I consider myself a forced extrovert, otherwise known as an introvert. I can force myself to be loud and outspoken, but it requires effort. Granted, teaching has helped me to be more extroverted, but I’m still naturally quiet, reflective, and enjoy spending time on my own, (just not all of the time!). I look forward to my quiet days at home with my computer and a blank screen for writing, (one of the perks of forcing myself to be extroverted as a teacher is that is buys me time to introverted on my breaks while everyone else is off working). I often lose myself in my thoughts and have spent my life labeled as quiet. I think that all of this earns me the title of introvert, at least to some degree.
Now, this is what gets me. My whole life, people have confused quiet with shy. In fact, I’ve confused quiet with shy, thinking that somehow I must lack confidence because I’m quiet. Yes, there are times I am and have been shy, but a lot of what has earned me the label as shy is not a fear of speaking up or a lack of confidence, but rather a preference for quiet reflection. I choose when to talk and often do not feel the need to add anything to group discussions, (unless no one is speaking up, then I feel the need to carry the conversation… I felt sorry for how much my fellow resident teachers had to hear me talk in seminar!). This distinction is important because I have always felt that being shy or quiet is stigmatized. More often that not, people have told me that I am quiet with a certain condescension, (or at least a perceived condescension).
Okay, now here is the kicker– I think a big part of why I’ve forced myself to be more outgoing is because so much external value is put on being outgoing. No one wants to shout from the roof tops that they’re an introvert, (irony intended). Instead, it’s way cooler to self-identify as an extrovert, even when taking those silly personality tests that pop up in school and jobs. Growing up I never liked it when I identified as an introvert on one of those tests; I’d actually find myself trying to bend the answers as to sound more extroverted while not technically lying! Who am I kidding, even in recent years I have found myself wanting to fudge those tests. We rank extroverts as better in our society!
Today I stumbled across a blog entry about a new book, Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Reading an interview of the author, I felt proud to be an introvert for the first time in my life! I like that I am comfortable in quiet, that I lose myself in my head. It is what makes me me. I think that the world would be a better place if we introverts took more pride in ourselves, our true, quiet, selves… If you want to borrow the book after I’m done, let me know.