Column: Introverts

Some people love to be loud. They love to mingle with the crowd, relish social interaction with others and skillfully adapt to any social situation with graceful ease.

Then there are those who don’t. People like me. The truth is, I’m an introvert. Statistics show that introverts make up one-third to one-half of the population. One out of every three people you know is an introvert. So my question is, if such a large portion of the population tends toward introversion, why do I constantly feel outnumbered? Or worse, why do I feel guilty for not being extroverted?

As a disclaimer, being an introvert does not mean that you are either shy or anti-social. Being shy means you are fearful of what people think of you, while being introverted means that you prefer lower-stimulating environments and get your energy from quiet time and reflection. Being anti-social means you dislike people, but being introverted simply means you prefer to interact with one or two people at a time rather than a whole crowd. Don’t get me wrong, I can enjoy hanging out with a large crowd or being in the spotlight, but it can be very draining after a while. Conversely, extroverts are energized by being around other people.

In her book, Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain discusses the bias our culture has toward extroverts. In an article written as a response to Cain’s book, TIME writer Brian Walsh acknowledges that our culture expects people to have outgoing qualities, and those who don’t are often seen as deviant, as if they have a problem that needs to be fixed.

So how did we get here? Cain said it’s in our cultural DNA. In our society, the word “introvert” holds negative connotations. “We have always been to some extent a society that favors action over contemplation,” Cain said. We have this mentality that the louder you are the more influential you will be. But Cain argues that this is not the case. The success of the Civil Rights movement hinged on the complementary roles of both Rosa Parks, an introvert, and Martin Luther King Jr., an extrovert.

So where do we go from here? I’d like to challenge you with a few thoughts. The first one is for those loud-loving, loud-laughing, highly social extroverts out there. I’m thankful for you. Many of my closest friends are extroverts, and I can’t imagine life without them. However, here’s a word of advice: the next time you see that student sitting in a booth by himself, studying in the library alone or declining an offer to hang out with a group in The Den, don’t jump to conclusions.

It doesn’t mean they hate people, or that they don’t have any friends. Maybe they just need that blessed solitude every so often to re-energize themselves. Don’t take it personally, and don’t make them feel guilty about desiring moments of quiet. Try to be understanding.

Second, to my fellow introverts. Don’t fake it. If you need to spend a Friday night cuddled up with a good book, do it. Don’t feel pressured to exert yourself and add unnecessary stress to your already stressful college life. If eating Grab ‘n Go in the solitude of your dorm room sounds more appealing than dealing with the crowds in the dining common, go right ahead.

But don’t let your tendency toward moments of solitude or your fear of public judgment keep you from going beyond your comfort zone. Even if you’re not naturally motivated, God’s Word should motivate you to reach out in ministry. Don’t use your introversion tendency as an excuse to keep you from standing up for what you’re passionate about, even though every bone in your body may be giving you negative vibes.

Let’s all endeavor to look at the character qualities of a person instead of at their personality type. Be understanding of each other but also realize that being “quiet” or “out­-going” does not define who you are. I’m happy to be an introvert, but that’s not all I am.

And finally, I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe that God created us individually with a specific purpose in mind. So stop trying to be what you’re not. Embrace the way God wired you and use it for His glory.