An introvert living in an extroverted world

I often think I am not cut out for this cut-throat world we live in. It goes by too fast and there are far too many big personalities in it for my liking. I do not think my personality is suited to the world as it stands today. The world seems to want and accept only loud, strong personalities with big egos, none of which I have. OK, maybe not the ego part because all humans are born with an ego but you get my drift.

I find myself often getting swallowed up in day to day life and I feel invisible. I do know that we create our own existence so perhaps I am to blame for allowing myself not be heard, my voice not raised loud enough so you can hear it echo from the cliff tops of Dover. Introduced to a new people, it is easy for them not to remember me – I don’t exactly stand out from the crowd. In fact I am fairly unmemorable. I’m certainly not cool or trendy and I cannot cure the world of cancer. It would be good to be Italian – they are naturally gifted at being loud without having to try (I love Italians by the way). Oh but for me I have to try to make the effort for you to even remember my name. However having an unusual name does help with that.

But I am not here to beat myself up about being unforgettable. I can accept that. But what I have a problem with is the world not accepting personalities like my own; the quiet achiever who goes about their business efficiently without the need to show off or name drop or exaggerate stories or situations so people will think they’re interesting, yet always feel the pressure to conform to be something or someone they are not. I am an introvert living in this materialistic, extroverted world created by and for extroverts and I also happen to be working in an extroverted field – marketing and communications. Yes that is my choice but it was my writing skills – not my sales skills – that got me working in this field. Unfortunately the majority of people who work in this space are predominantly extroverted buffoons with huge, huge egos. I worked in the corporate arena once and I hated it. I hated the pretence of people who believed they were so important but lacked the morals their parents never instilled in them. I am not suggesting all extroverted people and those that work in the corporate world are terrible people, but not everybody is extroverted and we introverts let our actions do the talking for us, not our mouth.

What exactly is an introvert you may be wondering? Well to put it simply, we are the opposite of an extrovert. Extroverts tend to draw their energy from interacting with people and come alive at gatherings and parties with lots of people. Extroverts thrive on change and new experiences. They truly adore the hustle and bustle of modern life. They should, after all they created it.

Now as for us introverts, well that is a different story altogether. We tend to be the quiet, unassuming folks you see blending into the background. We tend to draw our energy from within ourselves and too much outside stimulation tends to drain us. That doesn’t mean that we introverts do not like people or enjoy their company. It’s just that we prefer to limit our exposure to smaller groups of people for shorter periods of time. However, introverts are not your average wallflower. We are not all shy or antisocial by any means. We tend to have a very active inner life and we create our energy from such activities as reading, writing, and just about any other solitary venture. (Surprise, surprise).

Before I go further, it must be stated that introverts are not better than extroverts or vise-versa. Both are merely personality types, with extroverts making up approximately 75 per cent of the population, and introverts just 25 per cent. Extroverts might be aptly classified as the doers and introverts as the thinkers. Thats not to imply that extroverts do not think or that introverts do not do. Both types just have different temperaments. It pretty much boils down to how each type generates their unique energy.

I started a course last week and it consists mainly of people from corporate backgrounds with years of experience in traditional marketing.  10 per cent of the course grade must be earned through class participation. That means having to ask lots of questions and actively participate in class discussions every week. That may seem reasonable to some of you but it struck me that this course does not cater to us quiet type of characters. There are a lot of strong personalities in the class, many of which have strong egos and for good reason I suppose. On the train home after the course, an overwhelming sense of loneliness came over me.

To me, it just seems to get ahead in today’s world you have to have a big personality of which I do not have.  I have never been one to generally ask a lot of questions in a class environment because I learn more effectively by observing and absorbing all of the information. As a result, those of us that have a quite nature are made to suffer the consequences i.e. I am a risk of not earning 10 per cent of the course grade due to my personality type. Now I think, how is that fair? If I choose to observe and listen in class why should I be penalised for that? I consider that to be participatory.  Now I will be going to class every week for the next three months with my anxiety levels so high that I may not be able to learn and absorb everything that is being taught due to the pressure of now having to conform and actively participate in a way I am not comfortable to do. I thought adult learning was meant to feel like we are not at school?

Us modest, quiet types can be just as ambitious and goal driven as the rest of them and dare I say, entrepreneurial. We just don’t have the need to tell everyone about it. We are capable of creating as much success as we desire. Did you know that Lucille Ball and Tom Hanks were all shy at one time in their lives?  Lucille Ball, the woman we watched stuffing chocolates in her mouth from a conveyor belt with sidekick Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy. Perceived as shy by teachers at her drama school and discouraged from pursuing a career in show business, Lucille Ball did not give up.  The rest is history.

For personal growth reasons, this course is probably ideal. It will challenge me to interact with people I do not normally interact with and get me out of my comfort zone, which is the core issue. I understand this and I do understand we have to do things in life we do not always want to do and enjoy. Suck it up sister I can hear you say. Well, that maybe so and I will suck it up for the next three months for your information. I would like to see a world where people accept and are tolerant of all personality types that co-exist together. Not all of us interested in becoming the next Zig Ziglar but there are some of us that would like to become the next Jane Austen.

