Are introverts really that misunderstood? Yes. That’s why part of being an introvert requires a willingness—your willingness—to advocate for introverts everywhere.
I sometimes wonder whether I’m yelling and screaming too much about the challenges of being an introvert in an extroverted world, 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 articles and going on TV and radio programs and podcasts to teach people how introverts truly tick, and why? Hosting workshops and teaching a comprehensive online course for introverts where I do the same?
Maybe it’s all a little much.
Are things really that bad for us introverts? Do I (and others) really need to have such a cow over it all? Are we introverts really so misunderstood and mischaracterized as we go through life?
Well … yeah.
We too often are misunderstood and mischaracterized, in Western society at least.
So even though I often wonder whether it’s all much ado about nothing, I always come back to the conclusion that it is in fact justified ado about something.
Extroversion—Western Culture’s Baseline
I don’t come to this conclusion lightly, nor do I do so without critically examining my own questions.
It’s possible, after all, to be over-reactive, 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 and normalize must in fact be quite inexplicable and abnormal!
But there’s something that is simply undeniable about living in the culture we do. As I put it in The Introvert Manifesto, in a piece entitled “I’ve Spent Too Much of My Life Thinking Something Must Be Wrong with Me”:
Extroversion is our culture’s baseline. There’s extroverted and there’s everything that’s not extroverted. No one thinks in terms of introverted and not introverted, because extroversion is always our starting place. Extroversion 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.
Extroverted Is Good, Introverted … ?
Here are the first (and for that matter only) 10 synonyms that appear:
outgoing, congenial, gregarious, personable, sociable, cordial, demonstrative, friendly, social, unreserved
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. 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
Some of those are very nice. I’m all about introspective and collected, and even quiet is fine with me.
The Unabomber was reclusive.
Reserved? Shy? Withdrawn?
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 imagine you’re introducing your kid at a party. Take your pick:
“Hey, everyone. This is my son/daughter, _____. He/she is an extrovert—outgoing, personable, demonstrative, and friendly.”
“Hey, everyone. This is my son/daughter, _____. He/she is an introvert—reserved, reclusive, restrained, and standoffish.”
Nope, I guess I’m not overreacting.
Being an Advocate for Introverts Is Part of the Gig
And that’s why I’m prepared to illuminate and enlighten, to yell and scream, for the long haul where introverts and introversion are concerned.
Because, like it or not, extroversion is the gold standard in Western culture. And it’s not going to change.
No sense whining and complaining about it; the world isn’t supposed to revolve around introverts any more than it’s supposed to revolve around extroverts.
Just be aware: Part of being an introvert in this extroverted world—a happy introvert, anyway—is being an advocate for introverts everywhere.
And like a Supreme Court judge, you’re appointed for life.