The Introverted Woman

In a gentle way, you can shake the world
-Mahatma Gandhi, Cain, Susan, Quiet, (Penguin Books, 2013) p.181

 Happy New Year everyone. I hope many of you have had some time to reflect on things you have achieved in 2017. I am betting even those of you who cannot think of anything have achieved a lot too, but you are struggling to remember. I would just like to remind everyone that every day you get up in the morning is an achievement, so well done! This article I am writing is addressing a subject that has been bubbling on the surface for some time now. I have been reading more books that I have received for Christmas recently, and I have also been inspired to write about the following subject.
For a reasonable chunk of my life, I have always wondered why I have not been as loud and outgoing as other women. This of course is not uncommon, and it is within our human nature to compare ourselves with others. The aim I wish to address in this article is the label of the introvert. Does being an introvert automatically mean I am not sociable? When I do not wish to share my life with the world in real life and social media, does that mean I do not have a life? If I do not always broadcast my opinions in a conversation does that mean that I am stupid, or boring? If I do not brag about the amount of work I have done in the week does that mean I am lazy and haven’t done anything? The point I am making here is that the word introvert seems to have negative connotations and I am challenging this view. I have been inspired by a book called Quiet by Susan Cain, and I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is feeling squashed by a world that is too loud for them. To summarise briefly, Cain highlights the power of the introvert, and she features wonderful examples of well known and inspirational women who were introverts and how they made a great impact on the world despite being ‘quiet’. Women such as Rosa Parks and Joanna Rowling (otherwise known as J.K Rowling) are used to convey this point beautifully. Anyway, I hope that most of you reading this article will feel better about having introverted qualities like myself. Embrace that you are quiet. It is your weapon.

We can start with the countless parent evenings at my school where my parents were told by my teachers that in class I was too quiet, often in another world and rarely socialising with peers, it seems safe to assume that throughout my school years I was a bit of an introvert. Though I do not fully agree that the labels are black and white/ extravert or introvert, you are either one or the other, I have to say that a lot of my qualities are introverted. I had often felt like there was something wrong with me in my teens. Why could I not make friends as easily as other girls in my year? I have also come to realise that it seems insane to me that I would wonder why there was something wrong with me. If this is who I am, I am not going to change, so why do I feel this way? Looking back, I now realise that my response as a teenager was relatively sane. I was only responding to what society made me believe. The teachers said I was too quiet, I wasn’t enjoying myself at parties and social gatherings (if I was ever invited), and my friends I could only count on one hand, and this is still the case in my twenties. After reading Susan Cain’s Quiet, it has enlightened me to realise that introverted qualities have not exactly been celebrated. For example; Cain draws on the idea of institutions portraying negative associations of the introvert; ‘many of the most important institutions of contemporary life are designed for those who enjoy group projects and high levels of stimulation’ (p.6) Cain also highlights how ‘teachers believe that the ideal student is an extravert.’ (p.6) These are facts that I have found to be quite true myself growing up, and Cain’s words make perfect sense. I was also interested to find that after doing some research that according to The Huffington Post, The American Psychiatric Association had considered implementing the Introverted Personality in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as recently as 2010. This was quite a shocking revelation to me, but it also told me that an Introvert is significantly misunderstood. 2 From google images
So what are the positive qualities about being introverted then? Well firstly, contrary to what society makes us believe, an introverted leader can be a great one. This is because by nature we are more inclined to listen to other people’s opinions rather than delegating our own. This is a very respectable quality and is often found in the likes of good teachers. Secondly introverts can be very creative. That is not to say that extraverts are not, however introverts are often deep thinkers. When in a quiet environment, we tend to read, draw or just revel in our own thoughts. Thirdly, introverts can be very self-sufficient. This is because we often function better alone, therefore we do not always need the company of others to get things done. This can be extremely beneficial to any working environment. We are also hard workers. We concentrate with all our heart and mind to get things done, and that can never be a bad thing can it? Just try and remember all the inspirational introverted women out there who have made their mark just by embracing who they are. Women such as Eleanor Roosevelt, J.K. Rowling, Rosa Parks, and Audrey Hepburn are all well known for being introverted, despite their famed status, and you have to admit there is something so humbling and charming about these beautiful women.

Hopefully introverted women reading this can draw inspiration from these women, and realise that being introverted is not a negative thing. I hope young girls reading this will see that if you would prefer to read a book instead of talk to people in your lunch break, that does not make you anti-social. If you see regular Instagram posts from all your friends, do not feel like you have to post to feel like you have some validity in your life. If you would rather stay at home one night, rather than go to a party because its Friday night and your friends want you there, do not feel guilty for declining that invitation. Take this advice from somebody who lived in a heavily extraverted house for two years at university. I made some amazing friends, but truthfully sometimes it was difficult to be heard sometimes or understood if I didn’t feel like going out with everyone. It is also much kinder to your bank balance as a student which is even more of an incentive to not feel guilty about going out. Just remember that you will have lots of opportunities to go out when you are good and ready. You don’t have to be a party animal to enjoy yourself. So embrace the fact that you do not need much more than a good book and a cup of tea to stimulate yourself, there is such beauty in it. 

Helen Baron

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