Stepping Out of Your Introverted Self

Being introvert or extrovert is one of many ways to describe people. At least 30 percent of humans are introverts. This seems to be true of many other species as well. Any kind of classification has its limits. So does introvert/extrovert definitions. According to Quiet… by Susan Cain (see a previous blog post) we can step out of our natural persona, especially if we are motivated to achieve a heartfelt goal.

One of the reasons why I like writing this blog is that I have started thinking more about these things surrounding my daily life. I have always loved dancing…and believe it or not, I have always loved performing. There is nothing about dancing that goes against being introvert but performing is not an introverted activity.

While I was discussing an upcoming dance performance with a friend (who is about to perform in a play), he said: ‘Why do we do this to ourselves?’ It’s a valid question. It takes dedication, practice, and nerves to perform. While the dedication and practice might come naturally, the rest, certainly doesn’t. Which made me really think about that question. Especially when my dance teacher asked me for the umpteenth time to ‘smile’ and ‘enjoy’ while I was dancing.

There are reasons why I don’t ‘smile’ and ‘enjoy’ while practicing for a performance. One is that I’m still focused on learning the routine as well as I can possibly learn it. Another is perfecting that routine; I don’t have time to smile. But I also have to confess that my introverted persona makes it taxing to perform. I prefer to ‘save’ that for the actual performance. As stated previously, learning, practicing, preparing – all of that comes natural, but to performing – put on a smile, projecting to the audience, that doesn’t come natural. I can step out of myself to do it, but not all of the time.

But why do I perform despite it going against my nature. I spend a lot of my life exploring other ways of being, through books, music, film etc. and I love the idea of giving that back. To give other people a chance to escape their everyday life and experience something that hopefully gives them joy.

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What do you do on your own?

Does having no one to join you, stop you from doing things you’d really want to do? Do you go to see your favourite band by yourself, the long awaited movie, a dinner on your own or go for a walk in the park? Do you join that yoga class or local gym? Do you travel solo?

Chances are that if you are happy to do things by yourself that are not normally seen as solitary activities, you’re likely an introvert. Introverts are much more comfortable in their own company and therefore, I would think, less likely to opt out of doing something because they don’t have someone to go with. Possibly with the apprehension of having to talk to people they don’t know. Extrovert on the other hand might see going somewhere solo as an opportunity to get to know new people, much more likely to interact with the new set of people.

Yes, we all read in our own quiet corner, or even to put a barrier between us and the rest of the world, such as communting on an overcrowded tube train. We watch TV in our own favourite chair at home. We have a coffee or maybe even a beer at our local cafe or pub. Most will go for walks in the park when the weather is warm without needing company. But how far are you willing to push yourself?

When I moved to London, on my own, which I’m sure many would see as a brave step, I was quite aware that if I wasn’t prepared to go places by myself, I would spend my entire time in London confined to my rented room. Not much fun! I believe I already had this ability, to do things solo. I went seight-seeing, to the museums, to photo exhibitions etcetera by myself and I still do. Sometimes prefereing to experience things without anyone else’s opinion.

Later I started going to the movies by myself, went out to dinner as a treat, attended events that are local to my community. I confess that there are still things I don’t do by myself. It’s more about feeling vulnerable than that I care about whether it’s socially acceptable or not. Medium-to-big concerts, dancing, late-night pubs, travelling, are things where I don’t feel comfortable. But, even smaller concerts, I love sitting in my own corner listening to a really talented musician.

So how solo are you prepared to go? Or are you dependent on having someone with you to share the things you love doing?

Are Introverts Shy?

I have never perceived myself as shy although I think it’s fair to say that a lot of introverts are. I would think most of us are not comfortable to be in the spotlight. We don’t want to be the centre of attention and speaking, even in a group of friends, can be perceived as more attention than what we really want.

The online Oxford Dictionaries defines shy as being nervous or timid in the company of others, slow or reluctant to do something or also having a dislike of or aversion to a specific thing. Well, I guess that I am shy then. I have a dislike of being the centre of attention, which can make me nervous in the company of large groups or reluctant to do things that will draw attention to me. That is not to say though that I will NOT attend functions that include large groups, or that I will NOT speak my mind in such as group, or that I will NOT draw attention to myself if so is necessary which I think a genuinely shy person would. For instance, all my life I have enjoyed performing…as long as it’s in a group, a choir or a dance troop where I share the attention from the audience. Reading my own texts on a stage is not something I enjoy even if I do it more and more frequently.

I have for a long time harboured the dream of becoming a writer. Story-telling is something that has fascinated me all my life. The modern author’s apparent necessity to be famous, a literary pop-star, to be able to be successful has intimidated me to go after this dream. Again, I think this is more my introvert side saying, “we don’t really want that much attentions do we,” rather than shyness. I have overcome this in two ways: one is a firm belief that I can be successful on my own terms; two that the readers I seek are like me – more interested in the stories than who wrote them – and if finding a readership comes with the baggage of more attention to my person than I like, well, I’ll learn to live with it.

Are introverts shy? I say not necessarily. Some are but others just have a preference for the slow, for the small and for the quiet and would never seek attention for its own sake.

Quiet – a book review

One reason why I started writing this blog about being introvert was that I recently read the book Quiet – the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain. As I mentioned in my first blog post, I have always known I’m an introvert. This book however made me reflect on what that means for my life. I sometimes feel that there is not space in society for me and when I read the beginning of Quiet, that outlines how extroversion has become the ideal in today’s society, I started to understand this feeling more. Most places from schools, to work places, to social activities are targeted to extroverts. No wonder that introverts like me sometimes feel like there isn’t space to breath.

I liked this book a lot for its throughout explanation of how our society is working from an extrovert/introvert perspective, the different strenghts and weaknesses of being one or the other, but also how we can make use of these differences. How do we find that space to breath when we struggle as introverts to find our place in this extroverted society?

It has also helped me understand why some of the advise and some of the situations I have ordealed over the years, haven’t work for me at all. For instance, I worked in a very noisy open plan office for a while. Music was on all day, everyone (although we were a small team) kept talking over your head while you tried to do your job. I was irritable, frustrated and sometimes felt like I couldn’t get anything done. To quote Quiet: “Open-plan offices have been found to reduce productivity and impair memory.” On top of that introverts prefer to work independently and in solitude where they can concentrate on one task at hand. I have since changed my job. It has it’s own challenges but now there’s just two of us in a smaller office space with no music. I enjoy work more now that I can concentrate on what I’m doing with fewer distruptions. In worse case, I stay late, and do the important details when everyone else has gone home.

Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert or, perhaps you’re not sure where you fit in, this book is worth a read. It’s an eye-opener and you will find yourself trying to figure out to which category you belong as well as all other people around you.

 

Quiet