Loving My Introverted Self
When the same subject shows up repeatedly, I know that it’s time to write about it. A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with my naturopath who remarked that an introvert is someone who recharges by being alone, whereas an extrovert recharges by being with other people. “I’m an introvert” I stated. No doubt about it.
Later that same week someone posted a TED TALK video of author Susan Cain who has written a book called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I was enthralled by her talk and somehow felt vindicated.
Just days after I saw the video, an email showed up in my inbox from the Strand Bookstore here in NYC announcing that Susan Cain would be there talking about her book in a few days! I don’t ever remember receiving an email from them before. Awesome independent bookstore, by the way.
Well, I dragged my introverted self out of my cozy apartment to hear her talk. As I walked through the front door of the Strand, I turned around to hold the door open for the person behind me. It was Susan Cain.
What all of this synchronicity did was bring my attention to a very important part of who I am. An introvert. I have known this all of my life but it hasn’t been until recently that I embraced it wholeheartedly and honored that critical part of myself.
Interestingly enough, as I have become more comfortable with my introversion, I have left most of my shyness behind.
Painfully shy as a child and young adult, I no longer suffer that discomfort.
As Susan Cain points out, introversion and shyness are not the same.
“Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating.”
Even though at least a third of the population are introverts, Susan points out that our world has become extrovert-friendly. In our schools and in the workplace, working together in groups, problem-solving and socializing has become the norm–and often the required norm.
Introverts who generally do better thinking and working alone (most artists I know fit this profile) are often forced into behaving more like an extrovert.
A Manifesto for Introverts by Susan Cain
1. There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much”: thinkers.
2. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
3. The next generation of quiet kids can and must be raised to know their own strengths.
4. Sometimes it helps to be a pretend-extrovert. There’s always time to be quiet later.
5. But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is the key to finding work you love and work that matters.
6. One genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.
7. It’s OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.
8. “Quiet leadership” is not an oxymoron.
9. Love is essential: gregariousness is optional.
10. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi
Looking back at the little girl in the blue dress, I often wonder where the shyness came from. That was a bit rough. But the introversion I never seemed to mind.
I loved hiding in magical places in the bushes, up in a tree or in the garage. By myself. I needed to retreat from the busy neighborhood kids or after a day at school. A trip to the library was heaven.
Many years later, married and with two young children, I rented my first real studio. It was a raw space in a gritty, deserted part of Detroit, but I didn’t care. It was my respite. I loved being with my family, of course, but having a place of my own to recharge my battery was priceless.
I prefer a cup of tea with one good friend to a party with 20 good friends. I think they all know how much I love them–many of them blissfully extroverted (Manon and Monica!)–and understand by now my sometimes need for solitude.
I’ve always felt more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. I prefer being the observer rather than the observed. But lately, I’ve had this gnawing feeling that I’m being called to step out of my comfort zone a bit and share myself with the world.
I received an email not long ago asking me to conduct an interview with someone who I know and admire greatly. My heart literally stopped when I read the email and I felt nauseous. I just wanted it to go away. I could think of fifty people right off the bat who would love to do this interview. But I knew deep down that there was probably a reason I was the one being asked.
Susan Cain commented that if she hadn’t been able to convince her editor that she could speak to audiences during her book tour, we wouldn’t be reading her book right now. Her readers are grateful that she took those speaking classes she told us about. She speaks with confidence and grace while her lovely introvert still shines through.
I have spent the last two months in an introvert’s paradise. Others grumble about how boring January and February are, but they are two of my favorite months. I’m not kidding. I have been staying home, getting lots of rest, reading, writing, meditating, being quiet. I feel recharged and (sort of) ready to plunge into the busyness that I know is just around the corner. My friend and fellow introvert, Nancy, will be right by my side.
Tomorrow on that Hallmark holiday, whether you’re alone (surely you know that you’re never really alone) or with a partner, I hope that this Valentine’s Day you will embrace your inner introvert or extrovert and LOVE yourself for who you truly are.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
All my love,