I don’t do well in front of crowds. In fact, I often don’t do well in front of a small group, if there is even one or two members of the gathering with which I am not overly familiar. So while I have you here, in a medium that tends to work much more successfully for a person of my particular nature, I’m going to let you in on a secret about what it means to be an introvert: despite what I’ve just admitted, we are not necessarily shy, quiet, nervous or home on Saturday nights. To that list of assumptions, I respond: sometimes, while in thought, if the situation calls for it, and depending on whether or not we had somewhere to be on Friday night.
I’m pretty sure my introversion waxes and wanes (probably as often as the moon, but I’m not tracking my patterns that rigorously), but on most given days, I’d rather be reading. My idea of a perfect day involves a lot of time in the kitchen, windows open, music up, screening my calls (it’s not personal) and turning in early. I know to a lot of people my age (which is 27, not 87, in case you were unsure) this seems monumentally boring, a fact for which I’ve previously felt embarrassed or (gasp!) apologetic. Why?
The thing about being an introvert is that it’s often viewed as a fixable situation. We’re automatically cast as the sidekick or the girl-turned-supermodel once she ditches her glasses. Anyone tell you to come out of your shell lately? And while there are certainly aspects of this personality type that can feel frustrating, there are other ways in which we can dramatically succeed. I’m no public speaker, sure, but I can express myself in ways that others find limiting. My first impression skills leave something to be desired (I’m looking at you, sweat stains) but finding lasting friendships with people that know the real me is something I feel beyond lucky about every single day.
So what does being naturally introspective and cool with alone time have to do with being brave? For starters: it takes a hell of a lot of courage to be true to who you are, especially in a world that constantly advertises for all the ways it can “fix” you: Too shy? Be more social! Too nervous? Be less worried! Too weird? Be .. less weird? You get the idea.
Of course there will always be situations where we can benefit from challenging our natural instincts. Not sure how to tell? Ask yourself these questions:
- Is this important to me?
- Am I doing this for myself?
- Am I doing this for the approval/understanding of others?
- Could something really amazing happen if I follow through?
If the answer to any of these (except maybe #3) is no, keep moving. However, if the answer to any (yes, any) of these is yes, saddle up and get ready to practice boldness in a different way: exiting your comfort zone for the bigger picture, which is pretty much the only time fighting your inner introvert isn’t a compromise of character.
It’s certainly not news to anyone that we’re all better off just being ourselves. And this isn’t a plight for us to abandon correcting our flaws and mistakes. (“I don’t have to, she told me I’m perfect just the way I am!” Well.) Rather, dear introverts, I’d encourage you to bravely decide that you don’t have to be the life of the party or leader of the group in order to be considered a valuable or complete person. And just because we can find ourselves sectioned off into rather large, overarching categories of people doesn’t mean that it’s an us-against-them world. All the extroverts aren’t pointing at you wondering why you won’t speak up, I promise. But the second you stop apologizing for who you are, and stop letting others think that introversion doesn’t denote its own form of being brave, the happier we’ll all be in a world that needs us both.
Helen Williams is the Community Love Director at Holstee. She is passionate about cooking and writing which pair well together on her vegetarian food blog, green girl eats. She's strives, every day, to be less sorry.
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