By Tafadzwa Razemba:
After years of being misjudged as aloof & snotty and hearing statements such as 'Come on, smile” or ' you're too pretty to be walking around angry”and 'shame, she's an introvert”, I always felt that there must be something wrong with me although I'm yet to see anyone who walks around everywhere with a huge Cheshire cat grin and be normal. Growing up, I always felt confused about myself, why my mind often went blank when someone asked me a question then later had numerous responses to the question; how other times, I would talk until I'm begged to stop; how even today I want to be acknowledged yet feel overwhelmed with too much attention when others would feel thrilled. How I would dread social events and when I did socialize, how I would be fantasizing about being alone in my room watching a good movie over a cup of hot chocolate. It took me years and reading a few books including the book The Introvert Advantage to realize that I wasn't some strange social creature full of contradictions but a normal introvert.
Extroverts being in the majority influence the entire cultural view of introverts and honestly, introverts get a bad rap. It doesn't help when you have serial killers and sociopaths often described as introverted; those individuals are damaged people no matter what their personality type is. Extroverts get most of the good press and for most of my life, I've felt the pressure to be a certain way and conform. Most think that extroversion and introversion relate to how loud or quiet, fun or boring and people loving or people disliking a person can be. It is actually more to do with energy. Introversion and extroversion are opposing ends of an energy spectrum with most people falling somewhere in the middle, but on the extroversion side. People who fall on the introverted side focus inward to gain energy whereas extroverts focus outward to gain energy. Introverts keep energy inside, are very reflective and less expressive than extroverts, making it hard for others to know them.
If there ever was a model for an opposite end of the spectrum to me, it would be my closest friend. If we go for any social event or place where there are many people and there is a lot of activity, his face lights up, his eyes sparkle, he becomes excited and one can just see how he loves it. I'm amazed at how he says and communicates exactly what he wants or feels without having to think first.How when he is down or tired, he feels better when around people and activity, making parties, concerts and sports matches a must. As for me, I have to gather up energy for group activities or I shrink away because it's too much stimulation and I end up feeling drained. I love observing and learning from watching and being around small groups of people if not just one other person.
Often people have differing opinions on what I am, some will say there is no way I'm an introvert because I'm not shy or reclusive so I would like to debunk some myths associated with the introverted versions of our population:
Introverts are shy wallflowers: I used to be shy and I sometimes am, but I have become considerably less so, as I have grown older. Introversion and shyness are definitely two different things and being able to distinguish the two has helped me work on my shyness that doesn't mean I have become less introverted as I've grown older. Introverts are not scared of people, most like me, like people but don't feel the need to always be around them and always be talking. As for being a wallflower, usually what drives introverts onto centre stage is different from extroverts, their quest for meaningful work, unusual circumstances or an unusual talent may bring them there but there is a big energy drain. Shyness is social anxiety, an extreme self-consciousness when around others it is not about energy.
Introverts are loners: We are not recluses who hate people, that is not characteristic of an introvert. Like I said before, I like people. I do like being alone too, but not all the time, I do enjoy being with close friends (usually in small groupings or one–on-one) even for very long periods of time. I am private but I do feel that I'm good at getting people to open up. I do share on what I'm passionate about but if no one finds it interesting I keep it to myself.
Introverts are boring: Truthfully, fun is relative. If your definition of fun is being in a crowded, dark, smelly space with music blaring and being unable to hear each other talk, then that's not my definition of fun. I like adventurous things, I like concerts (as long as it's not in a smelly place), and my definition of fun is also just sitting listening to good music.
Introverts are not very good with the opposite sex: I have extroverted female friends who like particularly introverted guys due to their mysteriousness. I know a girl in particular who said that these guys usually make the initial approach, although they might not be great at it, enough interest would have been garnered for her to give her number. It's all about energy and setting; an introverted guy might not want to meet a girl at a club but somewhere like a music store, he will thrive. As for female introverts, once again the energy levels and setting have to be right. If the setting is wrong for me, I will most probably seem aloof. Most introverts also hate small talk, if there is nothing to be said, I would rather keep quiet.
There are a lot more myths and more I'm learning about this and myself. It is such a relief that I don't have to be a certain way but myself and learn to work and live well with the majority of people, being in the introverted version of the population.
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