The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk.
Let it out now. There’ll be someone who understands.
There are mostly two kinds of people in the world: introverts and extroverts. One is not better than the other, although the messages we receive about how we should interact with others and the way work and education is structured in our society, can lead you to believe that it is definitely better to be an extrovert.
The difficulty with being an introvert is that you can so easily be misunderstood. It was therefore affirming to read Susan Cain’s book Quiet some time ago- an in depth work of non-fiction describing the nature of introverts and challenging many of the myths that persist about quiet people. For example, she points out that:
- about one out of every three people is an introvert;
- J.K Rowling is an introvert. So was Marie Curie, Audrey Hepburn, W.B. Yeats, Dr. Suess, and Lewis Carrol;
- it is a myth that introverts are shy or unassertive. Shyness and introversion are different although they may present similarly;
- introverts like to socialize but prefer small groups; large raucous parties are not their thing; they also gather their energy through time alone;
- introverts are excellent leaders and networkers just as many extraverts are.*
Introverts enjoy conversations with friends and time alone. I know I certainly do. A cup of tea and a good book is a wonderful way to spend time.
The research about introverts and extroverts, terms popularized by psychologist Carl Jung, has provided insight in understanding differences among people. People are who they are, and that often leads them to seek the environment and people with whom they are most comfortable. Personality types, however, should not cast us in the mold of a particular category forever.
There is always within us a capacity for change and our usual pattern of behavior can evolve over time. This is true for women at midlife and beyond. The physical, mental, and social changes associated with this time of life can spark both a desire for adventure and new experiences as well as a way of being that embraces quiet times. Women at this stage do speak out, head in new directions, and challenge the stereotypes- and they also relish quiet.
Quiet time is time unencumbered by distractions and as such, creates a space for us to be who we are, if even for a moment. I love the word quiet because it takes into account both who we may be (a quiet person) and the context (quiet time) in which we find ourselves.
The pursuit of quiet time may feel like an elusive undertaking. Many of us have lived through years of noisy interruptions, never ending to do lists, over scheduling, sleep deprivation, and the day to day chaos of home life that is both delightful and irritating. It is a life that involves keeping things running and keeping it all together in a seamless, invisible choreography that others are barely aware of until things fall apart, which they invariably do. Is it any wonder that quiet time feels like a phenomenon on the endangered experiences list?
In spite of our desire for and enjoyment of adventures and busy times, many of us benefit from solitude and quiet reflection As much as we love our families and friends, there is something rejuvenating about experiencing quiet, whether it be in a small café or park or your own home.
Solitude is not loneliness. Introverts are not reclusive. And being quiet is not about keeping quiet. Perhaps the latter alludes to the most frustrating myth about quiet people. Even the most serious introvert can’t keep quiet when something needs to be expressed. Such declarations may not be accompanied by fireworks in the background, but they can be stated firmly and clearly, while steadfastly persisting, resisting, and giving voice to what needs to be said in whatever form seems best.
Whether you are an introvert or extrovert doesn’t matter. As Susan Cain would say, find the spotlight that works for you and be who you are. But if you can, carve out time to know the joy of being quiet. And when you need to, speak up and speak out. Let it out. There’ll be someone who understands.
You may be interested in Susan Cain’s TED talk on The Power of Introverts:
And for those who want to speak out, you’ll like this version of Milck’s song I Can’t Keep Quiet sung with Choir, Choir, Choir:
*Susan Cain. Quiet- The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. 2012.