I don’t know where I heard this recently, but I knew immediately it fit for me: I am an extroverted introvert. You would never know I am an introvert to look at me, or see me in a group of people because, well, I appear extroverted. People who know me might describe me as outgoing – I do have a lot of friends and I genuinely like people. But I have learned that I need to have a certain amount of time on my own, otherwise I just don’t do well. I somehow don’t feel right. I used to think this was becausene I grew up as an only child. Maybe so. But I think it goes deeper than that. It is something fundamental to who I am, and always has been. Growing up, my favorite world was that of books and ideas – and still largely is. I love people, but I also love being alone. The first time I read Thoreau’s words, “I hae never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude,” I instantly liked the man. I find quiet and solitude nourishes me, in a way that nothing else does. And, since I know that about myself, I make it a priority to give myself that space on a pretty regular basis.
I recently heard a talk given by Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Cain is a former corporate lawyer, and describes herself as an introvert. She also notes that one-third of the population are introverts. Being an introvert can be difficult in this culture where being social, outgoing, popular, are looked on as the ideal. Cain, though, argues that introverts bring their own unique gifts and capabilities to the table and that some of the world’s most celebrated achievers have been introverts. In her words: Eleanor Roosevelt,
Rosa Parks, Gandhi — all these people described themselves as quiet and soft-spoken and even shy. And they all took the spotlight, even though every bone in their bodies was telling them not to. She goes on to point out that we all – extroverts and introverts – bring different strengths, abilities and ideas to the bigger picture of life, all of which are equally valuable and necessary.
In today’s hyper-communicative world, it may not seem quite as ok, socially speaking, to be an introvert. But I’ve learned to enjoy and embrace this part of me. Anyway, as Susan Cain says, “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” I like her, too.