by Linda Szugyi
Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking is not as insulting towards extroverts as it sounds. Her point is not that one personality trait is better than the other.
She does, however, make a strong case that our culture has a bias against introversion. She gives a synopsis in a charming TED Talk.
It certainly rings true to me. I grew up knowing full well that I was a shy, anxious sort, and that I should be less so. Warning: shyness and anxiousness are not the same thing as introversion. Just ask any introvert and they’ll tell you in short order.
The thing is, I didn’t know there was a difference between social anxiety and introversion until taking the good-old Myers-Briggs in my late twenties. What a revelation. My whole life, I had lumped them together in the Big Bag of Stuff I Need To Overcome.
Given that I’m so introverted a month in solitary confinement sounds like the perfect holiday, I really shouldn’t be throwing the baby out with the bath water. So it felt good to accept some natural tendencies.
Still, my career forced me to continue trying to fit in an ill-fitting mold. It’s a stressful way to live. Thanks to that personality test, at least somewhere in the back of my mind I patted myself on the back for trying so hard, rather than berating myself for failing an impossible task.
Motherhood gave me a reason to walk away from that stressful career. Since then, I’ve considered the matter resolved: it’s okay to be an introvert, and introverts can learn to behave in an extroverted manner whenever a situation calls for it.
Quiet has offered another eye-opening idea, though: it’s not necessarily a good idea to don the extroverted mantle all the time. If you do it too much you’ll burn out. Individuals should seek a lifestyle that compliments natural tendencies, not one that is constantly at odds with it.
And there lies my brand new revelation: I may have walked away from the impossible task of Becoming Extroverted, but I never did change my daily habit of acting more extroverted than I really am.
The funny thing is, I thought that pulling the boys out of brick-and-mortar school would provide a unique opportunity to indulge in my introverted tendencies. Ha!
If I kept the boys alone with me all day, every day, I’m not sure if they would kill me or I would kill them. Being an engaged member of a larger community is a must.
And in the homeschool community, nothing gets done without a considerable amount of initiative, discussion, planning, and cooperation from every parent. So here I am, constantly meeting new people, having email discussions, signing up to be a “craft leader” (don’t ask), coordinating and chaperoning field trips, arranging car pools, collecting money for coach gifts, and just generally pitching in and chatting away far more than I ever did at the brick-and-mortar schools.
It’s turning into a stressful way to live. I might have to break my habit of acting extroverted, at least some of the time.
Whew, too much navel-gazing. If you’ve read this far, thanks for indulging me. Since most people are probably closer to the middle of the “introversion/extraversion” spectrum, this post may sound a lot like a hand-wringer trying to rationalize her own anxieties. There might be some truth to that.
But I can still pull some takeaway points out of my nethers for those of you who didn’t fail to score at least one point on the extraversion side of the Myers-Briggs test.
First, if you can’t decide whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, and frankly suspect the whole thing is a crock: count your lucky stars. You are a well-balanced ambivert–able to enjoy a quiet, solitary day every bit as much as you enjoy a spontaneous day in the midst of a bustling crowd. I am jealous of you.
Second, if you are considering homeschooling, but are afraid that you will “go crazy” if you are stuck in your house all day, don’t let that misconception stop you. It is so easy to rarely be home while homeschooling. Assuming you have a vehicle and you don’t live in the absolute middle of nowhere, there is enough excitement out there for even the most extreme stimuli-seeking extrovert among us.
Actually, we homeschooling introverts need you extroverts desperately. We need the moms who revel in leading vibrant new groups.
If you are an extrovert who would like to homeschool, but can’t find enough activities in your area, start a group of your own. I remember a fellow military mom who was worried about the lack of organized homeschool groups at her next duty station. She solved that problem by founding the Home School Association for Military Families.
If you build it, we introverts will come out from under our rocks. We promise.
This is the epilogue where I tell you something about myself. But I just got thru talking about myself at length. So let’s skip it. I write more stuff, often about myself, here.
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