EMBRACING THE QUIET WITHIN ME: DEALING WITH THE CHALLENGES OF INTROVERSION


Introversion involves high brain activity, which makes introverts easily highly aroused, especially in social situations. This high brain arousal makes introverts often drained out, which makes them to keep to themselves. It is this that makes introverts to be more oriented to their inner self, being more self-reflective, less active in social interactions, and viewed as quiet.
These characteristics of introversion, however, are often found to be unaccepted and undesired. People, generally, prefer to be around individuals who are more energetic and sociable. Many-a-times, these are characteristics that are found to be more desirable and likeable among individuals and society as a whole, referred to as the extrovert ideal.
In such a situation, the introvert may find himself or herself out of place, misunderstood, and somewhat lost. The idea of the extrovert ideal, creates a lot of challenges for an introvert, which can become very difficult to deal with. Rather than realizing the strengths associated with introversion and taking complete advantage of it to further grow in life, the individual feels unwanted, undesired, and moves towards social isolation. This becomes more difficult if the person is also shy. The challenges of a shy-introvert become insurmountable.
Being a shy-introvert, and knowing that there are many more like me out there, I decided to share my own experiences of the difficulties that I have faced and what helped me to deal with those difficulties, and eventually grow in life.

I am currently working as an Assistant Professor in Psychology, at the University of Delhi, India. When I look back at my childhood and adolescence, I would have never imagined, even in my wildest dreams that one day I will get into a profession that would require me to interact with a large group of people, almost every day.
From someone who was very hesitant and could not speak a sentence without stammering, to presenting papers at conferences, conducting workshops, becoming an assistant professor, and being invited to deliver lectures, the transformation has been difficult, yet exciting.
One of my earliest memories, during my childhood days, are people telling me that why am I so quiet, why do I not be like others, and why do I not behave like a typical guy. Day by day these questions became more frequent and with them there were often innumerable suggestions of how should I behave to be more “regular” and “normal”. After a while it became quite disturbing and I started questioning myself that why am I not like others and that is there something wrong with me.
Perhaps it was these questions that made me highly self-conscious and socially awkward, which may have caused me to start stammering. I could not complete a sentence without stammering. Whenever I started to speak, I used to stammer, and people used to give me weird looks, as if I am some strange person. I was often made fun of and laughed upon when I used to stammer. I already used to keep to myself, but due to the fear and embarrassment of being made fun of, I became more quiet.
I started to realize that I do not really have too many people to talk to. Quite often, in school, I used to sit all alone in a corner. I did not like going to school because of that. I was lonely and depressed. I felt that nobody really likes me and I hated myself for being this way. The question of why am I not like others, became more and more pronounced.
Because I did not have many people to talk to and I was very hesitant to initiate an interaction with others, I began to spend a lot of time alone. I spent a lot of time deeply engrossed in my own thoughts, and reflecting upon the past, often trying to figure out what really is the purpose of my life.
Spending a lot of time alone, I gradually learned to enjoy my own company. I liked spending time by myself. In a way, I had built my own world, and I had started to like it. I started to accept the way I am. I started to tell myself that I do not really have to be like others and that everyone is different from each other. It made me feel better about myself. I started to understand myself in a better way, I started realizing my strengths, and began to build in some confidence.
One day, while doing some random reading, and I came across the word “introvert”. After finding out the meaning, I felt that this is exactly who I am. It gave me a lot of self-acceptance. It gave me a strong reassurance that there are individual differences, and that people actually are different from each other.
I then got to know that there is a subject called Psychology, which is extensively about human behavior, including individual differences. When I was in 11th grade I decided that after completing school, I will study psychology. I did exactly that. I studied psychology as my major subject in my Bachelor’s, and then took it up in my Master’s.
Psychology helped me a lot to understand many different aspects of human behavior. I learnt a lot about individual differences. I also began to read a lot about interpersonal relationships. Not having any friends, and not having too many people to talk to, made me curious about the different aspects of relationships. Later on, I even went on to do my PhD in the area of interpersonal relationships.
During this time, I also felt that I could express myself in a better manner in writing rather than speaking. By now I was not stammering as much as I used to. The self-acceptance and self-confidence that I had developed in the past few years, helped me in dealing with that. But I was still hesitant in expressing myself in face-to-face interactions.
I felt like talking about things that made me excited. But I did not have too many people to talk to. This led me to get into blogging. I thought that the best way to share things that got me excited, which mainly has been psychological issues, theories, and concepts, was to write about it on blogs.
Gradually, I felt that I am good at it, at least better than talking or speaking. I started becoming more active on my blogs and even began to participate in online forums. All this helped me to express myself in a better way.
Because writing involves a lot of research, it also led me into more and more reading, which developed a lot of knowledge and awareness. I have now been blogging about psychology for more than ten years. I have been writing psychology-based articles on two of my blogs – “Life and Psychologyand “History of Psychology. I have also been sharing psychology related facts on my Facebook Page, “Interesting Facts About Psychology.
Writing on social media, extensively, made me feel really good about myself. My confidence level increased to a great deal, to the extent that now I felt like having face-to-face interactions about things that made me feel excited. This, eventually, played a role in me taking up teaching, after my PhD, where I have to address a group of students, on a daily basis. I do feel hesitant, at times, be it addressing students in a class, conducting a workshop, or delivering an invited lecture, but I am able to deal with it, partly because I get to talk about topics that fascinate me. Therefore, through all my experiences, I believe, I could come out to be a stronger and confident individual.
My experiences gave me some learnings that I always talk about:
  1. Self-acceptance is essential. It helps you in understanding yourself in a better way.
  2. Being involved in activities that you enjoy makes you feel better about yourself and helps you to realize your strengths, which, in turn, does a lot for your confidence level.
  3. We must realize that individual differences do exist. Everyone is different and has their own strengths and weaknesses. We do not always have to be like others, and there is nothing wrong in being different.
  4. Focusing and enhancing your strengths helps in overcoming your weaknesses.
  5. If you are passionate and excited about a topic or issue, then talking about it becomes easy. It helps to deal with the hesitancy and social awkwardness that one may have.

Today, I have no qualms in calling myself an introvert. I know the advantages associated with introversion and I do not shy away from talking about it to others. Embracing the quiet within me made me the person who I am, it gave me direction in life, and helped me to choose a satisfying career.
Societal expectations can make being an introvert challenging. However, there is nothing wrong with being an introvert. Self-acceptance and self-reflection help in a big way in dealing with such challenges, leading to personal growth and wellbeing.

Saif Farooqi

A PhD in Psychology (from the University of Delhi). I have been blogging about psychological issues for more than ten years. I am extremely passionate about teaching psychology. I'm a writer, an independent researcher, and conduct workshops and awareness programs in schools and colleges. Currently, I'm also working as an Assistant Professor in Psychology at the Department of Applied Psychology, Vivekananda College, University of Delhi, India.

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