Thoughts on being an introvert
I’ve been thinking a lot recently, about being an introvert and what that means. I guess that’s something an introvert might typically do, but it’s helped me gain an understanding of the type of person I truly am.
I often joke, there’s a reason why I’m a writer and not a public speaker, but it’s not a joke, not really.
You could say I hide behind my words. Perhaps I do, but I find it easier to ‘speak’ using words rather than my voice. If I try to articulate an opinion out loud, I often get tongue-tied and forget what it is I’m trying to say.
The reason I’ve been thinking about this so deeply is because I am currently preparing a talk, that I intend to give at schools. I’m working with a speaking coach who helps women, in particular, to find their voice through the spoken word.
Why is this even important anyway?
As an author, it is no longer enough to stay at home, surrounded by books and knee deep in manuscripts, hiding out in your shed, or somewhere no one can find you.
As an author, I am also website manager, social media expert and PR guru. I’m adding public speaking expert to this growing list of skills.
As an introvert, that’s no easy task. Society favours the extrovert, and as such, I’m expected to be a performer, to not only write the words, but to stand up in front of crowds of people and talk about what I write and why.
I’ve never put this label on myself before. It’s not always helpful to put a label on anything, but then there are occasions when it really does help. The older I’ve got, the more of an introvert I’ve become, more so since I became a mother and I think for me, it’s important to acknowledge that so I can learn to accept who I am and not let it define me or hold me back.
There is nothing wrong with being an introvert.
One third to a half of the population are introverts, and we follow in the footsteps of role models such as Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, JK Rowling and Emma Watson, among many others.
Introverts are known as good listeners. They have tons of empathy and often appear calm and self-contained. They think before speaking or acting. With a strong sense of self, introverts don’t feel the need to surround themselves with lots of friends. The friends they do have, however, are very precious to them and they are loyal to a tee.
Its no surprise to find that a crowded room, or a party, is an introvert’s nightmare. They don’t gain energy from this sort of situation. Instead, it drains them. For me, social gatherings can often feel daunting or overwhelming. Anxiety kicks in and I find myself forgetting how to talk to people.
I’ve been in group situations where I haven’t felt able to contribute because it just seemed so difficult. If I have said anything, I’ve been talked over or ignored, as if invisible, which doesn’t help things really. My behaviour, then, is such that, when in a group, if someone talks louder or dominates the conversation, I simply pull back and let them.
It is in these instances that people like me can come across as standoffish, bitchy or rude.
I can handle these situations because I’ve been doing this for a long time now. I know that if I’m prepared for a social gathering, I will find it easier. I also find it easier if there are other people there whom I know well. Also, if there’s a quiet place I can sit down and take some time out.
Introverts gain energy from low level stimulus activities, spending time alone being one of them. Others include reading, walking or yoga. I enjoy all of these things, but my voice in the crowd, my outlet when no one else is listening, is my writing.
So, going back to the talk I’m preparing. That strong sense of self, that introverts often feel, is both my saviour and my downfall. To feel like this means I am comfortable in my own skin and happy to be alone. It also means I am highly self conscious and find walking into a room full of people nerve wracking. Standing up and talking to a room full of people is another level.
But I’m going to do it regardless. And that is because since beginning to work with the speaking coach, I know already that I have something to say. I’m going to prepare my talk and I’m going to practice it until I can say it in my sleep. Only then, will I feel confident to stand up and do it. It won’t be easy, but I know I will be fine.
Finding the confidence to stand up in front of other people and have your say is empowering. For those precious minutes, I will not be overlooked or talked over. As with my writing, I will have a voice.
I’m halfway there already. With the workshops I do with my creative writing club, Storymakers, I regularly stand up in front of groups of children. They’re only small groups though, usually no more than ten, and I love this part of my job. The children I meet are genuinely lovely, interesting little human beings who bring as much to me as I do to them. There is an exchange of thoughts and ideas that goes on in every workshop and it doesn’t involve all eyes and ears on me, for all of the time.
Accepting I’m an introvert has really helped me to understand why I feel the way I do.
Emma Watson said this too, when she read Susan Cain’s novel, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
”extroverts in our society 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. That’s like the story of my life. Coming to realise that about myself was very empowering because I had felt like oh my God, there must be something wrong with me because I don’t want to go out and do what all my friends do.”