(live long & prosper)
A couple weeks ago, I watched the below TED talk by Susan Cain, the author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I haven’t read the book yet but this really got me thinking. You see, I’m an introvert. I crave alone time. But most people wouldn’t know or even be able to guess that about me. Why? Because, as Cain talks about, as a young girl, early on I got the message that it was wrong. That being an introvert meant you were a nerd, shy, possibly even a loser. As a young girl those just weren’t labels I was ready to put on. I mean, I knew I wasn’t shy, any of my relatives could’ve told you that, but the school, my peers well to them, that’s what being introverted meant.
So instead of being true to my introvert self, I became the champion of introverts. Not one myself rather an extrovert who happened to be very good at code-switching aka I was popular, well-liked, in the honest, good sense of the word. One moment I’d be discussing the newest book the next I’d be with the “cool kids”. This all was fine and dandy except it created this void. When I was at school, I was loud, excited, everywhere but when I was at home, I was a recluse…my parents’ hermit crab, as they called me, hiding away with my newest book in my room. This continued in various forms throughout high school.
Now it worked for me. Forcing myself to be a people person worked. I didn’t fool my parents, of course, they knew the truth. But I’d fooled my peers and even myself. I say this because this eventually led to me becoming the kind of person I’d never wanted to become. Instead of being okay with silence, I began to crave not only the presence but attention of others. By the time I got to college, I’d stopped writing, barely read, and convinced myself that I wanted to be a lawyer or theater type person. Thankfully I got hit over the head (metaphorically).
If you ask my dad, he’d say this “new groupthink” as Cain defines this “movement”, is for control. If people seek the approval of others, if they have been conditioned to work, to be with others, if being alone, quiet, removed is taught as bad…you create a individuals who really aren’t individuals after all. He’s probably right. It makes sense to me (especially since I didn’t actually ask him, I came up with this myself). Aside from that though, if “conspiracy theories” or whatever you’d call that are a too much for you, it does reduce creativity. And creative people are some of the world’s smartest. It’s kind of hard for me to say this, since I didn’t really rebel from groupness until college (sorta senior year of HS), but be brave enough to be yourself. For all we know, the cure for cancer or AIDS was lost because we told that child, who liked being alone, they needed to conform or be a loser. And no child wants to be a loser. As a writer, I may spend hours alone, and if I want to accomplish my goals (ex. get this book written) I can’t wait/look for the approval of others.
So to all the middle school, high school nerds, losers out there, great job… keep on keeping on for the force is most definitely with you.
Introvert or no? What’s in your suitcase?