I am reading a book now. It’s title is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Susan Cain is the author. I think this is the most liberating and life-affirming book I have ever read. It has definitively convinced me that it is okay to be me.
As Cain explores the research, I find many aspects of my personality and experience of life articulated in the text. I am an introvert and I have suffered for it. I prefer my own company to that of others except those with whom I can engage in meaningful, intellectual dialog. Friends, bosses, friends and people I don’t even know have advised me to “lighten up.” They have judged me to be “too serious.” “Smile more,” they say: and I do try. However, Cain’s book and the research findings she relates have revealed that who I am, the way I am is not a choice or a weakness but a biological and physiological condition. We introverts are different. Our brains are different. Our responses to stimuli are different. We are not too serious. We are not too passionate or intense. We are not socially inept. We are simply introverted, with qualities and strengths that often go unrecognized or unappreciated in a world that values and rewards extroversion far more highly.
I have often suffered through and engaged in futile efforts to be more “social.” I have forced myself to go out with friends, to parties and networking events and found myself feeling not merely uncomfortable but utterly miserable. I have no talent for small talk or self-promotion in social settings. More often than not, if I am lucky, I spot someone with whom I can engage in a one on one conversation about some thing we have in common or that interests me. If not, I often make one or two rounds of the crowd and leave as soon as possible. I am just not comfortable or happy in these situations.
It is good to know that my feelings of being overstimulated when having to engage with people over an extended period of time–at a conference for example–is normal for people like me. When I have to get away it is for good reason. I am an introvert and I am now perfectly happy to be.