It’s a tough world out there for introverts. I should know; I’m one. The admonition ‘come out of your shell’ is something I’ve heard most of my life and I bet many introverts co-sign. The world disapproves of the introverted personality and it expresses it in a number of ways from a slew of adjectives: ‘slow poison’, ‘too quiet’, ‘quiet devil’, ‘boring’ ‘nerdy’, ‘cold’, ‘not outgoing’ and ‘snobbish’, to outright condemnation.
On the other hand extroverts are lauded; envied even by some of us introverts. We are told they rule the world because they are louder, more daring, bolder, more reckless, more in-your-face, more out-there and adventurous. The girl who can charm the socks off the men in the room with her boisterous and outgoing charm is seen as better than the one who can’t wait to leave because of the strain of superficiality associated with social mixers; a strain which the introvert is more susceptible to. In addition, it’s not uncommon to find that the lively child, the one usually referred to as the more social one – despite exhibiting traits of willfulness – is usually preferred to the quiet, docile and sometimes shy one.
Growing up as an introvert, I was misunderstood. People wanted to change me and that made me want to change because I thought there was something wrong with me. This led to low self-esteem in my teens. I would scour every book about temperaments I came across for answers to why I was the way I was and as I matured into a young woman and got into the university, the need to be understood grew. I was called an old soul; an introvert (with negative undertones) and labelled odd by the ones who couldn’t wrap their heads around why I had absolutely no interest in some of the trademarks of teen and young adulthood and who wondered how I could possibly call being indoors all day with a good book, my music collection, and a good movie, fun.
Recently I came across a piece in The Huffington Post titled: 23 signs you’re secretly an introvert, which would have done my 18 year-old self a world of good. I saw in it things that for so long I had had to explain away, be defensive about or want to change and I was astonished by how well some of the behavioural patterns hit home. It was freeing, I exhaled; and it feels good to know I am not weird because:
-I get no highs from large and noisy affairs; they drain me and I often find that I long to slink away to be by myself again.
-I sometimes find mixers and networking events tedious and pretentious.
-I may not say exactly what I’m thinking out loud but find it easier to write about it.
-Small talk makes me uncomfortable and I would rather have deep interactions and conversations around shared interests and passions in more intimate scenarios.
-I screen phone calls (yes, answering the phone can be an ordeal for me and many introverts. We need to be ‘ready’ or we just don’t answer till we are).
-I sometimes over-think things.
-I always yearn to find hidden depths in things, people, actions, books and movies.
-I am quiet and introspective.
-I rarely hang-out (as Nigerians know it), never understood the hullabaloo about clubbing and partying and have to be dragged to an owambe or social event whereas I live for art events; opera, the theatre, dance, the cinema.
-The thought of mingling in a room full of strangers, wine and small chops, because I’m covering an event terrifies me.
-Unlike a lot of people I’m not allergic to my own company; I love solitude and sometimes talking too much wears me out.
-Though I do it depending on my motive, walking up to people and striking up a conversation or looking to be friends or more than friends is not my default setting.
-In a theatre or sitting hall and even in church (without an usher in sight) I unconsciously gravitate towards corner seats or the seats closest to the aisle for easy exit and to prevent being cooped up on either side (this was a shocking discovery).
-Nine out of ten times when in the midst of a group of people I’m more at home listening than contributing and will only do so when I feel I have a worthy and well-thought out rejoinder.
-I think Wole Soyinka is way cooler than Kim Kardashian (yeah, I said it!)
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