EVERY single day, behind the protection of my eyelids, I would wander into my own uncanny but familiar world, disconnected from reality. A place where I can be myself, and enjoy the company of my own thoughts and nothing but. A place where I don’t have to be outgoing. A place where my introvert can luxuriate in the endless void. But reality, is different.
“Reality is a hologram of all my horrors at once.”
Day one of freshman year in college was the first time I forced myself to be outgoing. Even though I knew every single bone and marrow in my body would cast scorn on the very idea of going out and talking to total strangers, I had to do it. Just because I was advised to do so. It was for “my own good”. And so I did. I never really had a problem! Speaking for introverts as a whole, it’s a truth I’d wish the world understood. Introverts are NOT shy. They are two very different domains of people that happen to overlap in certain ways. An introvert has an inward flow of personal energy and is usually happy alone, with a rich imagination, and prefers reflection to activity. The introverted attitude includes a tendency to be shy. But shyness is about fear of social judgement and humiliation, wherein introverts are sensitive to over-stimulating environments. Quoting Susan Cain, the author of the bestseller, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking,
“Extroverts really crave large amounts of stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.”
Many people even link autism with introversion even though they are two very different things. Idiosyncratic behaviors, and aversion to highly stimulating and social environments could be due to introversion rather than autism. What marks the autism spectrum is an inability to read social cues and understand other minds, and that’s not characteristic of introverts.
The world has now shifted to an “extrovert ideal”, which loves the gregarious over the unsociable. So throughout freshman year, I ‘restrained’ myself to be outgoing! But beginning of sophomore year is when I could no longer do it. So one of my friends asked me to start writing, journaling and start discussing my ideas with someone I felt comfortable with. Now for me, writing was a horror too. Because writing, exposes personal feelings. And my style of writing would definitely expose a large part of me. It took me a while, but eventually I did start. I then recommended another friend of mine, with a highly introverted style of living, to follow the same. He did, but only to a certain extent. I felt his writing was brilliant! But he declined to share them with anyone else because he was afraid of others judging him and his work. He was afraid of even the accidental spotlight he might attract because of this. He was too comforted in the depths of his introversion. But that’s not a problem!
“He is just inextricably linked to his introversion.”
Also, I have faced situations where I get all the strange looks when I tell my friends about wanting to go out alone somewhere, or maybe stay away from their group discussions. This has also been the case when I would tell my high school I would rather do my assignments alone than to do it as a group. But this style of group work never helped me. Much better for everybody to go off by themselves, generate their own ideas freed from the distortions of group dynamics, and then come together to talk them through and take it from there. As William Whyte put it in his 1956 classic, The Organization Man,
“The most misguided attempt at false collectivization is the current attempt to see the group as a creative vehicle. People very rarely think in groups. They talk together, they exchange information, they adjudicate, and they make compromises. But they do not think. They do not create.”
We’re all surrounded by introverts. But I wish you could understand that we introverts sometimes go all the way to act out of character for the sake of work and for the people we love. I have such a strong inner life that I’m never bored and only occasionally lonely. But we need the breaks to be who we really are. We, as introverts, love to be totally engaged in what we’re doing, and most often than not, we’d rather do it in solitude. I would argue that that’s a wonderful and transcendent state to be in and it’s a happy state, but not necessarily the happiness of bubbly exuberance. It’s a different kind of happiness. Our cognition is well setup to process our thoughts clearly when in isolation.
“Don’t think of our introversion as something that needs to be cured. Introverts are just…… different.”
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