It was a sleepy Sunday afternoon and I was sitting with my friend in a cafe located in remotest part of the city.
You are not like everyone else. You are different, my friend said narrowing his eyes.
I am just a normal person, I retaliated back with an irritated tone and inner voice rumbling Oh man! this again. This was not new to me. Any introvert can identify with this conversation.
No, My friend paused and looked squarely down at me. He squirmed. You are kind of a nerd. An introvert.
I was in an elevated sense of being and things started to become very clear. It was as if a switch was closed in a long circuit. All my insecurities, depression, sense of not belonging, disappointments, frustrations blew away in that one solemn moment when I accepted that I am an introvert. It was long overdue.
All along I knew that I was someone who didn’t quite fit the norm. I knew it, when at school, kids picked me and bullied all the way through it. As a kid, It was difficult to process all this. My report card from all classes, had great grades except for one section — Friends and Interpersonal relationship. I was branded aloof. Trust me, I had great friends but a very few, not a gang which was synonymous with boys of that age.
I stepped into college. It was no different. Same story. I felt that there was something wrong with me. So, instead of staying alienated, I tried to socialize. Oh boy. I failed miserably. I found reading a book, writing a blog and spending time alone or with a close friend or family more invigorating than venturing out with friends. My parents often chided me to ‘come-out-of-my-shell’.
Many in my class didn’t want to be friends with me as I came of as an arrogant sod, which was never the case. All I needed was bit of ice-breaking and for all you know, I can be your friend in no time. Some even have told that I am too old for my age. A few asked me ‘why so serious?’. Sigh! By now, you should have known how I would have fared in my first job.
I quit my first job and bootstrapped a startup. Like every first time entrepreneur, I committed the mistake of attending host of networking events, talks etc. You could tell the horror of how it was to be in those networking sessions. Once, I gave an enthusiastic speech before hundreds of people but it was hell to go through networking session aftermath the speech, where you feel alone in the crowd. There was this dinner I had with some serial entrepreneurs, where at the end, one among them walked up to me and said in a condescending tone — ‘Why are you so silent? You should open your mouth and speak something’. But he didn’t know that it was emotionally draining for me to be in places such as that large gathering, wedding etc where there are so many people.
I always wanted to have some ‘Me’ time everyday where I can be alone with my thoughts and do what interests me. This solitude is very important to recharge and keep moving forward in all realms of life. Also, there is always this tango between the ever present inner monologue and real life conversations. ‘Inner monologue’ zone has always been an interesting place to be. I wish I could converse with the same verve with which I do in my zone.
After my startup, I felt bit strange and even phony in my job interviews, when I was asked elaborate my work so far. Those conversations always lacked something. I have also seen this introversion held against a deserving job or a promotion. These days, most of the offices are open plan offices without giving a concern for personality traits of employees. They are mostly suited for people on the other side of introversion-extraversion spectrum i.e extroverts.
The point is introversion is not a condition or a problem. It is a state of being much like extroversion. No one can be introverted or extroverted to the extreme. “Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum”, as Carl Jung (the man who pioneered the study on extroversion and introversion) would say it. They can exist with different percentage of each.
The world and the people in it should allow introverts to let them be their self, the same way an introvert should allow other extroverts to let them be. It is mutual and this respect will allow both to thrive. Parents should accept and encourage their introvert children to have more opportunities to be themselves. It will wreak havoc on those young, vulnerable souls, if otherwise. Companies should recognize, enable and support the introverts.
So starting today, it will be a good beginning, if we accept and start making conscious effort not to question the introversion.