Any introverts or (extroverts) out there that would like to share their experiences?

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~ by Shae on March 15, 2010.

12 Responses to “An introvert living in an extroverted world”

  1. Nice one Shaeby. I love the examples. Most of us so called ‘extroverts’ are just ‘introverts’ pretending to be ‘extroverts’ so I bet those percentages are not so correct. You have certainly enticed me to take even more notice of introverted people. They are a blessing in this world!

  2. Shae, is it fair to say that you’re sometimes an extrovert? I know a lot of extroverted people who couldn’t create a blog like this. They are too shy to put their feelings and thoughts into words and then send them out to the world.

    Is it all a case of confidence? We all have different levels of confidence in differing environments in our lives; if you’re in a safe place, you’re more confident, you’re able to express yourself with more ease. I think we are all introverts and extroverts; it just depends on our current environment.

    Just thinking out loud here, if we’re in that environment where we are most confident, we are outspoken, is this when our spirit is free, our soul is experiencing freedom? Our energy levels are high, other people are gravitating towards us, feeding off our energy which we’re happy to share because with such ease, it’s easy to generate more to give away – perhaps the challenge is discovering the environment we feel most confident in, and in the short term spending most of our time there.

    When we’re ready for development we can venture into a different environment and slowly build our confidence by experimenting; but at least we know where to go back to, to recharge the batteries….

    Gee, that felt good as I typed it…or is it utter rot?

  3. The one description or comment that always comes to mind when people describe me…..”The Quiet Achiever”. I, like you hate big crowds, feel intimidated having to speak up and prefer to “observe and report” (as my job description dictates). I have always been a follower, not a leader. Great Blog Shae!

  4. Hi Shae. I definitely identify myself as an introvert, although I like Matthew’s idea about feeling more confident in expressing ourselves depending on our environment.

    I was always the student that sat back, watched what went on during class discussions, and rarely contributed. Then I had a course where the professor utilized this stream of consciousness technique. He would ask something like “what feelings do you associate with love?” Someone would say “happiness” and then “comfort” and as people in the class started to contribute these small ideas he would write them on the board in no particular order. It was like a collage of thoughts. The board sort of captured our immediate responses to a simple question and a lot more people were participating than usual, including myself. I started to visualize the word clusters on the board and it got me thinking in a more responsive way. After about the 10th “joyful” type of response it got me thinking that love had to be a lot more than just happy feelings. I associated grief and frustration to love and got the stream of consciousness flowing in a new direction. Once we had a lot of thoughts flowing, the teacher would then direct the discussion to more substanstial topic matter and it was easier for the students to come up with responses.

    Unlike a typical question and answer discussion, the professor really set up a different classroom environment. The result was that many of the quieter students had increased their participation.

  5. Shae – you are part of the silent majority. Thankfully introverts outnumber extroverts considerably, otherwise the world would be a tough place to live. Specifically, in the case of the course you are doing…do I detect an element of envy in that you feel that you can’t compete with those that ‘throw it out there’? While I would concede that particularly in marketing, you need to develop the confidence to ‘sell’ the product – as a consumer, I consider myself (and I am sure that others would agree with me) immune to the boisterous, over the top marketing pitch of the total extrovert. The ‘glam and glitter’ approach may work once with the gullible, but in my experience, those people do not last. As a consumer, I react positively to quiet, balanced approach, supported by an integral knowledge of the product and an evidence based background as to why I should invest in it. The ‘want more?????’ approach leaves me and many others cold. When talking about introverts in a social setting – thank goodness we actually have total extroverts to ‘set fire to the party!!!!’ They certainly give you something to laugh at as the night wears on. However, I don’t think many real people actually take them that seriously. We all harbor a ‘little extrovert’ inside us – mine comes out to play when I am in the company of good friends such as yourself. But, by and large we all have our insecurities and fears which we mask as much as possible. Your feelings are not unique – and you are not in the minority….its simply that too many of us lack the insight and courage to admit them – as you have in this blog. You are already over half way there. May I leave you with a quote – origin unknown – but obviously by a very wise person “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” You are already more successfull in so many ways than those you appear to be fearful of….and knowing you, I have every confidence you will be ultimately successfull in your chosen goal.

  6. Hmmmm. Is there such thing as both introverted and extroverted all in wrapped into one??? I believe so…..Amongst friends I am definately an extrovert at times but at work or in unfamiliar territory I tend to be the quiet one fearing those apparent leaders who have the power to trod on me. In staff meetings and amoung unknown people, I usually think it’s left best unsaid. Dutch courage is the catalyst of my extrovertm most of the time!!!
    I don’t like change at all – in fact change creates huge anxiety for me but usually leaves me with a sense of achievement after it has all happended. Definately a hold back in life. Perhaps it’s just a lack of confidence????

