The Extrovert Ideal

If you have read my introduction, you probably know that I am an introvert. This post will clarify some of the facts about being an introvert – and also, question why society tells you to change into an extrovert. In the recent years I have simply stopped listening to those messages. But hey, let’s start at the beginning.

I was always a quiet child who enjoyed being friends with a few people rather than many. I still like to listen and to write more than to speak. But society, on a large scale, and my teachers, on a smaller scale, taught me from a young age that that is not how you are supposed to be. A short list of things they told me to be includes: outgoing, discussion-loving, social, and, simply, louder.

Therefore, some teachers suggested to my parents when I was in grade 6 that I should visit what I like to call the “Stop Being Shy” Club of the school. That was one of the most awkward things ever. Imagine 6 shy teenagers just sitting in a circle while a highly energetic teacher tries to do games like “who can raise the voice the loudest?”. Most of the time we just sat there and hoped time would pass. Moreover the classes took place every Friday morning when all the other students had a free hour – does this sound great to anyone at all?

So that was my first impression of the world telling me not to be an introvert. And this message kept showing up everywhere. From people at parties asking me why I speak so little to my parents suggesting that I should stop reading so much, and go out and meet people.

But in recent years I learned and I did everything to decode these messages and accept that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert. I simply accept that I need alone time, that I am not comfortable in crowds and that is perfectly fine. A great help for me as a book and research nerd was the work from Susan Cain. She gave an amazing Ted Talk about the power of introverts and her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking taught me so much about the importance and the value of introverts. I learned that there is a balance in the world between extroverts and introverts and that both are equally needed. Unfortunately our society is built in an “Extrovert Ideal” where introversion is a second-class personality.  But that does not mean that introversion is bad and by now I am truly thankful of being that way.  Both extroverted and introverted people are awesome.

In connection to this one of the strangest comments after outing myself to a friend was their response “But you are shy and quiet. Aren’t lesbians always loud and self-confident?” At first I was so confused by this question because where did this assumption come from? But after I asked some questions and talked with this friend I understood the basic idea behind this thought. A lot of times the pieces the media shows us about certain communities are stereotyped and only a tiny piece of the whole. Seeing mostly people yelling and dancing at pride parades or a super extroverted lesbian in a television show (where most of the time it is only to fill up some quota – but that is another topic!), then sure, that assumption is comprehensible. But just as there is a whole complexity and spectrum in people, the same still applies apart from your sexuality, too.

And if someone had told me 5 years ago that this topic would be the reason I am ending up with my girlfriend, I would never believed them. But shortly after my introduction here on Iris was posted, I got a message from a girl I knew through a queer group in my town. She told me that she really liked that I was open about my introversion and that she herself is very introverted as well but also tried to change it a lot in the past. She then sent me Susan Cain’s Ted Talk. What a surprise! We started hanging out, we started dating and now we are in a happy relationship in which we both are aware of each other’s quietness. I don’t know what that sounds like to you, but I call it a personal power of introversion ;-)!