I am an introvert. It feels strange to admit that, as though it’s a shameful secret.
One-third of us, supposedly, are introverts, so why has this not unusual personality type been considered a disorder by some?
I’ve seen advice (mostly in self-help books) that boils down to, “It’s OK to be an introvert, but here are ten things you can do to make yourself look like an extrovert, because you need to do that to succeed.”
To me, this is exactly analogous to telling a gay or lesbian person that all they need to do is find the right person of the opposite sex. This advice is, essentially, “Be a hypocrite. Forever.”
I’ve spent too much of my life considering myself to be socially broken and in need of repair, regularly facing dilemmas such as, “Go to the party and feel like a misfit or stay home and feel like a failure?” With age comes wisdom, and in the last few years I’ve given up any intentions to fix myself, at first with resignation, recently with delight. It really is OK to be what I am, and don’t bother offering me tools to break out of my shell. I like my shell; it has windows and a door and I look out and come out when I please.
Other introverts have begun to speak out, notably Susan Cain, with her book Quiet : the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. Amazing — introverts credited with power, rather than diagnosed with a disorder! I admit I haven’t read it yet, but this item makes me hopeful. Almost all of the 23 things apply to me, and the most surprising one is #8: “Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.” Labelled “shy” as a child, I’ve wondered why I can, in fact, speak to groups when I have something to say and know what I’m talking about. While speaking, my role is defined — I talk, the others listen. But to me, a free-floating crowd where everyone is yakkng away is an alien, energy-sucking environment.
And then there’s #22 in the list: “You’re a writer.” Need I say more?