By Maddie Granato, Age 23
If anyone reading this is anything like me, you’ve probably been asked millions of times some variation of these questions: “Can you repeat that? I couldn’t hear you.”, “Why are you so shy?” and my personal favorite, “Can you loosen up?” (Signal: end of conversation.)
There’s a solid answer to any and all of such inquiries: like approximately one third of the population, (read: ONE THIRD OF THE POPULATION!!!!!!) I am an introvert. I’d like to say I’ve always owned that statement proudly, but in a society that so clearly favors the outgoing, let’s face it: introversion isn’t always the most ideal personality trait.
A prime example of the lack of respect for the quieter population: do a quick Google search of just the word “introvert” and see what pops up. It’s Forbes educating us on ways we can “be more powerful” as if introverts are somehow less inclined to succeed. Its Psychology Today providing “Essential Tips for Introvert-Extrovert Couples” as if making the relationship between my semi-more outgoing significant other and I work must be such a struggle. The real kicker: it’s the Atlantic suggesting that “Caring for Your Introvert” obviously takes special training and consideration.
Though clearly well intentioned, such “self-help” media has a knack for implying there’s something inherently wrong with introversion– that being quieter is somehow a massive barrier looming in the background of my path to social and professional triumph.
And that’s wrong. Some of the most successful people to date (i.e. Bill Gates, Emma Watson, J.K. Rowling and a slightly famous historical figure known as ABRAHAM LINCOLN) are/were known introverts. There’s actually zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas, even though the loudest, most assertive arguments usually (and unsurprisingly) win out – a formula a current presidential candidate of ours certainly executes to a T.
Society’s issue with introverts is especially detrimental to women, who according to dominant gender norms are expected to be relentlessly chatty and outgoing, giggling for days and smiling at strangers. Just think about it: when a man is an introvert, how is he described? More often than not, he’s the “strong silent type” or a “man of few words” – labels that are nothing short of admirable and are rarely accompanied by any sort of negative connotation.
But the introverted woman? She’s unapproachable, she’s snobby, she’s cold, she’s unfriendly…you catch my drift. A woman who’d rather sit alone is standoffish and unapproachable; she who chooses not to engage in small talk with the creepy man looming next to her at a bar is loudly labeled a “stuck up [expletive]” by the creepy man to his (creepier) peers.
Now, personally it’d be a complete lie to say I’ve never behaved in any of the aforementioned ways (we all have our moments) but what’s important here is that I am not my introversion; there’s way more to me than my quiet nature that’s too frequently misunderstood as snooty or unwelcoming. And women (like me) who’d rather spend a weekend evening cuddled up with a Netflix binge than out painting the town should not fall special victim to societal norms that demand us to be outgoing and bubbly every moment of every day.
Introverts are attentive listeners, conscientious decision makers and observant employees whose voices are as valuable as their extroverted counterparts and, most of all, shouldn’t feel alienated because they don’t perfectly adhere to the same expectations as many of their peers. In 2016, I hope I’ll finally start to embrace my introverted self with open arms and frequent Friday nights shamelessly far from the social scene, complete with re-runs of Scandal and admiration for Olivia Pope – who, by the way, also seems to be an introvert. Win.