The recent rise of discussions about introverts has been good for both extroverts and introverts in a number of ways, but what I have found most affecting is that much of the discussion, rather than pegging introversion as some kind of special disorder, has revolved around the strengths that come with being an introvert.
When I was a kid during the 1970s and 80s, my introversion was treated like a peculiarity that needed correction as if it was some kind of non-fatal flaw like being buck-toothed or very near-sighted. I know this because I was both of those things and introverted, and since we had to accept my need for Holly Hobbie glasses and how long it would take for me to grow into my giant front teeth, people took it upon themselves to urge me to get out into the social arena. I know my friends and family meant well at the time—they thought they were helping me to be less awkward—but their machinations to get me on the field, on stage, and into social situations made for more awkwardness, not less.
It’s no wonder that I started to view my natural inclination to spend time alone as a pernicious quirk—a personality defect best hidden, if not overcome. This did not lead to a strong sense of confidence, and I spent the majority of my younger years struggling against my introversion so that I wouldn’t appear “strange”—as I was so often described.
One of the brilliant things about post-grade-school adulthood, though, is that all the people who once shoved you out onto soccer pitches, onto church Christmas pageant stages, and into weeks of sleepaway camps can’t do that to you anymore. The more time I spent away from the imposition of extroverted activities and the more time I spent doing what I alone decided to do, the more I started to figure out that my natural inclination to lead a quieter and less socialized life maybe wasn’t like being buck-toothed or near-sighted at all. It eventually occurred to me that I liked being the way I was and that there were actually a few good things that came along with being introverted.
I am not “strange”—I am strong. And rather than trying to bend myself to an extroverted set of behaviors that hurt me, I have learned to nurture the gifts of my introversion.
5 Ways to Nurture Your Strengths as an Introvert
This one is so important that I’d like us to say it again. Repeat after me: get rid of the jerks!
Being an introvert brings gifts that might not be immediately obvious to everyone around us, but they are there, and they are vital in a world full of people who are seeking deeper connections. Embrace who you are, be social in ways that feel good and natural to you, and gather your tribe of fellow introverts around you. Now more than ever, with all the public conversations happening about what and who introverts are, we are in an excellent place to step up our introvert game and nurture the kinds of depth and leadership we have to offer.