Okay, first of all, can we all just behold the pure irony of this title? I mean really. I’m talking about why I’m so quiet. I digress.
But seriously, if I had a penny for every time I’ve been asked that question (and other similar ones), I’d be a millionaire.
I’ve never quite known how to answer it because for a long time, I truly had no clue why I was quiet. Why a good book usually sounds way more appealing than going to a party or why the thought of group activities where everyone is expected to participate (AKA talk) makes my stomach drop (yeah, that totally rhymed.)
But today, I’m talking (writing?) about how it feels to be an introvert in a loud world, the science behind it, and how there is a quiet revolution happening right at this moment.
For a long time, I felt ashamed about how quiet I was. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t loud, funny, and charismatic like all my peers seemed to be. While I was practically bolting for the door after any activity to avoid “unnecessary” social contact (*shutter*…), they seemed to thrive on it and dare I say, enjoy it. And while I had maybe one or two good friends if I was lucky, these odd creatures were surrounded by people.
I wondered what I was doing wrong.
And questions and comments like, “Why are you so quiet?” or “You’d be a lot more fun if you’d just talk more” validated my belief that there was something “wrong” with me. And, as there was obviously something broken about me, than I must work to fix it.
Except no matter what I did, I couldn’t fix myself. And trust me, I tried everything, from wishing on a shooting star to doing a YouTube hypnosis video.
Here’s the thing: The problem was never my quietness. The problem was the way I viewed being introverted. Big difference.
I was so busy trying to “come out of my shell” and become a social butterfly that I never explored who I was, introvert and all. It didn’t help that I felt like the only one.
So what changed? How did I go from “I must become an extrovert” to “Hey, this isn’t so bad?”
The most important turning point was when I realized that I wasn’t the only one (far from it!) The world is full of introverts and I had been so convinced of my poor little me, everyone else is loud and funny and I’m just a loner narrative that I hadn’t taken the time to really observe the other people in my life. Turns out, a lot of them were quieter in some situations and preferred the same kind of things that I did.
And than I started delving into the science of introverts and I found hard evidence that backed my observations. An estimated 50% of people are introverts. That means half of the people in the world!
Seem a little weird? I thought so too at first. But than I realized that a) you aren’t necessarily a complete introvert or a complete extrovert and b) some people are just really good at hiding it.
That first realization really shocked me. I’m naturally a very black and white thinker, which means I go to extremes and follow the whole “either or” philosophy. But it makes sense. In some situations, I become what most would consider “extroverted”: when I start dancing onstage or when you start talking to me about something I’m passionate about, I won’t shut up (I mean that in the best way possible!)
Some people are neither extroverts nor introverts; they are slap dab in the middle ambiverts.
So why does it matter what you are?
In some ways, it really doesn’t…or at least it shouldn’t. But a lot people, even teachers and other authority figures, don’t seem to be educated about the whole spectrum and tend to think that if you’re not an extrovert than there is something wrong with you. This idea gets passed down to kids and soon enough, they start believing it and a vicious cycle ensues.
So while it doesn’t matter what part of the spectrum you fit on, it does matter that people are educated about and accept every part of it.
You know what amazing things would happen if teachers and peers started recognizing and teaching for introverts as well as extroverts, instead of forcing them to become something they’re not? Yeah, me neither, but I’m betting it would be pretty cool.
And I’m not the only who’s speaking out about being introverted. Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, has started a whole quiet revolution; her TED talk alone has had over 12 million views!
Why am I so quiet?
The answer lies in science, society, and a whole lot of other things.
I’m not here to say that introverts are better than extroverts. There’s no “better.” We all have something to do that is unique to us and our quietness (or not so quietness) helps us to do it (whatever “it” may be.)
Let’s start educating ourselves, accepting every kind of extrovert, introvert, and everything in between.
And, instead of asking, “Why are you so quiet?”, let’s start asking, “What can you do with your quietness?”