Today I owned another piece of me. I cannot tell you how good it feels. If I worked half as hard to advocate for my own self-acceptance as I did for all the underdogs in the world, I might have fully embraced myself years ago. I can only offer that it is a journey meant to take time. I am further along in my journey today than I was yesterday and for that I am grateful and proud.
Today I fully accepted my introversion. I have been speaking more openly about it to those that I know, saying things like, I need some “Amy Time” and sharing that I often think I could be a hermit and be ok. I talked about the joy in traveling alone and the hours of quiet that comes with it. In short, I’ve made some comments here and there letting people get sneak peeks of my introversion and feeling anxious inside wondering where I fall on their spectrum of weirdness.
When I work with children that use the word “shy” to describe themselves, I put my treatment plan aside and begin their first vocabulary lesson. I teach them two words: extrovert and introvert. I explain that extroverts are the kind of people that seek their energy from others and they use the social exchange to refill their tanks and become full again. I tell them that introverts are known to do the opposite. When introverts need to refuel they are likely to seek solitude and refuel from within. It is in their time alone that they can find their energy and often themselves. Shy is associated with a nervousness in being around other people and it can be based in fear of judgment or a lack of confidence. Synonyms that come up for the word shy include sheepish and timid. Some people ARE shy, but some are introverts that simply do not need the presence of others to fill rejuvenated. I do not see timidity and fear in the introverts of the world nor do I see it in myself.
Today’s revelation came from a TED talk (as they often do). When Susan Cain talked about the power of introverts and their rightful place in the world I came alive. I was alert and listening for recognition of myself. I filled with anticipation as she spoke about how we, the introverts of the world, often hide our need to be alone and furthermore, feel guilty about it. I empathized with her and her stories of self-denial. To avoid feeling guilt, I too tend to make self-negating choices to join a group, attend an event I don’t want to and to carry on conversations that I don’t care about. On the occasions I do choose to meet my need to be alone… well then I often feel guilty. It can be for not talking when I am part of a group. I can feel guilty sometimes for wishing everyone would leave the house so I can be alone. I don’t even always know what I want to do with that time, but I know when I am wishing for solitude it is because I need it so desperately to regain my balance. I am overloaded daily with noise and conversation that I can’t turn off because it would be socially unacceptable and rude. I know this because they labels and judgments have already been hurled at me and my quiet ways over the years. I’ve been called a snob and aloof more than a few times. It hurts me, mostly because I care about people and those labels are incongruent with what I feel towards humankind. What I don’t care for is the excess noise and inauthentic babble that goes on all day long between people. Leave me out of it.
When Susan Cain talked about solitude being a crucial ingredient to creativity and productivity, I knew she was talking about me. The most creative minds of our time are often found to be introverts. Much of their time is spent alone in a space that allows them to create and produce and work at their full capacity. She spoke of a history of seekers that while they spent time in solitude, they felt moved to seek out others and share their creative ideas and lead from them. Allowing introverts the space they need is necessary and history tells us it is to their benefit and that of the world for what they will create and share from their time alone. Solitude really matters and for some, it is the very air that they breathe. My name is Amy and I am an introvert.