Innie vs. Outie

No, it’s not about bellybuttons!

On the cover of the February 6th issue of TIME magazine, I read the title, “The Power of Shyness.”  Wow.  That was a breath of fresh air.  My whole life, shyness has been equated with shame.  When I would cling on to my mother’s leg, she would say, “Oh she’s just shy.”  In college, my throat would thicken when speaking in front of a group as small as 8 or ten people.  My face could be counted on to turn a shade of crimson and my neck would explode into horrific blotches.  While my peers were getting attention for being brave and fun, I was exhausted at the mere thought of a large party.  At parties, I would go to the bathroom not just to pee, but to be in solitude for a moment so I could recharge my battery.  Turns out, this is all perfectly normal. (*sigh of relief here*)

As many as 35% of us are introverts.  Introverson does not necessarily mean shyness.  Shyness is associated with fear and anxiety while introversion is just a preference for being alone or in small groups.  In our culture, where bigger, faster and louder are seen as better, being an introvert can seem very unappealing.  However, introverts make more deliberative and thought-out decisions, are better at listening, better able to focus intently and are more faithful partners.  Introverts have fewer relationships overall, but those they do have tend to be deeper and more rewarding.  Extroverts, while gregarious and enjoyable to be around are risk takers, more likely to be hospitalized and pay less attention to the inner voice that says, “danger!”

Here in the ‘burbs, the socialization that occurs revolves around things like parties, happy hours, meetings, book clubs and classes.  You may know or have met people who seem like they don’t want to talk to you, or seem stuck up or unfriendly.  This can all just be a result of an introversion.   We tend to stay in the background, quiet our voices or somehow keep a low profile.  There is evidence that introverts simply have a low threshold for noise and other types of stimulation.  Introverts can often be overlooked, they may even want to be overlooked, preferring instead to gain some much desired alone time.  So that person in the back of the room that is not in the middle of the action may be just where they want to be.

For all of us introverts, pushing throught the discomfort is a challenge.  For those of you trying to be our friends and get to know us as neighbors, bear with us.  It could take a long time for us to open up to you, and it certainly doesn’t mean we don’t like you.  And for those of us raising introverts, be patient and accepting.  Give those little introverts a heads-up on what you will be doing and experiencing.  A healthy dose of preparation can go a long way to making an introvert embrace new people and adventures.

Authentically connecting with another person is ultimately what I want out of life.   I have learned to will myself through my shy tendencies because I know what I will find on the other side.  Introverts, rejoice!  You have the power!  Maybe I should have a t-shirt made that says,  “Powerful Introvert.”  Yes, I like that.