Recently, I’ve been inspired by quite a few videos in the TED archive. Some of them help me understand aspects of my personality that I might have considered a bit of a weakness, at least in the past. For the sake of this post, I’m thinking about introversion, and how there does seem to be a sliding scale between extroversion and introversion and most people are somewhere between the two – being wholly introvert or extrovert would make someone a little odd, perhaps. In Susan Cain’s TED speech (below, with subtitles included), she discusses how she has always been an introvert, and that reading was a huge part of her life as a child. I completely related to this. I really think that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert at all. There’s nothing wrong with being an extrovert either – in life there is always balance, and its part of what makes life so interesting and varied.
I’ve always struggled with people, particularly at school, trying to make me into something that I’m not – namely, an extrovert. Basically, I cringed away from putting my hand up in class, for example, because I hated being put on the spot, when most of my focus was on reading the notetaker’s notes or trying to keep up in class. I can still remember the feeling of mortification when my pushy, but well meaning, support teacher was trying to encourage me (openly) to answer questions in class. Even when I didn’t really know the answer! It felt like a mountain to climb every time, and I had to psyche myself up to answer a question. That isn’t to say that I didn’t have friends or wasn’t curious about other people and didn’t want to get to know other people. Rather, it was just that introversion is more about thinking for yourself, being comfortable in your own company, happy reading and doing things on your own.
A lot of people find it hard to be comfortable on their own, which is okay too, but at the same time, I feel that its good for people to learn to be comfortable in their own company. To imagine things, to read or watch a film, to give themselves some time and space to sit and reflect. Our society is all about fast things, technology, everyone seems to be on the go and it feels sometimes as though people have forgotten the value of slowing down, taking time to think and be more creative. I like the hours when everyone is asleep, and I can read or write, or write blog posts like this one. When I can reflect and the illusion of a sleeping world is complete. Even though I know that other people are awake in other parts of the world, for me – this feels like quiet reflection, this is what introversion gives me. I don’t always feel as though I have to fill every part of my day with something busy and noisy. I like silence, even though I love to communicate too.
Even though I still battle with shyness (which isn’t necessarily a feature of introversion), I feel quietly confident. Some people feel the need to express their confidence loudly, in company, whilst I listen to people and think about it and then give my own opinion. Introversion doesn’t mean you don’t have an opinion, just that you don’t always express it with everyone. Susan Cain’s speech made me think about how people don’t have a lot of time for quietness, even though its a valuable trait in many ways. Being an observer of society means that people can conduct research, can write and give people insights, can think about things in different ways. People don’t always have a lot of patience in this society that is constantly moving and changing, and it makes me sad, because maybe people would get on better and be more tolerant if we valued both extrovert and introvert personality types. Perhaps children wouldn’t feel embarrassed or shamed about not being an extrovert – and might blossom into a quietly confident person.
Susan Cain also has a book out called Quiet: the power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, and I’m hoping to buy it and read it sometime soon…
Note: To turn on subtitles, click on the ’25 languages’ drop list and pick English (the list appears when you click play).