The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
As a frequent recipient of the constant and regular ‘but’ in all my school report cards – ‘she is hardworking but…’ or ‘she is disciplined but..’, I am very well acquainted with a not so subtle disapproval of my introverted nature. For an institutional setting like a school where silence and discipline are endorsed even in the hallways and corridors of the old brick building, I sure do find it ironic that being comparatively quiet than others may get me in trouble. This may stem from the fact that usually, only what is visible is audited. In a classroom, discussion and social interaction appear as synonyms for being active and attentive in class, while being reserved and quiet is interpreted as signs of lack of eagerness or attentiveness.
Looking back, things would have been so different if I had been a part of a system that encourages people to be themselves while not making an exception for introverts. Extroverted people may perceive us as a source of unease and awkwardness because they can’t quite wrap their heads around the fact that dialogue and discussion may not just be our ‘thing.’ Being an introvert is not a phase or conscience choice that we make depending on our mood and chewing on this is the first step towards beginning to understand them.
Also, it is essential to understand that introversion should not be interpreted as shyness or similar to social anxiety or agoraphobia. However, an overlap of all four traits is possible. Introverts are inherently reserved and prefer quiet introspection rather than seeking social engagement or dialogue. This doesn’t mean that they are afraid to speak in public or are fearful of voicing their opinions. In fact, their introspective and contemplative nature helps them to form an internal discipline, a broad range of perspectives and a deep sense of empathy. Forging a leader out of an introvert becomes an easy task because of their ability to handle constructive criticism and reflecting on it. Having a deep sense of empathy, diplomacy, and understanding others make them a natural choice for good leadership.
All this would have been relevant in an ideal world, where being an extrovert is not rewarded and promoted since childhood. The harsh reality will hit you hard when one day, while minding your business in your room after your parent-teacher meeting, you will hear your parents talking in hushed tones about how this ‘phase’ is poorly affecting your life. It will hit you hard when you will look at any job descriptions or internship opportunities, and all of them expect an extrovert-like nature in their employees. And just like that, the choice of freely embracing ourselves and ‘being ourselves’ is snatched away from us and we are brought back to reality. We are forced to come to terms with the fact that to be successful in this world, we have to fit into the shoes of an extrovert while facing an internal battle with our fundamental beliefs.
Shy introverts are often faced with most obstacles because they rarely receive validation or a morale boost in a society where extroversion is encouraged. One of the most common complications they face is not forming proper sentences or stuttering during public speaking. Even though they might be outstanding in their written work, shy introverted students often find public speaking more complex compared to an average introverted student. Since they introspect and contemplate too much on any aspect, they set the bar too high for themselves and become anxious about not performing well in front of the public. In this case, the very fundamental nature of being an introvert becomes a hurdle for voicing their opinions. The question arises- then isn’t this the part where they require proper guidance in life? Sadly, looking at the reality of the situation in schools, we can’t hope to find the answer there.
While I fully agree that social media has opened a gamut of opportunities for introverts and extroverts alike to communicate freely on their own terms and bond with people of similar interests, it also brings forth some topics for discourse. There has been an overflow of creative and relatable content on social media during the pandemic on almost all topics relevant today. Recently, many have jumped on the bandwagon of finding humor in almost everything for the sake of getting a good reach on their page but sometimes it might just cost someone their peace of mind. Introversion being romanticized on social media is something I cannot wrap my head around after repressing it for a while now. A person who is not ‘in the mood to talk’ or carries a general air of cockiness or is rude and insensitive should not be confused with being an introvert. Blurring the line between these on social media can influence millions of young viewers to misinterpret introversion, leading to more misunderstanding between both ends of the personality spectrum. Watching content with a wrongful portrayal of introverts as anti-social and lazy may hurt people who already feel insecure. Other than wrongful portrayal, even romanticizing introverts who are shy or labeling their introversion as relatable creates a fantasy in the subconscious mind that will eventually get contradicted when faced with reality.
Through this article, I am by no means trying to put across that extroverts can breeze their way through life. Instead, most earnestly, I am trying to take the lid off the situation that has remained suppressed but needs most immediate attention. At present, when the phrase ‘just be yourself’ is endorsed and is a beacon of encouragement for some, it shouldn’t feel suffocating to some others.