When I was an awkward teenager, I thought that being an introvert was a bad thing. It was at that age where you just want people to like you, and surely people will like someone who is fun, outgoing and ‘extroverted’? I was the shy, quiet girl who preferred a good book to a night out (nothing’s changed) but God forbid someone actually know that about me! I thought I just needed to be more extroverted, and then I’d have loads of friends (and maybe boyfriends, ha!). Sadly, it didn’t work like that. It’s only now that I’ve gotten older I realise that being an extrovert or an introvert is not something you choose. It’s the way you inherently are, and you can’t actually fight it.
Only recently did I learn what being an introvert really meant, and it blew my mind. It doesn’t mean someone who is shy and hates people. It doesn’t mean someone who is boring and doesn’t know how to relax and have fun. It’s doesn’t mean that you are just a weirdo. And, contrary to my teenage naivete, it’s definitely not a bad thing to be an introvert.
Introversion is a personality trait, which is characterised by a focus on internal thoughts, feelings and moods, rather than seeking out external stimulation. In other words, introverts tend to expend energy in social situations, and feel recharged after spending time by themselves. Introversion is generally viewed as existing as part of a continuum, with introverts at one end and extroverts at the other. Most people are somewhere along the spectrum, with traits of both.
When I went to Edinburgh earlier this year with my mom, I had the best time. But it really made me realise how much of an introvert I really am. Being around hundreds of people in a different, busy city just completely overwhelmed me, and at the end of each day all I wanted to do was lie in my bed with my cat and a good book. I was surprised to find that despite the fact that travelling to a new place is exciting and invigorating, it also left me feeling quite spent. I feel the same when I spend a weekend on call. When I’m interacting with patients for a long period of time, constantly asking them what the problem is and how I can help, I come home feeling really drained.And it’s not just from lack of sleep! The prolonged contact with people just takes it out of me. I need a few hours on my own just to recoup and get back to being ‘Gen’.
I felt really empowered when I finally learnt about introverts and why I behave the way I do. Why people sometimes exhaust me and why I don’t have an enormous group of friends. But I also started to realise something. Just like my teenage self thought that it was a bad thing to be an introvert, so too does it feel like the world views introverts in a negative light. In this busy, loud and fast-paced world it sometimes feels like you have to be an extrovert to keep up. Society loves the social butterflies, people who are outgoing and easy to chat to, and in this day and age where social media rules our lives, being sociable can seem like the most important thing. Introverts are seen as loners who don’t like other people. They may be considered as shy, unfriendly or haughty individuals. Or people just think they’re strange cat people (apparently introverts are more likely to own cats, but that’s a whole separate story). They’re seen as different.
So I just want to set the record straight. There is nothing wrong with being an introvert. Nor is there anything wrong with being an extrovert, or something in between. Everyone is different and that’s totally OK. Introversion is simply a part of your personality, it certainly doesn’t define the kind of person you are. This is how I am, and no, I can’t just be more extroverted. Sometimes, I just like being on my own. Let’s stop putting people down because they are not the chattiest person at a party or because they don’t like going out on a Friday night. And let’s just embrace our inner introvert ❤
I’ve attached a really interesting TED Talk by Susan Cain about the power of introverts. If you have a moment it’s worth checking out.
Thanks for stopping by,