Oh, the time I’ve wasted trying to be someone I’m not. Feeling anxious and guilty… for absolutely nothing. This is nuts. These feelings were emphasized after I wrote two books and could never ever muster the courage to speak in front of a group. Writers are somehow expected to be at ease reading their own words out loud, but putting written words together has nothing to do with saying them out loud… to others.
Oh, the countless hours spent analyzing how this fear could be, because most people would describe me as an extrovert. I can strike up a conversation with strangers, speak up in classrooms, and I enjoy good conversation. How can I love people and be ill at ease in front of them at the same time? I even forced myself once to join Toastmasters in an effort to correct this defect. Then, the book Quiet by Susan Cain, caught my eye. Life is about to change because, apparently, I am a closet introvert.
The full title is fabulous, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. This book, which extolls the virtues of introverts, has given me permission to be myself. It’s such a relief to finally realize that it’s not a character flaw or something I need a therapist for. Hallelujah! I love this book.
According to Cain, we all fall somewhere on the introvert/extrovert spectrum. The trouble is American culture in particular values extroverts, who are gregarious, assertive and comfortable in the the spotlight. And here’s a new one on me, talkative people are seen as smarter, better looking and more interesting. Introversion, sensitivity, seriousness and shyness have turned into second class personality traits, with extroversion being the gold standard to which we many of us try to conform.
There are many more introverts than you can imagine because so many people pretend they’re not. Closet introverts pass undetected on playgrounds, in high school hallways and the business world. The list of public figures is long and includes Rosa Parks, Einstein, Chopin, Steven Spielberg, J.K. Rowling, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Gandhi.
There’s good reason my husband and I have always loved this portrait of Einstein that my daughter Christy painted in art school. It hangs above the recliner in the living room and is in perfect eye shot for morning coffee and conversation. Creators and contemplators are clearly the minds that have changed our world. The quiet brainy kids have always been pushed aside, bullied and made fun of, but look what happened. Geeks and nerds rule the world today. Yay.
I borrowed Quiet from the library and it’s due tomorrow, but I’ll be adding it permanently to my bookshelf. You never know when you’ll need backup.