– by Wes Colton, Introvert Unbound
I love everything about being an introvert, from my thoughtfulness, to my preference for deep connection, to my appreciation of solitude. As a writer and musician, introversion is central to my being and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Writing about and working with other introverts, I’ve come across countless introvert books and blogs, videos and podcasts, Facebook pages and groups, and Twitter accounts. I’ve learned so much great stuff from these sources, including the science behind introversion, the need to accept the way our brains work, and of course all the funny cartoons.
However, there’s one rotten thread I’ve found running through most of them: encouragement for introverts NOT to push our comfort zone. Either implicitly or explicitly, the message is all too often that because you’re an introvert it’s okay to avoid socializing. And that if people think you’re weird because you never talk to or hang out with them, it’s up to them to change.
For fifteen long years, I bought into this terrible advice, not realizing how much this mindset contributed to my depression and anxiety. Only when I started to question whether being a virtual hermit was good for my mental health, did my life change for the better.
Let me be crystal clear: I’m in no way suggesting there’s anything wrong with being an introvert. Or that the best thing an introvert can do is pretend to be an extrovert. To these half-baked concepts I say, no, no, a thousand times no.
What I do have an issue with is people using—or encouraging others to use—introversion as a crutch to avoid personal growth or taking the steps necessary to improve their dating lives, social circle, and/or professional interactions. People who tell you this is just fine aren’t looking out for your best interests.
I hate to break it to you, but being an introvert isn’t an excuse for sucking at conversation, avoiding birthday parties, or not making friends at work. Does introversion make all of those things harder! Of course, it does. Which is the very reason it’s so important for us introverts to push ourselves so we can stand a chance against all the hyper-social extroverts who tend to dominate the social and professional realms.
In a perfect world, a potential partner would see what makes us special without us having to utter a single word. People would want to be our friends after observing our facial expressions alone. Bosses would promote us to leadership positions without us ever having demonstrated a single team-building skill.
But we don’t live in that world. And the more we deny this, the harder time we introverts have achieving social and professional success.
If I were an evil extrovert genius trying to wipe introverts off the face of the Earth, I’d do nothing but tell them how it’s okay to sit around at home and avoid socializing like the plague. That any time they have an uncomfortable feeling about going out they should lock their doors, burrow under a blanket, and login to Netflix. Over time, introverts would become so socially isolated they’d have no influence in the world, run out of money, and never procreate. I’m exaggerating, of course, but I hope you see my point.
As introverts, we must love and accept ourselves for who we are, flaws and all. But we’re still human beings, and therefore social animals. Which means no matter how much we might wish things were otherwise, a healthy social life is central to a satisfying existence.
Instead of more us introverts withdrawing our unique contributions to society, we need more of us stepping up and throwing our hats in the ring. A society run entirely by extroverts is one in which deep thinking and meaningful connections are absent. Is that the kind of world you want to live in?
If not, stop coddling yourself, stop listening to those who don’t want you to grow, and get out there and change your life—and the world—for the better!
Wes Colton is an extreme introvert and founder of Introvert Unbound. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.