Susan Cain’s look into the world of the introvert is downright fascinating. This book was suggested to me ages ago – I think back when I was blogging at eclectic/eccentric – but it languished upon my shelves for a decade until my cousin Hannah recommended I read it. We both have introverted daughters and it seemed like a way to understand them, and ourselves, better.
I am an introvert. You can check out my personality type post if you’d like. Much of this book spoke to me. I prefer being alone; I get exhausted by social events and large crowds – although I do not dislike them nor am I uncomfortable in them;
What I found fascinating was Cain’s explanation of how we came to the Extrovert Ideal. She provides an overview of the path that led us to idealizing and idolizing those who are extreme extroverts which consequently has us diminishing the importance and respect given to introverts. We quite literally train our children to be extroverts through education and culture.
I was very happy she included a section explaining that not all introverts are shy. I am not a shy person; I’m actually a TMI person who will talk to you about personal information at our first meeting. I might even touch you as I am a touchy-feely kind of gal as well. Things change a bit if we are not one-on-one though. I can sit in a group of 20 people and join right in the conversation – if it’s on a subject I am passionate about. For example, conferences in my field of study are fantastic opportunities to delve in to critical conversations. BUT, but. If you want me to make small talk at an evening out with acquaintances, I’m slightly anxious and quite bored. And finally, I need my alone time. Desperately. That’s how I know I’m an introvert. I feel horrendous if I don’t have time to myself daily.
I have learned how to pretend to be an extrovert quite well, and Cain spends a lot of time talking about this phenomenon. She even uses a college professor as an example which works perfectly for me. When I tell my classes I am an introvert, they don’t believe me. How can I be a professor if I (and I quote here) “don’t like people” or “am scared of people”? Ah, the misconceptions about introversion.
Cain does a great job of both dispelling those misconceptions and offering great anecdotes and profiles of introverts who have made a difference. I highly recommended reading this…introvert or not.