I don’t know if I am an introvert, if I am I don’t know if I want to label myself. But I did a personality profile (was forced to by a boss) that did, in fact, label me as such, so I wanted to examine the world through introverted eyes (so to speak). A world where being social and outgoing are celebrated, even necessary.
“When it comes to creativity and leadership we need introverts doing what they do best”, Susan Cain
I recently read an article in company magazine, written by Stevie Martin who describes introversion as “not being the same as shyness”, as is often mistakenly assumed, but as someone who needs alone time to recharge after spending time with a lot of people. In the article there is a quote from the actress Emma Watson:
“Extroverts are bigged up so much, and if you’re anything other than an extrovert, you’re made to think there’s something wrong with you. I felt like there must be something wrong with me because I don’t want to go out and do what all my friends want to do.”
I know this well, because I have always suffered through an introverted personality. At school opting to do homework at lunchtimes and finding any excuse to not go to parties; now people know better than to invite me to parties. They cripple me, literally, regardless of how early I go home or whether or not I have a drink, I still feel like I have the worst hangover, which can last for a week or so.
It takes a lot of power for me to overcome the restless energy that comes from being with other people and just chill out in the presence of others. A lot of my favourite activities are singular, I like reading, writing, shopping, walking, watching films, creating mood boards, acting (monologues) and other things that I can do alone or with small groups of close friends. Introverts feel more creative and switched on in quiet environments, this is where they do their best work. This is how I do my best work.
I have found the workplace to be worse than school life. I find it very difficult to be myself if I am in an office or busy environment. My opinions and creative impulses just switch off, compressed by all the people surrounding me. This is not a physical thing, I quite like working in a busy coffee shop or walking through bustling streets amongst strangers, it is the expectation of interaction that gets me. Sometimes I feel the need to “switch on” extrovert behaviour, which leads me to burn so much energy, and leaves me feeling demolished. I have made the choice to follow an acting career, which, whilst it is a job that involves working with others, all the preparation and creative development can be done alone, or within small groups in very safe environments. For this reason I feel more true to myself as an actor than I have done in other working environments. I feel especially grateful to the director on my current job who is conducting some of our rehearsals by Skype, and I am producing some of my best work.
However, don’t be confused, I am not a shy person and I don’t dislike people (although I may have been heard saying that on one or two occasions).
Social media means that I can be social without having to give up on my nurturing solitary time. It means that I can be part of a community, and not just the ones on my doorstep, but global communities. That, in turn, leads to the deeper relations with the world that enable me to step out in the physical realm as well as the digital one (I refrain from using the word real and not-real, as there is reality in both worlds). So, for this reason, I have decided to create a youtube channel: Spitting Diamonds, where I can express myself in the way that I would in my own solitary space, but still connect with others. I have even already made plans to work with other people on this channel, but I can do this whilst creating in my own space.
I saw a play last week that touched on the negatives of social media, particularly around comparisons with others. It was a great show and I agreed with the messages, in fact I raved about it in a video (see below), but I think that the positive community and communication aspects are the flip-side to that.
I’ve always felt a bit sad that none of my amazing friends know each other, because I largely stick to being with people on a 1:1 basis, where I can feel nourished by spending time with fantastic people. I’ve also always felt like I won’t achieve in the world because I wasn’t able to bond in the social ways that others do. Don’t get me wrong, I am no hermit, but I have never been able to have superficial conversations or even superficial friendships, which makes me feel like I can’t be a good networker. The things I do and the people I interact with matter to me. But that meant no crazy nights with societies at uni, or impromptu evenings at the pub with my boss or colleagues, and that led me to believe that I couldn’t achieve as I couldn’t build solid networking foundations.
I seem to have concluded that I probably am an introvert, but I am in good company, as it turns out introverts make up approximately 30% of the population, so there are a lot of other people feeling the same way. Just think how much introvert power may be unharnessed because of the way our workplaces and education systems are set up. Don’t let it stop you from being your best. If you are an introvert I would love to hear how it has impacted you in the comments box. Or perhaps you are an extrovert who doesn’t think that the grass is greener!
I will leave you with Susan Cain’s TED talk who says that introverts are “pretty excellent as they are”.