Dear Introverts - You Are Wonderful
I wanted to send you a note to let you know how valuable and wonderful you are, and to let you know that you aren't alone.
If you're an introvert like me, you might relate to some of the following things:
- You feel like you are weird because you'd prefer to spend time by yourself than with others
- You have been through periods where you've tried to force yourself to go out and 'do' more, and found that it exhausts you. This makes you feel like there's something wrong with you, and that you are failing
- You feel like, to be successful, you need to be 'loud' and 'out there'
Since being on lockdown, I have learnt a few things about introversion that I wanted to share, because I'm convinced that in fact we, as a category of people, are incredibly special.
Our world is structured to value more extroverted people. Social media, for example, is built around the notion of 'doing' a lot, and sharing it with the world. This gives us the impression that the only way to live life is to be doing things that are worth documenting and showing to others.
I used to be someone who felt like the only way to live life was to make it post-worthy; to spend a lot of time out of the house with lots of people, and showcase this display of extroversion to show others that I was 'living'. That I wasn't boring. That I was valuable.
Now that the whole world has been forced to slow down and stay inside, I find myself breathing a sigh of relief. Now, I have an excuse to engage in life the way that feels best to me. I can stay inside, I can read, I can be creative in a solitary way, and I don't have to interact with others if I don't feel like it. I realised that the sole reason that I felt anxious about not living a post-worthy life was simply because everyone else was, and I felt like I should be too. The notion that everyone else has slowed down has completely taken off the pressure.
Society, outside of social media, also values extroversion. We live in a consumer society, so success is mostly measured by money. Making money often involves speaking to strangers, selling yourself and being confident. We are plugged this message from a very early age - this is the way to be successful. This is the way to be valuable and worth it. This poses a problem for introverts, who would prefer to stay out of the spotlight and let their actions speak for themselves. You may have tried to face this head on, and 'forced' yourself to be more extroverted - made yourself go out more, talk to strangers, be more outwardly social. The feeling that there is something wrong with you, that this should make you happy, that you'll never be successful if you don't change something about yourself, is a feeling I'm familiar with. I recall many hobbies and pursuits that I took up to combat the anxiety and fear that I wasn't good enough, that I was lazy and unsuccessful. The anxiety ended up being worse as I realised that I couldn't keep it up.
You aren't weird, and there is nothing wrong with you - trust me on this. You are merely different. You get your energy and your happiness from a) being by yourself, recharging, or b) being with people who you have a meaningful connection with, like close friends, family, or partners. Although the traits mentioned above are valuable in one way, they are not the only special traits a person can have. You might find, as an introvert, that you are more drawn to caregiving and empathy with others. You might be drawn to art and pieces of beauty. You may have strong altruistic tendencies. You may love talking to people one-on-one. You may have been told you are a great listener. You may be very self-aware.
These are all extremely beautiful and important personality traits - in a world where we are increasingly becoming less connected, these traits are so unbelievably valuable. Money is great - but the real joy in life comes from connection, and understanding others. That is your super power. Recognise how valuable this is. You are an absolute boss at understanding others and making them feel less alone. You are so special.
And for some advice on embracing your introversion and accepting it as part of yourself. Take time to understand the feeling you get when you need to be alone, and don't be afraid to act on it. For me, I find myself getting anxious and irritated with others, which is when I know to take myself away. Explain to friends and loved ones that it's not them, it's you and how you function best. You need this so you can be your best self around them. You'll find that once you spend the amount of time you need alone, the time you spend with others is much more fruitful, meaningful and joyful.
Challenging and pushing oneself isn't just for extroverts either. It just need not happen for the whole world to see. You can challenge yourself with solitary pursuits and hobbies as well, and it's incredibly rewarding to emerge from your alone time eager to share your achievements with loved ones.
I hope this helps you, introverted one, to realise your power and worth in a world that might have made you feel differently. In this time of global crisis where we all crave meaningful connection, your essence, your light, in particular shines bright. If you have not yet embraced your introversion, I hope this time of slowing down helps you to connect with yourself deeper,
Your introverted pal xx