Have you ever felt like you just weren't the right kind of person? You love making new friends, but hate the atmosphere of an overcrowded bar. You do a job more efficiently by yourself, but feel guilty that you don't enjoy teamwork. You adore performing and being in the spotlight, but become awkward and taciturn during rowdy cast parties. More than once you've been advised to read one of Dale Carnegie's books. If any of the above applies to you, you might be one of 30 percent of Americans who are introverts.
Temperament is literally inborn, and, while it can be influenced by environment, it cannot be changed or uprooted. We live in a society which boasts tolerance and claims to encourage individuality, but there is a deep-rooted mentality that relegates introverts to Second Best.
I have witnessed this mentality firsthand. While others often label me as serious and quiet, I love to laugh and discuss topics I'm passionate about. Growing up, I was scolded for being antisocial, even though I love people.
Beginning to believe that there was, in fact, something wrong with me, I did my best to put myself out there, as they say. But I felt uncomfortable and dishonest, as if I were somehow playing a part in order to fit everyone else's idea of what I should be. I played the part well and could fool many strangers, but I didn't want to be a success at fooling people—I wanted to be a success at being me.
I was recently persuaded to read Susan Cain's New York Times bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, and it completely changed my perspective.
According to Quiet, shyness, social anxiety, and even misanthropy can be found in persons who are either introverted or extroverted. Here’s another mind bender: Not all introverts are mousy and boring; that would be just as ridiculous as saying that all extroverts are self-centered blabbermouths.
In fact, the only thing all introverts have in common is the very thing that defines them as introverts—the ability to draw energy from quiet and solitude, rather than association with others. For example, an introvert might have a wonderful time at a party, but afterward feel drained and long for some downtime alone. I like to say that an introvert is a lot like a cell phone; spend too much time talking and it will lose power—until you plug it in to recharge.
Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you should embrace your temperament. After all, our world needs both introverts and extroverts to contribute to society in their own unique ways.
If you’re still not sure that introverts have more than silence to offer, consider a few things. Are you a Harry Potter fan? J.K. Rowling is an introvert. Math geek? A world without introverts would be a world without E=mc². Both Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa were introverts—talk about quiet power! Introverts are creators, innovators, thinkers, doers, artists, analyzers, dreamers, organizers, peacekeepers, CEOs, actors, generals, writers, singers, to name a few.
Wondering about your own temperament? Check out this quick test online to discover if you’re an introvert: http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/quiet-quiz-are-you-an-introvert/.