My recent piece about introversion seems to have struck a nerve. It stimulated the most – and most intense – reactions to any of my posts. Several people emphatically identified with it, saying that they felt that it was about them.
I’m sure a lot of other readers felt that way too.
Introversion is a mostly invisible part of people’s identities. We are pretty aware of many aspects of our identities such as our physical and demographic characteristics, relationships, religious and political perspectives, liking certain sports teams or performers, etc.
But many people who feel introverted have only a vague awareness of that part of their identity. Part of the challenge is due to the lack of a clear definition of introversion, and part is due to the fact that people may be more or less introverted at different times and in different contexts.
People’s avoidance of identifying as introverted also is partly because it is generally seen as an undesirable characteristic – “a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology,” according to Susan Cain. She says that “the extrovert ideal can lead to anxiety, dysfunctional behavior, and failure to take advantage of [people’s] gifts related to their introversion.”
So people who are aware of their introversion may want to be in the closet and try to act more extroverted.
I think that reactions to my post – and, more importantly, the work of Susan Cain and others – reflect introverted people’s feelings of validation and liberation.
It’s ok to be introverted. It’s not only ok, but introversion can cause people to produce significant benefits for themselves and others. And be happier.
It’s like coming out of the introversion closet. Randy Rainbow expressed it in his typically exuberant way: “I’m finally ready to say, my name is Randy Rainbow, yes really, and I’m a hardcore, out and proud, full blown INTROVERT.”
The coming out may simply be to oneself – acknowledging part of one’s identity that one didn’t consciously recognize before.
If you have significant introverted tendencies, you deserve self-acceptance and self-compassion. You don’t have to be – or act – extroverted to be happy or successful. Heidi Brown emphasizes the importance of being authentic – who you really are.
Law school and legal practice can be especially brutal to introverted people.
It doesn’t have to be so bad. Academics and practitioners regularly interact with introverted people and can help them as they really are. People can learn to act more extroverted when needed without losing their identities. We can pay attention when people feel introverted, accept them, and help them manage well regardless of their general personalities.