Would you consider yourself to be an introvert or extrovert? There are varying degrees, however most people tend to fall into one category or the other.
However I have been thinking a lot about how deep in our culture the value is put on the extrovert. In a time where society is bias towards celebrity and large personality, boldness and charisma seem to win out. Is there little wonder that if you are more inclined towards introversion that you feel just a little bit less than?
Growing up with an extreme extrovert for a best friend, I often felt in the shadows when we were younger. Man or woman, they would flock around her, and her sparkling, outgoing personality, and I completely understand why - she was a huge amount of fun and a joy to be around - hey there was a reason I was there too!
However being a late teen/early adult, and the so called quieter one, it tended to make me feel a bit lacking. Having recently re-connected with someone from my past, I have said several times, "I can't believe you remember me...", as I seem to have this image of myself from that period of time in my life as being quite forgettable.
Times have changed, and with it my confidence has grown and I feel an entirely different person now, still it is only looking back years later than I can understand and make sense of it.
Speaking to a friend who grew up in a very extroverted family, she only has realized recently that she is an introvert at heart in her 40's. For her, loudness, storytelling and gregariousness were praised, the worst thing you could be was quiet at the dinner table.
She is now though coming into acceptance of the way she really is, which is more introversion inclined. This does not mean she is not confident or an interesting person. In fact I find her to be one of the more fascinating people I know, with a huge amount of self confidence. It just means that she is becoming more accepting of her true personality, and that means not necessarily being the outgoing one. Interestingly she grew up with a sister who was much like my best friend whom she often felt compared to.
And please, this is not intended as a put down of extroverts in any way - I have many in my life, in fact I seem to collect them and adore them for these qualities - the yin and the yang!
The thing is we need both in this world, introverts and extroverts have traits that compliment each other in many ways. However I believe, overall, that introverts often don't value themselves for who they are, as in our current society they don't feel as accepted for their true natures. There are many misconceptions about introversion, and some of those are that they are shy, don't enjoy company, or even that they are rude or arrogant. When in fact they are none of those things, but they are just generally more private and quieter people.
Our work places and schools are inclined to be set up for the extrovert with more open plan environments, and the more extroverted you are, often the more praise and promotion is granted to you. Therefore there is a tendency to try and change introverts, so they often endeavour to prove to the outside world that they are more bold than they actually are - horror of horrors for me was to be considered boring - so I fought against it with every thing I had, sometimes to my detriment.
In other words, introverts often tend to self-negate their true selves to fit in. And this is unfortunately a loss not only to ourselves but to those around us.
It is only now later in life that I can truly accept this part of my personality. Being an only child as well, I have always felt very comfortable spending time in my own company, and in fact need these quiet periods to thrive and be able to operate in the world for when I do need to be more out going. Over time this really has become a part of my own self care.
The true definition of introversion and extroversion is actually about the ways in which we get our energy and re-charge our brains, so with more understanding I can actually see why this is necessary. It is almost a case of wiring.
Those with introverted tendencies need to recharge by spending time alone. They lose energy from being around people for long periods of time. Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy from other people, and if they spend too much time by themselves their energy can be drained.
However when I was younger I forced myself into very social situations in order to fit in with the crowd. In some ways I think in the longer term this wasn't actually such a bad thing, as over time this has built my confidence. In fact probably had a positive effect, to the point I feel somewhere in between the two - there is a term ambivert which I identify with more and more. Still I do look back on that girl and feel a little sad that she couldn't accept herself the way she was.
So lets look at the children and adults in our life to accept them just the way they are. See the value in everyone. Don't let the person in the corner at the party who is probably feeling overwhelmed by people, wilt alone, often they just need a one on one conversation to be okay. Let the children who are more comfortable reading a book enjoy their time, rather than feeling pressured to be one of the crowd - they are probably fascinated by something way more interesting! And lets love our extroverts for their beautiful personalities without putting them on a pedestal.
Celebrate, and in fact revel in the differences in everyone, and let it be okay!