My Experience as an Introvert
When I am overlooked for an opportunity, it can feel like my introversion is a liability. When this sort of thing happens, I sometimes just want to grab the extroverted person by the shoulders and scream, “I’m an introvert, not an invalid!”. I know that I am not who they think I am. They just don’t get it.
I get so tired of being overlooked and underestimated. Yes, there are things I need to work on, things I really suck at doing. But how will I ever grow in those areas if no one ever gives me the room to do so? I am capable of so much more than they think, because they have only seen the smallest part of me. They only see the part of me that I show to those who treat me as less than or ignore me.
One thing that probably every introvert has heard in some form is to “come out of their shell”. I was told this so many times throughout my life, and I was never like, “Wow! Thanks for telling me that! I will definitely do that and everything will be fixed.” Telling me that I need to come out of my shell simply isn’t helpful. Sometimes staying in my shell is necessary and a healthy way of coping. When my environment is unsafe, I need that shell for protection so that I am not further damaged. When I feel belittled or taken advantage of, I often feel the need to withdraw. However, when I’m in a healthy environment, I thrive and become my best self.
Misconceptions About the Introvert
Part of the issue, I think, is a misconception of what it means to be an introvert. People seem to think that being an introvert is less desirable and that introverts are less likely to be successful. In America especially, we live in a society where extroversion is highly valued, but introverts probably make up almost half of the population.
Because of this, even introverts often feel the pressure to act, or even become, more extroverted. The truth is, being an introvert or extrovert is already pre-wired in your brain. This is not something you can change or should even want to change about yourself. We’re not some strange anomaly or a problem that needs to be fixed.
Here are corrections to some of the assumptions people tend to make about the introvert:
- Introverts are gentle, not necessarily weak.
- Introverts are modest, not necessarily insecure.
- Introverts are reserved, not necessarily fearful.
- Introverts are driven, not necessarily self-conscious.
- Introverts are empathetic, not necessarily emotionally unstable.
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Introvert
One of the strengths of introverts is their strong desire for connection, often causing them to form deeper relationship than extroverts. Introverts naturally have genuine interest in others. This is why introverts tend to be better listeners and tend to be less judgmental and more understanding. But for an introvert, this takes time. Introverts need more time in a relationship in order to build trust, but this can be healthy when not taken to an extreme.
I’m not saying that we introverts should just accept who we are at this point in time and not attempt to grow. Introverts often need to grow in the areas of boldness and sensitivity, just as extroverts often need to grow in reservation and developing deeper relationships. Like any personality trait, there are both pros and cons of either side of the spectrum. What I am saying is, don’t assume that you know anything about a person because they are an introvert. Instead, do what you can to encourage the person’s strengths and nurture their weaknesses.
Advice for the Introvert
If you consider yourself an introvert, impatient people are not your people. If someone feels inconvenienced by your opportunity to practice a skill, try not to let it get you down. You may not be the best at public speaking, negotiating, or selling a product, but if this is something you desire to be better at, do try! Some day, you may be one of the best in that area at your workplace. But even if that doesn’t happen, you will be more well-rounded than most of your peers.
Most importantly, surround yourself with encouraging people who know your strengths and can see your potential. A healthy environment will bring out the best in you. You just might find yourself surrounded by people who know what you are capable of and who you really are. Find people who want to encourage you in the process of reaching your potential. If you want people like this in your life, be that person for someone else first. It may not be reciprocated by everyone, but people who want that same type of relationship will be drawn to you!
You are a desirable person who needs to be known, and you are a necessary part of a whole. You, my fellow introvert, are not an invalid.