If you can find twenty minutes to watch this, I highly recommend it. Especially if you’re an introvert. Or an extrovert. Or a parent, spouse, friend, sister, brother. Okay, really, if you’re a person you should watch this. It’s a really lovely talk on about the importance of introversion. Yup, you read that right. Introversion is an important and desirable trait. (Being an introvert, I totally agree.) ;-)
(Thanks to Amanda for the link!)
One of the things—or perhaps the biggest thing—I find damaging about the misunderstanding about introversion is that children are told/taught that there is something wrong with them if they are not extroverted. If they are quiet. If they don’t want to jump right in on the playground with all the other kids running around or if they don’t join right in at preschool, kindergarten, any grade. Our society has this misconception that all kids must have the “desirable” extroversion traits, and if they don’t, then there’s something wrong with them which must be fixed.
I was one of those kids. In grade school, my parents were called in for a conference with the principal because he and my teachers were so concerned about how “shy” I was. My academics were fine, but they felt there was something wrong with me because I was naturally quiet.
I remember not talking to anyone during the first half year of my freshman year in high school. My family had just returned from living in Germany for the previous three years, and instead of going to the local high school where I knew a few people from grade school, I was attending a private school were I knew NO ONE. Talk about a nightmare.
And my first four months there—I kid you not—I didn’t speak to anyone. I didn’t speak in class when called on, I sat alone at lunch. I hated it. I’d never been so miserable, or felt so out of place. One day during lunch, a red-haired girl stopped at my table and said “Do you sit here alone every day?” I nodded and I’m pretty sure I didn’t even look her in the face. So she replied, “Well tomorrow you’re sitting with us.” The next day, I went right to my table, head down, but she came by and demanded I come sit with her and her friends. They were my first friends there.
I set out to be different the next year. To fit in. To act like an extrovert. Act being the operative word. It was acting. And I pulled it off. I forced myself to be someone I wasn’t—and don’t get me wrong, it was fun most of the time but exhausting because what I needed most was quiet and solitude. But I got used to pretending. I remember hanging out with my friends a few days before graduation, soaking up some sun out on the lawn during lunch, and one of them said that he had absolutely no memory of me from freshman year. None at all. I wasn’t surprised. I kept pretending.
But still, it’s not who I am. It didn’t fix me. I’m still wildly uncomfortable if I’m expected to be social amongst a large group of strangers. In small, intimate groups I’m fine, and I can chat with most people one on one with ease. But in a crowd? At a party with people I don’t know? I am so far out of my comfort zone I can’t even see it anymore. (I’ve always hated attending baby and bridal showers for that very reason.) All I want to do is leave as soon as I get there. Sometimes I’ve done that—left right away—and while it’s a huge relief, it’s also a source of guilt and shame. Sometimes I force myself to stay, pretend that I’m fine, relaxed, happy, when inside I’m trying not to hyperventilate, on the verge of tears, and every second I stay feels like an eternity.
So, I love this TED talk. I love the recognition that being an introvert is not something that is wrong with me or anyone else. I’m hoping this thinking will trickle down to schools, principals, teachers, doctors, and especially parents.
People are people. Introverts aren’t broken. So don’t try to fix us. (You can’t.) :-)
Have a great weekend, everyone (introverts and extroverts, alike)!