I am a loner, there’s no secret about it. Private. Solitary. But I don’t remember a single moment in my life when I felt I was bored. No, its not a hyperbole. I don’t know boredom because I have always had myself to turn inwards to when there was nothing or no one else. I’m an Introvert and happy at that.
I was going to write about solitude when I picked this photograph. But, I wanted to look at it more objectively instead of romanticizing it. The fact is I thrive on solitude because I’m an introvert whereas an extrovert might detest it. It doesn’t make an extrovert any less wiser. But, it doesn’t make me, the introvert, any lesser either. The sad part is the importance we are given about blending in and being sociable which somehow has become a synonym of extroversion. This post is for all the introverts out there who might have struggled to blend in at some point of life. Do you remember the time –
- When you were forced to participate in a school play, so you found yourself standing on the stage in a tree costume and you just wanted the play to end
- When you were ‘encouraged’ to mingle with other children in your parents’ social gatherings or visit those relatives who kept questioning the hell out of you and you just wished you could get back home to your favorite book
- When you were were supposed to get good at public speaking in college by standing in front of so many people and you would rather discuss what mattered to you one on one with people you were comfortable with
- When you were supposed to prepare for group discussions and the more aggressive you could get mattered. You wished you could clear it somehow so that you can show your real self in the personal interviews
- When your popularity was judged by the number of friends and strangers in your birthday party at midnight whereas you would have been much happier with a quiet getaway with your loved one
- When you were under the pressure to ask questions in team meetings to impress your superiors and you would rather send your concerns passively over an email
- When you were judged by how many bars and networking events you visited at Business School and you just wanted to get some sleep
The real key is to understand that introversion is not awkwardness and while it is great to learn to be more companionable, there is no need to prove ourselves by the standards of extroversion. It is time to accept your strengths and do your best in those rather than living someone else’s life and struggling in it. While the world continues to celebrate outspokenness and people who can initiate handshakes and debates, it still needs people who can tap their internal fire and create the masterpieces of art and science. Do it your own way and do it happily.
There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.Susan Cain
Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again. Anaïs Nin
Some people would laugh on this – what center? And may be there’s nothing but how about if there is? Even a tiny nucleus of some indefinable energy that is resting within us. Something that is driving the whole outer Universe, something that we connect to while meditating? That leads me to one of the Mahavakyas (great saying) of the Upanishads – Aham Brahmasmi (I am Divine). I wouldn’t elaborate much on it here as I cover it in Seven Conversations and I would rather have you read it there.
I feel like I have been given this time to live and I want to spend it on only the stuff I absolutely love or that is important to me. I don’t mind being in pain for something I love but I will not take the easy way out of faking stuff to blend in. I will not be a manager driving pointless meetings, I will not be forced into parties I don’t want to go, I will not indulge into smalltalk with people I am not interested in and I will not apologize for being quiet.
See this great TED talk on The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain