An Introvert's Lament
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An Introvert's Lament

What is it like to be an introvert in an extroverted world?

An Introvert's Lament

No matter how much I’ve tried to escape them, my introverted ways have followed me into adulthood. When I was in high school, the quietness and reserved personality I almost always exhibited was seen as a quirk or an endearing trait. I always assumed I’d grow into my own skin, so to speak, and become more comfortable with speaking up and socializing - which I have - but in some ways I am still that shy awkward high schooler.

I’ve taken personality tests - loads of them, as it seems they are built into the curriculum of numerous college courses - and they almost always come out the same. I am an introvert, though I possess certain characteristics of extroverts as well, and I am most energized by alone time - time spent reading a book, writing my Odyssey articles, or simply thinking (I know the thought of simply sitting alone with one’s thoughts will drive some people crazy). That’s just how I’ve always been.

I’ve never really seen it as a bad thing. Sometimes my quiet and introspective nature makes social gatherings a big challenge, interviews especially stressful, and participation points in class the most bothersome thing of all time - but I’ve learned that there are also benefits to my introspection.

Just because I have come to terms with the way I function as a human being, that doesn’t mean that being an introvert is always easy. There have been times when I have sobbed to my parents about a certain class - most notably my Algebra II class in high school where everything was structured in a group format, we even had group tests. There are still days that are rough for me and that wipe me out physically and mentally - like spending two days straight with the freshmen students in the class I am a teaching assistant for to kick off the semester. Sometimes it does feel like I am the odd one out in a world that caters to the people persons and extroverts - if you don’t believe me that society is set up for the outgoing, just watch Susan Cain’s Ted Talk below - but I have learned to adapt in some ways, and learned how to feed my introverted soul in other capacities.

I know now that in order to succeed in an extroverted world, I have to adapt. This adaptation is a good thing. Just because I am an introvert does not mean that I can’t be a leader and that I can’t make friends. It may mean that the social aspects of both of those things require a bit more thought and exertion for me, but I can do them. I’ve learned that I need to assert myself in class - I’ve made a rule that I have to make at least one contribution to any class discussions, and I stick to that. If I want to contribute more, great. If I don’t contribute at all, I will feel like I wasn’t a beneficial part of the lecture that day - and it makes me try even harder to speak up next time.

While sometimes it is hard living in a world geared towards extroverts and where everyone will tell me how shy I am (as if I don’t already know), learning to adapt and function in society is important. I may need to recuperate with a book after an evening out or go straight to bed after a long day at school, but that’s okay. That means I tried to exert myself for some amount of time and that I succeeded at least a little bit in doing so.

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