In an Extraverted World, You Need to Be an Introvert Advocate — for Life

I sometimes wonder whether I’m yelling and screaming too much about the challenges of being an introvert, and about what it’s like to walk in an introvert’s shoes.

I mean, c’mon: writing a book called The Introvert Manifesto? Writing blog posts and articles and going on TV and radio programs to teach people how introverts truly tick, and why? Hosting workshops where I do the same? Maybe it’s all a little much.

Are things seriously that frustrating for us introverts? Do I really need to have a cow over it all? Are we really so misunderstood and mischaracterized as we go through our daily lives?

Well … yeah.

We too often are misunderstood and mischaracterized, in this culture at least. So as often as I wonder whether it’s all much ado about nothing, it is in fact much ado about something.

I don’t come to this conclusion lightly, nor do I do so without giving my own questions a lot of critical thought — practically every day as a sort of check on myself. It’s possible, after all, to be overreactive, or to “protest too much, methinks” (as Shakespeare put it in Hamlet) so that you end up unintentionally convincing people that the very thing you’re trying so damn hard to explain or normalize must indeed be quite inexplicable or abnormal.

But the bottom line is that I would write The Introvert Manifesto again today; I stand behind both the content and the voice that not only educates but advocates. In fact, I would emphasize even more strongly this passage, from a piece entitled “I’ve Spent Too Much of My Life Thinking Something Must Be Wrong with Me”:

Extraversion is our culture’s baseline. There’s extraverted and there’s everything that’s not extraverted. No one thinks in terms of introverted and not introverted, because extraversion is always our starting place. Extraversion is normal, desirable. Introversion — well, not so much.

If you want — or need — proof of this unfortunate but all-too-real phenomenon, either for yourself or for other people in your life, look no further than the thesaurus.

I went to this morning and typed in the word extroverted. Here are the first (and for that matter only) 10 synonyms that appeared:

outgoing, congenial, gregarious, personable, sociable, cordial, demonstrative, friendly, social, unreserved

Hmm. All of those are very nice. If any of them were used to describe one of my kids, I’d be a proud papa indeed. And one who is quite happy for his children to boot.

What happens when you type in the word introverted? Well, here are the first 10 synonyms that appear:

reserved, introspective, reclusive, soft-spoken, collected, cool, quiet, restrained, shy, withdrawn

Hmm. Some of those are very nice. I’m all about introspective and collected, and even quiet is fine with me. But reclusive? The Unabomber was reclusive. Reserved? Shy? Withdrawn? Yuck.

Wait til you see the 11 additional synonyms that are listed:

bashful, cautious, close-mouthed, cold, demure, modest, offish, secretive, solitary, standoffish, uncommunicative

None of those are very nice.

So, take your pick:

“Hey, everyone. This is my son/daughter, _____. He/she is an extravert — outgoing, personable, demonstrative, and friendly.”

“Hey, everyone. This is my son/daughter, _____. He/she is an introvert — reserved, reclusive, restrained, and shy.”

Nope, I guess I’m not overreacting.

So I’m prepared to illuminate and enlighten, yell and scream, for the long haul, not only for my own personal sake but also for and on behalf of other introverts everywhere. To the best of my ability, and knowing full well that a) I don’t know everything or even close, and b) introverts are a diverse group; we’re not all the same.

But guess what? If you’re an introvert, you had better be prepared to do the exact same thing in your own life. Lots of your own illuminating and enlightening, yelling and screaming, for the long haul. Because like it or not, here’s reality: Extraversion is the gold standard in our western culture, so much so that we are scarcely even aware of it.

And it’s not going to change.

No fair whining and complaining; the world isn’t supposed to revolve around us any more than it’s supposed to revolve around extraverts. Just be prepared: Part of being an introvert in this extraverted world — a happy introvert, anyway– is being an introvert advocate, for yourself and for others. And it’s just like being a Supreme Court judge: You’re appointed for life.

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