I was a shy kid. School was something unpleasant, something to be endured. I grew up on a farm near a small town; the K-8 school I went to had about 40 students in total. My issues with anxiety started around the time I started school: I worried about everything. My days started with panicky thoughts about where to sit on the bus and ended in the same vein. The best part of the day was never recess — it was getting home to escape to my room and read.
My love of education didn’t materialize until graduate school, but my love of reading has been with me always. I’ve read a lot of self-help books and participated in many courses meant to help you understand your character. I have known the word introvert applied to me for a long time: using the Myers-Briggs test as an example, I’m an INTJ (you can test your type on various websites and you can read about the Myers-Briggs introvert types on Introvert, Dear). The relevant point here, though, is the way those results were presented to me:
- “I thought you were an extrovert!” said many an extroverted colleague, or
- “Your score is close to the mid-point of introversion/extroversion” said a well-meaning HR staffer.
The not-so-hidden context being that introversion is a negative thing. I was praised for the way I was able to “channel my extroverted tendencies” at work. It wasn’t until I read Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking that I encountered an approach of appreciating the contributions of introverts to society.
Originally read and marked up in Kindle, this book completely shifted my view of introversion. It challenged my perspectives and brought out a pride in my introvertedness. I loved the core message so much that I bought copies for friends and family, somehow managing to gift it to my daughter twice.
On vacation in 2016, I remember browsing through a bookstore in Victoria BC with a friend of mine, also an introvert, and deciding to buy the extra copies. I still have the bookmark from Munro’s Books in my copy. It was a great introvert’s afternoon: shopping in a small independent bookshop, a leisurely stop at a tea shop, capped off with wine at a quiet outdoor pub.
I could give you my best attempt at summarizing what I learned, but you should read the book. And the author’s hugely popular TED Talk might convince you to do so. I immediately identified with her awkward summer camp story which reminded me of an unpleasant week-long stint I spent at camp when I was around 10.
I feel like there has been a societal change since this book came out: a shift toward appreciation of introversion. I don’t know if Quiet caused this shift to happen, but there are a number of great online resources about introverting now. Here’s a sampling:
- Find out where you fit on the introversion/extroversion continuum with a free quiz on Introvert, Dear
- Get lost down a fun and insightful rabbit-hole with Introvert Doodles
- Follow Susan Cain’s work at Quiet Revolution
Thanks for reading and Happy Friday!