I have been told that when I was a toddler I would love to play by myself. I had difficulty talking to new people at school and would often be called on by my teachers for “being in my head” rather than the class. I would go numb if I had to present anything to the class and I could never dream of going on a stage; the mere idea would make me sick.
I was born inclined towards the introverted side, but because our world prefers extroverted traits, I always felt that there was something wrong with me.
I had to fashion myself to display extroverted traits that my teachers, friends, and even family thought I lacked.
To be able to survive in this world, that is inclined toward extroverts, I had to change from being an introvert to being more of an introverted-ambivert.
I developed extroverted skills by participating in various events like Poetry Out Loud, class presentations, group projects, and drama class, which helped me become less anxious on stage but also forced me to change who I was. At first, I was forced to do all of these things even if I did not want to do them, but facing these fears got easier over time.
I had to work against who I was just so I could fit in better, and many a time that left me believing that there was something wrong with me, because all these other students who were my age, took similar courses and activities, and had almost everything similar to me would get in front of an audience and present with ease and confidence and my heart would start racing even before it was my turn. I had to learn to be more of an extrovert to do well and had to leave behind a few parts of me — parts that could allow me to be alone in my head for days and parts that could allow me to think things through and not get stressed. I had to be more confident around people and engage in conversations, things that do not come naturally to me.
It is not just me who had to acquire extroverted traits to meet with the expectations to society and do well in schools and workplaces. Susan Cain, one of the most knowledgeable people about personalities, the co-founder of the Quiet Revolution, and author of multiple books about introverts and personality types, claims, “There are so many young introverts who feel that there is something profoundly wrong with them.”
Most of these young introverts have to learn to be more extroverted to do well in school, workplaces, and other social gatherings.
Sometimes just the fact that a person is an introvert works against them, as Cain quotes in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking: “Harvard’s provost Paul Buck declared in the late 1940’s that Harvard should reject the ‘sensitive, neurotic’ type and the ‘intellectually over-stimulated’ in favor of boys of the ‘healthy extrovert kind.’”
Globally there is almost a 50/50 ratio between the people defended as introverts and extroverts, Cain says. Still, schools and workplaces are made for the progress of the more extroverted people. Schools and workplaces require students and employees to attend classes full of students and meetings and conferences and have open space, team-building activities, brainstorming areas where the extroverted have a natural advantage while the more introverted might not be able to speak up and enjoy the activity.
A survey taken at Woodstock earlier this year about the personality types and work preferences of students and teachers, in which 182 students and 27 teachers took part, shows that only 14.8 percent of teachers and 14.3 percent of students believed themselves to be extroverts.
Despite this, the school still values extroverted traits, as 96.3 percent (26) of teachers said their experience of working in groups helps them now. Even though 22.2 percent of teachers and 16.5 percent of students are introverts and 63 percent of teachers and 64.8 percent students are ambiverts, the school, like most of the other schools and other institutions around the world, favors extroverted traits like class participation and group work.
Even though the majority of students and teachers are not extroverts, schools still promote activities that mostly extroverts are good at and overlook the natural needs and preferences of introverts. This kind of teaching style that only promotes and helps one personality (extrovert) type can (and does) lead others (introvert) a hard time and force them to change themselves. The teachers and school authorities should be more aware of the needs of introverts and what kind of environment might help them grow.
Big and drastic changes might take time, but small things like one-on-one lessons or even smaller classes might help introverts learn better. Understanding that every person who is sitting alone for lunch is not depressed and maybe just simply wants to be alone. Understanding that maybe a person walking by themselves just wants to walk alone. Maybe your roommate does not want to talk every night and just wants to be in their blanket in the only space they can be alone for some time. Maybe your colleague does not like to attend and present at meetings. Maybe your partner needs more personal space than you. Maybe some people just like to be alone and there is nothing wrong with any of these.
Our world has a bias for extroverts, and many introverts have to suffer every day because of it. They cannot even speak up about it because they do not feel comfortable doing so. People, especially teachers and bosses, should understand that everyone is not born an extrovert and does not wish to be one. People should try to listen to introverts, especially when they cannot speak, and try to make some reforms in the ways that the world works so that introverts have the same chances of learning and growing according to their natural advantages and be able to celebrate who they are, just as extroverts do.
Introverts, too, should try to speak up, not necessarily by speaking, but others ways that they feel more comfortable, like writing opinion articles, using social media, art, poetry, music, because no one is going to know how introverts feel until they put it out there.
Edited by Kiara Reaven