Dear fellow Introvert,
I see you.
Unlike the majority of society, I promise I am not here to put you in a box overflowing with negative connotations. I’ve spent more than enough time in that bullshit box myself and I figure you probably have too. It’s likely you’ve spent the best part of your life unfairly being challenged on what comes most naturally to you. Constantly being questioned about why you are the way you are. Pressured to change and conform.
If you’re anything like me, your parents unnecessarily worried because you had two friends and not twenty. At some stage, you were possibly even accused of being depressed and ‘isolating’ yourself from others, coaxed by teachers or family members to ‘come out of your shell‘ and ‘put yourself out there‘ but to no avail. Consequently, you may have wound up internalising the idea that you are inherently flawed.
But I will absolutely not allow you to believe your introversion is something that needs to be cured. To hell with everything you and I have ever been told. Today is the day you’re gonna step out of that stereotypical box, cause honey, let’s make this very clear… there is nothing wrong with you.
Your pursuit of solitude does not equate to a lack of social skills. The difference between introverts and extroverts has nothing to do with social capabilities. It is simply the way you recharge or gain energy. Extroverts thrive on external stimulation. Introverts renew in solitude, from within. And despite the fact that you’ve been told otherwise, choosing to focus your energy on fewer relationships because you revere that which is meaningful and beautiful, is a praiseworthy strength. How does anyone have fifty friends and remember all their birthdays and favourite tv shows and pizza topping preferences, anyway? Rarely content with surface-level relationships, you value depth over breadth. I get it. I admire it.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where extroversion is often viewed as the sexiest, most desirable personality type. Extroverts are professional schmoozers and this ability can be confused with talent when in actual fact, there is no correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas. You know this, Introvert. Because more than anyone, you have felt the emotional bruise which follows the painful kick of underestimation. People continually mistake your silence for shyness. And sure, small talk makes your palms sweat and you’d sooner die than engage in polite dinner party conversation. But what a shame it is, that people ask you about the weather, when there are novels and theories and profound poetic words lingering on the tip of your tongue. You’re a universe full of secrets. If someone would only ask about the stars and galaxies and how you’re going to shake the world in your own, gentle way.
“In an extroverted society, the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that an introvert is often unconsciously deemed guilty until proven innocent.” – Criss Jami
When they told you that you ‘spend too much time in your own head‘… I think what they meant to say, was ‘you’re an incredible thinker‘. R. D. Blackmore, one of the most famous novelists of his generation once said: “…because I rant not, neither rave of what I feel, can you be so shallow as to dream that I feel nothing? ”. You don’t lack opinion or a voice, Introvert. You’re simply selective about when to share it and who to share it with. Your inner world is something dreams are made of and you have a constant internal monologue rushing through your head. An intricate, infinite spider web of thought. One you happily allow yourself to become tangled in for hours and days at a time. Pondering mysteries and absorbing information with the prodigious sponge-like mind of a toddler. Your brain bubbling with activity, everything is interesting and everything is to be explored with inexhaustible curiosity. Boredom, therefore, is not a state you’re familiar with and loneliness is a rarity. You are sensitive, perceptive, gentle and reflective. Solitude is the air you breathe and with such a strong inner life, you can always turn inward.
And so inward you should turn. Spending your time the way you like to spend it, not the way you think you’re supposed to. Please take this letter as your written consent. Your hall-pass to just be a bloody introvert. To skip the party in favour of a good book. Eat alone in restaurants and ignore the pitying looks from other diners. Or go through the drive-thru and finish your meal in the quiet comfort of your own car and company. Decline the invite to the annual Christmas work do, and spend New Years curled up on the couch watching Animal Planet documentaries or reruns of Sex & The City. Most importantly, you mustn’t feel pangs of guilt for it. If you’re happiest being a total recluse then just be one. If you enjoy social gatherings and business meetings, but after a while wish you were home in your pyjamas – that’s okay too. Whatever floats your boat, simply stay true to your own nature. There is nothing wrong with being who you are.
Just as there was nothing wrong with fellow introverts such as Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi, J.K. Rowling, Dr. Seuss, Meryl Streep and Mark Zuckerberg. These people made history because of the bounty of gifts they possessed due to their introverted personality types. The world needed those people. And the world needs you, just as much. Keen observers, incredible artists, gifted writers, and social media whizzes to name but a few. That’s what we are, Introvert. Special, highly complex people that are too often misunderstood and underrated. But as the amazing (and also introverted) author, Susan Cain said, in her book about embracing Introversion: “The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers — of persistence, concentration, and insight — to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems. make art, think deeply.”
And remember… everyone shines, given the right lighting.