I bet you have heard lots of complaints from introverts who cannot do this or that because of introversion. Cannot find a job, cannot make a public speech, cannot find a mate and so on.
I tried to avoid making such complaints as much as possible and discovered that it’s really possible. Introversion is more like a special way of doing things than some kind of disability. 50% of the population cannot be disabled, after all.
I have a story of overcoming the stigma of introversion two times in my life and that’s why I’m so sure about what I say.
The stigma of introversion
The first one was as usual: I was a quiet and not assertive person and thought about this as some kind of drawback or mental anomaly. Later I revealed that I am an introvert, and everything with me is perfectly OK. Many of us have such a story.
But then there was an additional issue, the introversion became a limiting belief for me. The information for introverts and about introverts is concentrated on our “special needs”. A need for solitude, a need for meaningful conversations, a need for deep relations. It seems that an introvert is a somehow disabled person in need of some special treatment. Very special.
And a disabled person cannot do many things. How can you dance if you have no legs? How can you appreciate art if you are blind? How can you run business, travel, make friends if you are an introvert?
I really wanted to travel the world. Not the whole world, but I had a list of countries I really wanted to visit, the list was quite long and all the countries were quite far away. Visiting them would be a real adventure, a real challenge even for the experienced traveler.
After reading a bit about traveling in travel blogs I discovered that introverts as being slightly “disabled” cannot travel. Simply cannot. Why?
Most of the adventurous travelers wandering alone in Southeast Asia are gregarious extroverts finding friends easily on the way. They find not only friends – even jobs. I have read lots of stories, how people traveled almost for free because they could find jobs on the way: teaching at schools, working in hostels. It’s easy – one just needs to go to some unknown place, smile and ask if they need some help
It seemed that talking to random people on the way is an absolute must for a real traveler. This is the only way to find adventure, to know the local culture and to get an unforgettable experience. Many of travelers are proud of their ability to talk to every moving creature on their way. Is that the skill I must master before going to travel?
And finally, I have read lots of beautiful stories about meeting local people. Most of the travelers unanimously agree that traveling is about people. Only people you meet on the way matters. The more you meet – the better.
I had clear proof with lots of evidence that introversion is an obstacle for traveling. So I decided to drop my dream to visit all those countries I wanted.
But I kept reading. Reading more stories. Reading about traveling techniques. Reading about places to visit. Reading about travel gear, requirements, procedures and about everything.
I thought, OK, maybe I will never go to Japan, but at least I can go to the nearest country. It’s easy if you live in Europe, there are lots of tiny countries close to each other. A day on a bus, and you’re there.
Maybe I cannot go hiking in the mountains, but at least I can do a solo bicycle trip to a nearby town.
And bit by bit I started traveling. Of course, I understood that I will never travel the way I was really dreaming about – wandering alone with a backpack in Southeast and East Asia, but that was still something.
Slowly I was discovering that all those travel blogs were misleading. All those travel stories were just one side of the picture. Every time I crossed the border of my country I understood better and better, that travel can be a very different kind of experience compared to those in shiny travel blogs. I even joined a mountain travelers club and hiked through the mountains. There were guys even quieter than me! So, you can be quiet and travel.
Later, I learned about quiet people that are lecturers, businessmen, activists. So, you can have a business as an introvert after all.
And finally, I learned about Couchsurfing, a site to find people from other countries willing to accommodate travelers and spend time with them. So, you can meet locals without talking to random people on the street! And even meet other introverts in this way.
SO, I had my one-year long trip in all my dream countries. And I revealed few things to myself.
Few things about introversion
Introversion is not a social disorder. We already know this. But introversion is also not an excuse.
It is not true that we cannot do certain things. We just need to do it our way. It is okay to travel and not to find plenty of friends in every town. Climb the nearest hill, hide in the closest forest, sit in the most beautiful park enjoying dancing fountains. And that will be perfect. Don’t go to overwhelming and colorful Brazil, go to almost empty and calm Mongolia. And that will be amazing.
Business? Teaching? Marketing? I started noticing that introverts are thriving in these environments as well as in libraries. I found a lot of inspiring introverts with a strong online presence. All of them have either an inspiring message about introversion or just keep doing amazing things without bothering about personality too much.
So, introversion is a way of doing things, not a reason to stop dreaming about them.
Are extroverts perfect? We know they’re not, but they may find trouble even in the same areas as we do.
I met lots of extremely talkative people, who cannot say a sentence on the stage facing an audience, while I myself actually like giving presentations. Am I an exception? I dare to doubt that. Extroverts also read articles about how to make friends. I saw with my own eyes sales managers tired of talking to people and wanting to recharge. Maybe they recharge in parties, but they need this like we need our alone time.
I even saw people complaining about how few human interactions they have in their jobs and even leaving jobs for that reason. They have this problem because they do things their own way.
So, introversion, as well as extroversion are different ways of doing same things.
We know that introversion is not something to fix. But there are other things that are to be fixed.
When people have certain fears, social anxiety, the problem of procrastination, they tend to blame introversion. But that’s not right. Introversion might be related to those things, and even might cause them, but they can and must be dealt with somehow. You don’t need to be a more outgoing person, but it’s a good idea to tame your fears. They are standing in our way.
I consider introversion as a gentle superpower which must be nourished, recharged and protected from distraction and interruption.
What to do next? Catch yourself when trying to complain about introversion. This character trait is hard coded in the brain and cannot be changed. Better try to understand what is the actual fear that causes problems? Or is it the lack of some skill? Or something else? And then try solving that problem, not introversion.