Sins?” (p.66)