Random Writing #1: After Halloween

Below is something I posted on my Naver blog, approximately 1 year ago. Even still, I get paranoid when surrounded by a bunch of party monsters. But as long as the party is fun, I don’t really mind getting paranoid. Last year’s party was not particularly fun, and here’s what I wrote regarding the event:

   It is Halloween and I am sweating. Everyone around me is laughing and talking. With pizza slices and soft drinks in their hands, students seem to enjoy the party. The first-graders talk to their seniors, exchange silly jokes and share common interests. In five minutes, they have become best friends. People mix, mingle and make memories. This is high school, and for me, sometimes, it is upsetting. After a long day of chatting with people in classes, going to club meetings and working in groups, I— as an introvert— am absolutely exhausted. I am ready to watch Sherlock and reflect on my day. An extrovert would probably want to go out to dinner with friends or talk on the phone, but that is not the way I work. I replenish my energy by spending time alone. I am alright with that, but society — and the extrovert-driven high school system — imply that I should not be.

     
Last year, I went to an English camp in California. All participants were in family units. Every end of the day, I was exhausted and I wanted nothing more than to return to my hotel room, get room service, and watch TV. I mentioned this to an another family group one time, that I did not want them to think I was being rude if I turned down a dinner invitation, that I just needed to recharge my brain for the next day. When I showed up the next morning, two participants approached me and asked to shake my hand. They wanted to thank me for giving them “permission” to go back to their rooms and not feel guilty about it. They noticed that I did not apologize or put a label on my behavior– it was just me. And they both described the “luxury” of an evening alone in their hotel room with just the TV and a good dinner. Isn’t it interesting that people feel they need permission to be themselves?

     Statistically, 75% of the population is extroverted. Extroversion is the norm and is encouraged by society, regardless of where you are born, your culture, religion etc. This attitude – that one is ‘normal’ only when one is extroverted – is common throughout the world. Introverts, on the other hand, are a minority. Statistics vary, but about 25% of the population are considered introverts. (Nancy Ancowitz, Psychology Today) A quiet person is asked why she is quiet as if she has a medical condition. An outgoing person is not asked why she is outgoing. It is only the quiet, introverted person who has to explain herself to everyone, justify her actions. In our current society, it is common to hear teachers and parents prodding young children to “come out of their shells”. We tend to forget the fact that some animals carry shells with them wherever they go, permanent shelters of sorts. Some humans are naturally inclined to be the same way, though such humans are often treated as having a personality defect. I understand some people think they are “helping” with “bringing me out of my shell” by asking questions like “Why are you so shy?”, but it just makes me feel as if others view me as flawed and broken. But the truth is, this is who I am and introverts do not need to come out of their shells unless they are willing to do so. Discrimination not introversion is what should be overcome.

     Shyness and introversion are not the same thing. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments. Psychologists categorize people into four quadrants of personality types: calm extroverts, anxious extroverts, calm introverts, and anxious introverts. In other words, you can be a shy extrovert, like Barbra Streisand, who has a larger-than-life personality and paralyzing stage fright; or a non-shy introvert, like Bill Gates, who by all accounts keeps to himself but is unfazed by the opinions of others.(Susan Cain, “The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t stop talking”) In my case, I am an introvert. But I am usually the leader of a group, or a host. But I am not talkative. But I like public speaking. But I do not like meeting strangers. These only seem like contradictions to those who go through a hard time understanding basic human psychology. 

I love ideas, I like people who love ideas, and for this reason I hate small talk. I hate it with a blinding passion. Small talk exists simply to cannibalize silence, and I cherish silence because it is the best environment for thinking. Nowadays, we seem to be under the simplistic impression that the “friendliest” people are the ones who say the most. If that is the case, I guess the best musician is the one who plays the loudest, and the greatest painter is the one who uses the most paint. Introverts might not enjoy parties, but that is not because they are afraid of them. It is because they are bored by them. They would rather take their drinks into another room and read something, or write something, or think about something. They are not hiding from human interaction, they are doing the thing that energizes them and brings them fulfillment.

   

All people are unique. Extroverts, however, seem to exhibit their uniqueness a bit more effectively than the introverts. The way modern societies are built, especially in the western world, benefit people who stand out in workplace, education, as well as in every social interaction. But introverts have complementary things to contribute just as extroverts, often better quality ideas and insights. Charles Darwin was an avowed introvert. Albert Einstein was an introvert. These men are two of the most influential scientists in history. They preferred to work alone. They spent long periods of time in silence. Mahatma Gandhi was a shy introvert. President John Quincy Adams was one of the few introverts ever to hold the office. President Barack Obama is another.(Arnie Kozak, “The Everything Guide to the Introvert Edge”)

     
I am not saying all introverts are towering geniuses — I am the living proof that it does not always work that way — but, still, introverted people might have beautiful intellectual gifts that do not include being naturally outgoing. Who cares? She would not make a great salesman, so what? Her personality is an asset in so many ways, even if the world says otherwise. The world does not know what it is talking about. The world does not know that it has been shaped and transformed by stereotypes. No, there is not anything defective about those quiet kids in class. But there might be something brilliant about them. They might be able to think and create incredible things in their quiet mind, inside that “shell,” up in that mysterious head of theirs.

     In conclusion, you may be an introvert, extrovert or somewhere in the wide middle ground. The point is this: If you are an introvert, don’t rush your questions or force small talk. Don’t try to become more outwardly confident or instantly decisive. Instead use what you know about yourself to advance a new kind of leadership, one based in observation, empathy, contemplation, and pioneering insight. Introverts might not light up the room, but they can change the world. *cheesiness overload* Yikes.

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