Why I've been quietly lying to myself

When I asked my partner whether I was an extrovert or an introvert, his answer was “something in-between.”

 

The answer to an integral aspect of my personality is that I'm a fence sitter?! No way. Surely I am an out-and-out extrovert. I pride myself on being outgoing, confident, standing with shoulders square and hands on hips. I socialise with the girls, I blog, I make sure to speak my mind. Isn't this what defines success? Isn't this every employer’s dream?

 

And bang - there lies the problem.

 

In today’s world, we value everything that embodies an extrovert. Want your dream job? You better be upbeat and enthusiastic in your interview. No room for shyness thanks. Looking for a way to grow your business? You better be a queen of networking. Think you deserve a pay rise? Simply put yourself out there and ask for it!

 

In short, to be influential is to be an extrovert.

 

Somewhat conveniently then, I’m an extrovert.

 

But am I?

 

No.

 

A memory, still painful and often pushed aside, comes to the surface. I'm at high school, fourteen maybe, singled out; and not in a good way. I don't seem to be as full of words as the other girls. My brain freezes when it's my turn to share a funny story. I’m too scared to whisper in class; I’d rather bury myself in my school books.

 

I learn I have nothing to offer. I return home from school miserable. I speak less and less. I am an introvert.

 

Thirteen years later, I've convinced myself that I have “come out of my shell”. Yet as noted by Susan Cain, the author of Quiet, some animals carry shelter everywhere they go. Why can't humans too?

 

This past month marks the start of what will be my biggest break out from productivity (study / employment) ever. I've been tramping through the beech forests of Fiordland, and more recently lounging on Balinese beaches.

 

I've had ample opportunity to engage with fellow trampers, spark conversations with my neighbour at dinner, befriend cool-looking young people staying at the same hostels as me. But I haven't done any of those things. I've retreated to my books, soaked in the serenity from my room, eaten lunch in contented silence.

 

Doesn't sound so extrovert-esq, does it?

 

I've often (secretly) wondered why I have to put so much energy into exuding confidence, why I freeze during a confrontation but can draft an email afterwards that would convince anyone of my point, why I make such a point of being visibly productive and social all the time.

 

Perhaps the reason is because I'm not quite the extrovert I would like to be. But I'm not a true introvert; I've spent too much time shaping myself away from that silent, sad little girl.

 

I've shaped myself into something in-between.

 

And so it follows that perhaps I shouldn't spend so much time acquiescing to what the world values, and go back to what I value.

 

Am I going to be any less successful / influential / rich / awesome because of my lack of out-and-out extrovertness?

 

I don't think so. And neither should you.

 

 

Anna Watson