I don’t often get to read The Globe and Mail but a lifestyle piece in the March 1, 2016, issue grabbed me by the lapels. Could this woman’s simple story provide another clue into my own makeup and very being? Naturally, I couldn’t leave it alone and like so many times in life, one thing led to another.
The piece referenced a 2012 bestseller by Susan Cain called Quiet, which I promptly bought. That purchase led to two others, an awakening, and several “well, duh” moments. Over several months, I read all three and began seeing myself in a new and kinder light.
Frankly, I’m both shocked and relieved that parts of my essence are still being revealed to me at this point in my life. I’m well past the coming-of-age age. Maybe, if we’re lucky and stay alert, revelations continue until that last deathbed moment.
The books I read were Quiet-The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t Stop Talking, Introvert Power-Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength (Laurie Helgoe), and The Irresistible Introvert-Harness the Power of Quiet (Michaela Chung).
So, my secret’s out. Despite doing some very extroverted activities (speaking to large groups as a marriage commissioner/funeral celebrant and appearing on TV and radio through my festival coordinator duties) I skew to the introvert end of the personality continuum. According to Helgoe, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator model shows 57% of people are introverts. Yet, we are marginalized and made to feel weird. In fact, in 2010 attempts were made to “include introversion as a diagnostic indicator for certain mental disorders” in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
Cain says, “Introversion?along with its cousins: sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness?is now a second class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.”
To be clear, all of us have both introvert extrovert aspects to our personalities. Those of us who are drained versus energized by social interaction are introverts. Those of us, who love our own company, choose reading over partying, and need to retreat to recharge are introverts. We tend to be innovators, thinkers, creators. We don’t hate people. We simply do better in small gatherings or deeper one-on-one conversations than in large groups. We prefer email to the phone. We prefer offices to open concept cube farms. We are more sensitive to smells and noise. We are sensitive, period. We reflect, see patterns, are drawn to the inner world of our own minds.
Despite all that, society pressures us to “loosen up, have a little fun, come out for a drink, don’t think so much, stop being so sensitive.” I’ve said and thought the same, to and about myself (and others). That’s bullshit.
But, that was then. Now, I find myself working introversion into conversations or writing this column in another attempt to spread the word. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, give yourself the gift of awareness. Treat those who are different than you with new insight. And now, if you don’t mind, I’d rather be alone, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.