I struggled with personality identity for the longest time. You see, the thing is, I didn’t even know I was an introvert. I never really thought about it. However, I found myself trying too hard to fit into situations other people would term as normal. For example, I would go out to a night club and get bored within the first hour. I would attend social events and instead of interacting with others, end up with my friend (also an introvert) at a corner chatting between ourselves.
I would prefer to have weekends in as opposed to hanging out with my friends.
All these things sound normal today, but I kept asking, why am I not like other people? Why can’t I just enjoy a day out? One time, an ex-boyfriend berated me for sitting by myself at a party he had organized, while his friends were laughing their hearts out in a group. He wasn’t happy with my ‘unfriendly’ nature and thought I felt that I was too good for his friends. The truth is, we had spent all day in the company of these friends and I was totally exhausted with human interaction. I really needed some time alone.
A few years ago, I came across Susan Cain’s book; Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I may sound overly dramatic by saying this book changed my life, but it actually did. It changed my life in the sense that, I accepted my introversion and the benefits that came with this acceptance such as:
1. Brought understanding of introversion.
This well researched book explains how introverts are, why they behave the way they do, and most importantly, that it is okay to be an introvert. Susan Cain spent years interviewing people of different cultures and backgrounds and spent time with them to understand their personality. Being an introvert herself, she relates very well to the people she interviews and explains why she had to leave her career because it constantly clashed with her personality.
2. I got more comfortable with who I am.
When I read this book, I accepted how I am and no longer do I try so hard to be in situations I am not comfortable in. I got comfortable in my skin. I can happily leave a party, or choose a night or a weekend in without apologies, since time alone is really important for me. My further study of introversion led me to understanding the Myers-Briggs personality types (I am ISTP). Among other characteristics, this personality type ‘think’ more than they ‘feel’. These people can be termed as ‘cold’ a word which I was called more than once. While being termed as ‘cold’ used to offend me before, I now understand why I may appear ‘cold’ in some situations and I no longer take offense.
3. It changed my dating life.
In the past, I always dated extroverts. Don’t get me wrong, they are great people, but their outgoing nature and the need to be always around people was really emotionally draining for me. I always dreaded weekends where I would have to compromise and go out with my then boyfriend as opposed to cuddling on the couch watching or reading something.
Now, I am dating an introvert who loves the same things that I do and I have never been happier.
4. I claimed back my life.
Searching for an identity is a long, exhausting journey. At some point you actually lose yourself. After accepting my introversion and getting comfortable in doing what I love, I reclaimed my life such that I do things that please me, whether they looked or sounded socially acceptable or not. I began to read more and realized how much I had missed that. I began to take long drives on weekends as opposed to nights of partying and nursing a hangover the day after. I enjoying cooking in my kitchen while enjoying a glass of wine by myself (sometimes I cook so much food I have to give out some of it to neighbors).
5. I understood extroverts more.
The good thing with Susan Cain’s book is that it also mentions extroverts and why they behave the way they do. When my extroverted friends need to catch up, I ensure I am the best company at that moment (under the influence of some coffee or wine), then recline to my home after some time, having made a friend happy and myself; a win-win situation here.