I’ve seen something popping up a lot lately, and I have been going back and forth about whether I wanted to write about it and address it. I’ve decided that I just feel too passionately about it to let it lie.
There’s been a lot of press in recent years about introversion. A lot of great books have come out explaining more about it and helping each of us (whether we are introverted or not) understand what it’s like to walk through life with this wiring/chemistry/innate nature.
It will most likely come as no surprise when I share that I’m extremely introverted. I’ve been pretty public about it and have done interviews where I talked about it and really feel passionate about helping others be better able to understand this aspect of themselves and fully embrace it.
I love all of the press that it’s getting. I love that the stigma and misunderstandings around it seem to be lifting. And I love seeing more and more fellow introverts raising their flag and sharing with the world that they, too, are proud of it.
But what I don’t love is the wording that sometimes comes with it. You may have seen it since it’s in almost every explanation of what introversion is and what it isn’t. It usually reads something like this (overly dramatized for effect):
“Being introverted doesn’t mean that you’re shy (thank God!). It doesn’t mean that you are afraid of the world. It doesn’t mean that you cower around others or are hiding in your home 24/7. It doesn’t mean that you are a total absolute loser who can’t seem to get a grip on how to live in this world because you’re too freaked out by it. It doesn’t mean any of these things (Whew!). It just means that you refill your energy by being alone.”
I know that it’s true that you can be introverted and not be shy. It’s just the same as knowing that you can be introverted and also be male, female, a good singer, a horrible singer, a lovely person or a not-so-lovely person. But none of these other traits/characteristics ever seem to get mentioned with introversion, do they? Only shyness gets called out – over and over and over again. Introversion is seen as the trendy trait and shyness is seen as the trait that could be likened to the plague. And, as an introverted person who also happens to be shy, this tends to ruffle my feathers.
I’ve always been shy – sometimes painfully so. I used to hide behind my mom’s pant legs when meeting new people and slowly peek out and quickly hide again in the safety of the fabric. I used to dread being called on in school – not because I didn’t know the answer but because I didn’t want all eyes to be on me.
In sixth grade I had to sing a solo in a recital. I was so nervous that I developed tiny blisters all of my hands the night before and begged my mom to let me skip it. Instead, she handed me a pair of gloves and sent me on my way.
In college, I based my classes on whether or not I would have to give a speech, and I took as many independent study courses as possible simply so I could avoid being in the classroom.
Throughout my life, I’ve been accused of being aloof or a snob simply because I wasn’t as talkative and stood back a bit when first meeting others. I’m not comfortable in crowds and will do my best to avoid them. When the doorbell rings, I tend to freeze and stay as quiet as possible until whoever is there leaves.
Because of the negative stigma attached to shyness, I used to try to push through it or ignore it or hide it. I felt “less than” in so many ways and wondered why I couldn’t just “buck up” already and be like everyone else.
Thankfully, I no longer feel this way. I now see my shyness (and all of my other qualities) as part of what makes me who I am. I see it as something to embrace rather than hide. I see it as a gift that I’ve been given to help me empathize with others and be extra sensitive and introspective and perceptive. I now know for sure that being shy is not a weakness. It is such a powerful strength.
I hope upon all hopes that we can all just learn to embrace our whole selves – the socially accepted traits and also those that aren’t yet seen in a positive light. Because the more we do so, the better we’ll feel. But also the more permission we’ll give to others to do the same. And this ripple effect of self love will impact all of us in one way or another. We’ll walk a little taller and will shine our light a little more and will embrace exactly who we are and exactly who everyone is. It’s just the way it works. And it all starts with honoring each part of ourselves.
So yes. I’m introverted. And I’m also shy. And I’m so many other things as well – each of which come together to make me exactly who I am: a loving soul.
There are so many of us in the world who are innately shy and innately wonderful. And it’s my hope that we’ll embrace this trait and see it as the gift that it truly is. We’re doing such great things in the world – from the comfort of our own homes, behind our screens, and in whatever way feels right for us. And we’re truly making such a beautiful difference. I love that so much.
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