I am an introvert. I am quiet and analytical by nature. I dislike clubbing and crowded parties, preferring instead to bask under the comfort of my reading lamp or share a drink with my closest companions. Head-bobbing to techno music gives me a migraine and if I really wanted sweaty, alcohol-infused bodies rubbing against me, I would go to a strip club instead. I am adept at fading into the crowd and if you ever catch me chatting you up, it usually implies one of two things- either I find you extremely nice (if you’re a guy) or I find you extremely attractive (if you’re a girl). You know that person you can never quite remember at a social event? I am that person.
The fact is, I am what many of the 75% of the world’s extraverted population would consider to be ‘boring’. I’ve been told many things, from condescending remarks such as ‘you should try to have fun’ to the downright hurtful ‘you need to get a life.’ Indeed, I grew up longing to be a part of the popular and gregarious clique in high school , so much so that I whored myself to societal expectations of ‘coolness.’ It wasn’t long before I started feeling exasperated by all the fraternizing, and I realised then that being ‘boring’ was something I had to embrace.
In a society wrought from expectations, the shedding of stereotypes becomes an uphill task for minority groups and things are no different for those in the passive end of the personality spectrum. Contrary to popular belief, introverts are not necessarily shy and are certainly not antisocial. Most of us have no qualms about mingling around- we just choose to do so in moderation. It is a lifestyle choice, much like how some of us prefer coffee to tea. Introverts simply have a lower need for affiliation.
Granted, we are not exactly the life of the party and you will be hard-pressed to find me warming up to everyone at an event. However, this is not because some ingrained, pathological fear of social contact. The truth is, sustaining small talk is a very tiring ordeal and maintaining a superficial relationship becomes difficult without first establishing sincerity. Being social and perky is not the default setting for the introverts among us; it requires effort and there are only so many times we can introduce ourselves in one seating before we drain our personal batteries.
On the flip side, we derive solace from solitude. Indeed, I find personal space to be a potent rejuvenator; it is the perfect antipasto to a meal of neon lights, concrete jungles and unnecessary noises. Introverts have a well-kept secret that needs to be shared- there is a beautiful symphony to be found in silence. It is one that resonates from paintbrush bristles against canvas, or a solitary musical note as it dances along walls, or the voice in our head as we engross over a good book. These are the sounds of solidarity we crave before we drown ourselves in the clangs and clutter of 21st century urbanism.
Unfortunately, our affinity for personal time also puts us at risk of being misunderstood by others, though can we blame them? While loneliness, feelings of discontent, sadness and low self-esteem are prominent subsets of introversion, it is unfair to assume that the inverse is also true. The truth is, many of us have absolutely no reason to feel that way. As psychologists Christopher Long and James Averill put it, ‘there is freedom in solitude; it is both a freedom from constraints and a positive freedom to do what you want and let your thoughts wander.’
At the end of the day, introverts are not very different from everyone else at all. We might not be socialites and jetsetters, but we still crave for the same feelings of companionship. I do admire the energy, charisma and exuberance of my gregarious friends, for they are traits I wish I sometimes had. Yet introversion does have its perks too in the form of heightened acuity, clarity of thought and a keener sense of empathy. Ultimately, I have learned to embrace the identity I once loathed and with that came a deep sense of emancipation. It is the liberty to be our own individual, even if it means staying home on a Saturday night to read.
- E Svboda. Field Guide to the Loner: The Real Insider. Psychology Today. Available from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200703/field-guide-the-loner-the-real-insiders
- B DePaullo. Solitude, Part 2: The Benefits It Brings, and the Special Strengths of the People Who Enjoy It. Psychology Today: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201103/solitude-part-2-the-benefits-it-brings-and-the-special-strengths-the-peopl
- Long, C. R., & Averill, J. R. (2003). Solitude: An exploration of the benefits of being alone. Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, 33, 21-44.
- S. Dembling. How to Piss Off an Introvert. Psychology Today. Available from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-introverts-corner/201006/how-piss-introvert
- B Gorrell. A Night in the Life of an Outsider. Thought Catalog. Available from: http://thoughtcatalog.com/2011/a-night-in-the-life-of-an-outsider/
Chien Young is your everyday Malaysian lad who somehow found himself in an Australian medical school. He enjoys the occasional discourse and thinks there is nothing more gratifying than the combination of headphones, good music and the view from the backseat of a moving car.
Image taken from here.