It wouldn’t be hard to come to the conclusion that we’re living in an extrovert’s world. Typically, extroverted traits are idealised – confidence, sociability, being the life of the party – while introverted ones are often seen as something to be worked on, such as quietness and reflectiveness.
As a definite introvert myself, I’ve felt insecure about my quiet and reserved nature for about as long as I can remember. I’ve wished countless times that I could just persuade myself to be brave enough to approach everyone I want without obsessing over the impression I’m going to make, or speak up about everything I want without worrying about saying something wrong.
Despite thinking that everyone should accept who they are and embrace their authentic personalities, I can’t help yearning to be louder and more outgoing from time to time, even though those traits just aren’t me. I can’t always stop myself giving in to the toxic idea that there’s something intrinsically wrong with me for being an introvert.
In our society, valuing your own space and alone-time is deemed to mean you’re cold towards others and too self-consumed to want to form new connections, when it really just means we need a break from the noise to listen to some music or read a book and unwind every now and again. Through FOMO culture, we’re taught to feel ashamed for wanting to stay at home rather than attend every event we’re invited to because that would make us rude and anti-social. But for some of us, solitude is a crucial revitalising aspect of our lives, not something which isolates us and makes us standoffish.
Being a wallflower is usually frowned upon. Many people presume it indicates low self-esteem and lack of backbone. We’ve had the belief drummed into us that you need to be the centre of every conversation and the one cracking all the jokes to make friends and attract enough attention to get somewhere in life.
This isn’t even a completely unsubstantiated idea. Research has concluded that extroverts are 25% more likely to end up in high-paying jobs than introverted candidates simply because of the bold first impression they can make. There’s a fundamental problem with introverts being overlooked in terms of career opportunities just because we tend to be a bit quieter.
Introverts are encouraged to push ourselves to compete for the limelight even if it makes us uncomfortable – I’m not sure that’s the right solution. Our voices deserve to be heard even if we’re not shouting above the crowd. While we often take the back seat in social and professional situations, this distance allows us to reflect on situations and often crafts a creativity which might be lost to an extrovert.
I’m not saying being naturally introverted is always good. It can feel stifling to constantly feel too scared to step outside your comfort zone. I do think it would be healthier if I could cast off my self-doubt about the value of my ideas and conversation rather than continually thinking I’m not worth listening to because of my quiet nature. But I think it would be easier to stop this if society perpetuated the idea that being quieter isn’t a personality defect.
Being a natural introvert doesn’t mean you can’t be brave.