A bright young girl in school always topped the class was generally aloof from others and kept to herself. She befriended barely one or two other girls and would not even give a smile to the rest. She got branded as a ‘snob’ with an ‘attitude’ for she was the topper alright. They would talk against her behind her back. Her close friends sometimes understood her and sometimes did not for she never confided in them fully. She was stage shy, never liked groups, group activities, and loved more her books and her paintings. She was termed a ‘book worm’. She was given as many names as there were girls who were offended by her. She easily broke off friendships and never showed that she bothered about them. She however was a very emotional person and developed strong attachments with a few she liked but never expressed herself. She hated loud parties where she was forced to dance and sing and mix with everyone. She found it a waste of time as for her book reading would be more worth it!
The difficulty of being an introvert are many. People are born introverts -it is not a ‘personality problem’ as such but is a temperamental type which is inborn. They often get misunderstood because they are poor on communication and high on sensitivity. People find it difficult to get across to them for they build barriers around themselves. They are generally socially shy but not necessarily. They develop few good friendships and are loyal to them. They love solitude and can enjoy their own company. They may love to read or do their work in peace and solitude. They shy away from loud and noisy parties and get-togethers. The truth is that they need more time with themselves to re-charge their batteries. They may be highly imaginative and intuitive as well. They are sensitive and emotional and can give quick reactions within their mind but do not express it outside. They have over-stimulated minds. They can be keen observers and good listeners. They have the capacity to introspect and be aware of themselves. They love being in their world of ideas, thoughts and feelings and imagination. They may interact with the world outside because of compulsion but soon retire inside.
There is a world outside where we live and there is a whole world inside our heads where we reside. An introvert resides more in the ‘inside world’ in comparison to the ‘outside world’. They comprise either half of the population or in some countries they comprise only one third of the population which puts them in a minority position.The world today favours the extroverted personality who is energetic, communicative, assertive and aggressive in their social stance and can push their way through the competition. It’s a loud and noisy world with parties, music and celebrations. Success in business and trade depends upon communication and social networking and hence the introverts may find themselves under tremendous pressure to ‘conform, adapt and change their nature’. If they are also shy in addition to being introverts the problem is compounded. They are compelled to change their nature to adjust in the world dominated by extroverts.
It is not unusual to have many clients who are troubled by their introverted nature due to social pressures. They cannot identify and diagnose their problems as they give elaborate descriptions of themselves and feel relieved as you listen to them for they have never spoken to anyone so eloquently!
“I burst out crying each time I want to communicate with people. I cannot talk normally. I hate crowds and like to be alone. I have very few friends and lately I have been losing them too. They are ditching me and I am alone and lonely. I feel exploited by others as I help them when they need help but I am not able to get help from others. What is wrong with me?”This is a troubled introvert as her nature is now beginning to become a hindrance in her sphere of work. Not all introverts are shy as you might think for even extroverts are shy – many of them are. Shyness is a different dimension and being an introvert is a different type of personality.
Mahatma Gandhi was a very shy and introverted personality. He mentions it extensively in his autobiography about his school days, his college days in London. He mentions that he tried to fit in by learning French, joining dance classes, indulging in contemporary fashion and all such funny things but gave them up eventually as his shyness persisted. Gradually he realised the power of being an introvert and utilised his quiet nature to his benefit. His movement of non- violence was known as a quiet revolution and he was always a man of ‘few words’. He mentions that ‘my constitutional shyness has been in reality my shield and buckler. It has allowed me to grow. It has helped me in my discernment of truth. Experience has taught me that silence is part of spiritual discipline of a votary of truth’.
Many introverts around the world have been powerful leaders in their sphere of work whether it is business or politics. You don’t have to be loud and noisy to be effective. You can be quietly powerful and effective too.