I don’t want to change the world, I just want to stop pretending.
I recently came across a book called ‘Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking’ by Susan Cain which completely spoke to the quiet and passive individual I have been for most of my life. The author focuses on the idea that the extrovert ideal that society portrays is no longer as powerful and believes that the qualities that introverts bring to the table are often undervalued and misunderstood. I found it a truly life changing book which has inspired me to share my own struggles with my personality and my thoughts on the subject.
I’ve always thought that from the day we are old enough to learn anything about the world, we are conditioned into believing that being a certain way will get us further in life. Society seems to dictate that in the midst of so much noise, you have to be loud, outrageous and outspoken to get noticed. Even social media dictates that the most popular/liked/talked about people are ones who do everything, say everything and share everything (Yes it’s true, while you’ve done 5 charity runs and had an amazing holiday, I’ve watched 5 seasons of Parks and Recreation back to back). It took me a while to realise that we are not all the same and more importantly, we don’t need to be.
Growing up I was extremely insecure about my shyness and the lack of ability to be outspoken. Comparing myself to other people I often felt boring and anti-social. In fact throughout my school life I constantly tried to change myself. I was convinced that if only I could be louder and more outgoing, I’d be happier. At the time it seemed like a fool proof plan (I know, this is shaping up to be like every teen high school movie ever) but the result was that I just became more withdrawn and frustrated with myself.
As they say, with age comes some sort of wisdom. As I grew up and got out of the claustrophobic bubble that is education, I got to the point where I simply gave up. I had tried (and failed) to be this loud and confident ideal and I had simply become tired of pretending. I pretty much evolved into Ebenezer Scrooge (luckily I didn’t have a penchant for flannel pyjamas, or have any ghosts visiting me in my sleep telling me I’d made a mistake). What I found is that I could focus on what my strengths were. I found that in world where there is an increasing amount of noise from every platform, people are more likely to stop and listen if you’re selective with what you put out there.
Embracing my quiet nature, I found comfort in only speaking when I felt like speaking. I enjoyed thinking carefully about not only what I wanted to say, but the words I chose and how I wanted to deliver them. As I result I was surprised at the extent to which people appreciated the thought that had gone into something a quieter person would have carefully chosen to say. With comfort came confidence and I found myself being able to deliver these carefully selected thoughts and comments with an ease that I wasn’t able to before. In this respect I found people listening more intently when I did decide to talk (yep you got it, this is the ‘turning my life around’ uplifting part of the story).
Most importantly I found that not talking as much let me listen. I’ve heard often that those who have the best relationships are the ones who are able to listen to each other. Listening to what people around you say, how they say it and also what they don’t say can tell you more about a person than bombarding them with useless chatter. Simply listening has helped me to find and build better relationships with people and has helped me to feel a lot more comfortable around others. By no means have I utilised my personality to its full potential, however I have taken steps to understand it and feel that I can finally start making it work for me (think of it as an alternative/hipster superpower where you stop the bad guy by using your powers of listening and negotiation).
The point of this (rather drawn out) story is that if you find any similarities with the person I’ve described and yourself then it’s important to know that there isn’t a problem with you. The world needs thinkers and introverts just as much as they need blaggers and extroverts and nothing would get done without both. Take the effort you put into trying fit a social ideal and feed that energy into being selective and thoughtful (if that’s who you are) and you’ll get the same results but on your terms. Maybe your ideal weekend consists of curling up on the sofa and going to bed early. Maybe you need more time to yourself than others to regroup and recharge. Maybe you prefer to keep more of your thoughts on the inside than on the outside. Accept it, perfect it and utilise it; you may just find a different kind of freedom in life that will work to your advantage.