For many years I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I did not enjoy parties, large groups of any kind, really. Dealing with that many people left me feeling drained and exhausted. When forced to be in a large group, I was constantly trying to find ways of minimizing my exposure to them, helping wash dishes, frequent trips to get some air, a lot of “bathroom” breaks.
And then I read Susan Cain’s book “Quiet”. And my self perception shifted. I started to understand myself in a completely new way. Her work created a self acceptance in me that I lacked for many years.
For once, I didn’t see myself through the lens of “deficiency”. And that shift opened up the possibility of something new, the ability to embrace, wholeheartedly, my natural inclinations.
The difference felt like the change in effort you experience when you’re running with the wind, instead of against it. Not only did it feel effortless, but because you were no longer wasting energy fighting your natural tendencies you had more to tap into.
It was the beginning of a sea change± for me. I started making better choices. My time alone felt, unrestricted, I felt less guilty when I chose to stay in, instead of going out. My friends noticed I was more engaged with them when we were out (in small groups, or just the two of us). I slept easier and woke with more vigor.
My sister has mentioned a similar revelation, in reverse. She was always known as outgoing, gregarious even. And then something within her changed. She realized she didn’t need to be what others expected if it wasn’t authentically her. Her internal happiness outweighed others need for their social expectations to be confirmed.
All that, to say this: stop fighting that which is inherent within you. As Steve Job’s famously said “Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice.” Listen to it, heed it well. And soar.
Cain, Susan. 2012. Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking. New York, NY: Crown Publishing
TED Talk: www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts
± Sea Change: From Shakespeare’s Tempest (I. ii. 403) meaning transformation or paradigm shift.