I am an introvert. A proud introvert, I should say.
It wasn’t always like this. For a long time I didn’t even know that being an introvert was a thing, especially not as a child. All I knew was that I enjoyed spending time alone reading or writing for hours, instead of being with a big group of friends running around.
I enjoyed spending time with one friend at a time rather than with a group. I always had a few intimate friendships rather than a huge group of friends. I was quiet in a group, but I could open up and talk for hours on end with those special few friends. I needed more time to be with myself than many other kids I knew.
I, however, did not know I was introverted and it was okay. I thought I was weird.
While ⅔ – ½ of our population is introverted, being an introvert is still not encouraged in today’s society. Our world, our schools and our work places are designed for extroverts.
Group work is not only highly encouraged, but it is expected at school and at most work places. Children at schools are often sat around tables and do more group projects versus individual work. Workplaces are more often open spaces and rarely allow solitary time and do not encourage walking away to a quieter and more secluded space.
While studies show that introverts can be great leaders, even more so than extroverts at times, work places tend to favor extroverts when it comes to advancement and leadership. Our society is forgetting that there is no correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas, but listens to the loudest extroverts who are able to deliver the best in front of groups. The list goes on and on for how our current world is being designed for extroverts more so than for introverts.
And yet, many well known world leaders were introverts themselves. Does Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt ring a bell? They were all introverts. So was Darwin and Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss wrote in solitude and was actually afraid of meeting the children he wrote for because he was worried that they were expecting an outgoing, extroverted figure based on his books.
Past societies and many cultures have encouraged solitary time – time in nature, extended meditation and writing in solitude have inspired many to bring back great ideas.
Being an introvert is not equal to being anti-social, a loner, or shy. It simply means that introverted people cultivate ideas in a different way. While extroverts may get their best ideas and work the best in groups and constant stimuli, introverts work better by themselves and with less stimuli.
For an introvert, solitude is a crucial part of creativity. Letting an introvert go off by his or herself does not mean that he or she will hide forever and be unproductive. It means the exact opposite. It will allow him or her to think, to create and to be inspired and to come back with great ideas.
Susan Cain, writer and lecturer, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introvert in a World That Can’t Stop Talking has done extensive research on introversion. In her book and TED Talks she encourages the world not only to accommodate more, but to also encourage and to welcome introverts, to give introverts more freedom to be their own way and to come up with their own ideas and to contribute to the world from a different angle and in a different way than extroverts would.
The main take-aways from her work, include here top 3 suggestions:
Stop pushing constant team work. She believes that socializing and free space to talk and to connect and to generate ideas is beneficial for both extroverts and introverts, but when it comes to work, allow the freedom, the authority and the individuality for an introvert to work in a style that works the best for them.
Go to the wilderness.You don’t need to go off living in a cave meditating in solitude for years, but whether you are an introvert or extrovert, you can use more time with yourself without outside stimuli with just your thoughts and your being. Introverts, of course, need more of this.
Look inside your suitcase: look at your passions.What are your most important belonging and activities? What would you take to a summer camp or to a desert island? Why? Why are these things – objects, activities, or passions – so important to you? Do you connect with these things? Do you use them often? Make sure to connect with and engage in your passions as often as possible. Make sure to share them with the world too.
To learn more about the power of being an introvert, listen to Cain’s TED Talk. Even if you are not an introvert yourself, I guarantee you that you know several of us, making it an important topic for you as well.
Are you an introvert or extrovert? How do you think introverts and extroverts could work better together? What changes would you make at your workplace, at your school, or at your home to accommodate and encourage both introverts and extroverts? Share your answers in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you. Let’s keep the conversation going.
Kat Gál is a multi-passionate writer, world traveler, nomad, runner, and cat-person. She is a lifelong learner who lives outside of her comfort zones stretching her boundaries and discovering beauty around the world. She is a Certified Holistic Health and Life Coach who encourages others to embrace their unique authentic selves, follow their heart and find their own version of freedom in life.
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