  7. I am going through a similar situation being in a class full of extroverts. The instructor has started to target me which has caused me tons of anxiety. I talked with him but have no confidence that he will not do it again. He made me feel as there was something wrong with me. Thanks for the article it just reinforced to me that its ok to be me! Conforming is tiring. Glad I came across your blog lifted my spirits and hope it will inspire extroverts to understand us a bit better.

    • Hi Bianca

      Thankyou for your comment. That is most unfair that your instructor is picking on you and he has no right to make you think there is something wrong with you. I did survive my course (I wrote this over 12 months ago now) and I even presented in front of the class twice.

      It is ok to be you and don’t ever feel like you shouldn’t. If you are an introvert, be proud. we can be just as dynamic, innovative, successful and smart as extroverts.

      I do hope for more understanding of our personality types – just like we hope the world accepts homosexuals and nationalities different to our own.

  8. Hi Shae,

    Great post, I am an introvert, I love nothing more than writing, and spending time on my own, quietly working away and producing some really good work. I have worked in marketing for years and while is suited my skills, such as writing, creativity and idea generation, there was an expectation that I would be out there, promoting myself. So I learned to put on an extrovert mask, I would attend events and manage seminars, looking serene on the surface, but feeling totally stressed inside. I felt drained at the end of the day and while my extrovert colleagues would be buzzing with energy, I would just feel exhausted.

    I did progress in marketing and had some senior positions and I have had my own business for a long time. But I was lucky as I had a business partner who was extrovert and did much of the “front of house” work, leaving me in the background which I was happy about.

    As time has gone on I come to accept who I am, I do love spending time with friends and family and people who I know and love, so I don’t spend all my time on my own. But sometimes I love nothing more than having the evening to myself to be on my own, write or read. I think that in some respects having to be an “extrovert” at time has been good for me, as I learned some good people skills and I also met some great people that I might not otherwise have met.

  9. What a fantastic article Shae. It’s very courageous of you to reveal your soul.
    Your article reads as if you feel there is something wrong with being introverted. We need introverted people, quiet achievers who just get things done. What would the world be like if it were just full of egotistical extraverts fighting for the most attention? You’d have the Middle East in every office and home. There’d be no market for beige Volvo station wagons.
    Introverts and extraverts are a yin and yang balance. Take a television station for instance. The extraverts are fighting to be on camera, while the introverts are quietly putting together the content behind the scenes. They are totally necessary but like their anonymity to be preserved and respected. So many people can be amazing financially successful, yet also be quiet achievers without being fully in the public eye. Think about shy surgeons, doctors, architects, journalists, authors, artists, musicians, orchestra members, people who work with animals, gardeners, scientists. The list goes on and on. You’ve found yourself in an industry surrounded by egos and extraverts. I don’t believe you have to behave in a loud way to be successful. Just be assertive, self assured, relaxed and self actualised. In other words, you learn to produce your gems of literary wisdom independent of the good opinions of other people. Do it in your mind first. Regularly in your quiet time, contemplate yourself in your imagination feeling confident and relaxed, being in demand, being appreciated and working with the sort of people you like to be surrounded by. Imagine yourself writing exactly what you love to write in an environment you love. The more you imagine your ideal scene and start to feel it in your imagination, the more you will start to create it.

    I understand very well what it means to be shy, anxious and introverted. I used to be so anxious, I became acutely agoraphobic, totally immobilised by anxiety and self consciousness for many years.
    Many people who know me now think that I’ve always been confident and extroverted. That is in fact not true. I’ve just been reasonably successful in overcoming my anxiety about being on show and mixing with people.
    The basic trait of being introverted however doesn’t go away. It just gets easy when you are relaxed in your self. More and more I find myself just wanting to be alone in meditation and prayer. It’s bliss. The extroverts miss out on this beautiful solitude. They’re too busy being noticed. From my perspective, the more relaxed you can become, the easier you will find it to deal with the extraverts.
    Look forward to more articles Shae.
    Ben Ormonde

  10. FELLOW INTROVERTS ITS TIME TO CREATE OUR OWN CULTURE AND EVEN POP CULTURE OUR ENTIRE WORLD. ITS TIME TO CREATE FREE INDEPENDENT CULTURE THAT WILL FINALLY FAVOUR US THE INTROVERTS AND NOT EXTROVERTS JOIN MY MOVEMENT BY HELPING ME TO CREATE AND WRITE LETS CREATE AN ENTIRE UNDEGROUND SOCIETY WHERE WE CAN SHARE OUR IDEA’S
    http://etree05.archive.org/details/BlazeMasterMysteriumOfTheUniverseByStanisawGiers

    read and share this with you’re fellows everywhere and CREATE no body will do that for us ,unless we put some effort into it…heres an Audio-book (just shows what one Introvert can do in some spare time, think how far we can go if we unite)

    {PLEASE LETS MAKE IT HAPPEN}

  11. […] A few years ago I wrote a post on my first blog about the struggles I had being an introvert. […]

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