Book Reviews,  Books

The Art of Being an Introvert

I am a female. I am a young adult. I am a college graduate. I am a Florida native. I am a cat person. I am a sister. I am a bibliophile. I am a perfectionist. I am a Sagittarius. I am an introvert.

It might sound weird, but being an introvert is a huge part of my identity. And surprisingly enough, it’s a part that I have struggled with for years.

One third of people in the world are introverts. Or, at least that’s what this Forbes article says. To be honest, I couldn’t find any clear statistics on how much of our world is made up of introverts, but it’s probably more than we think since a lot of introverts are skilled at wearing an extrovert mask throughout the day — I, in fact, am one of those introverts. I’ve had many people tell me I’m an extrovert, and when I politely correct them, telling them I prefer quiet nights in with books, they immediately tell me, “There’s no way you’re an introvert! You’re so involved and friendly!” It’s a very deceiving mask my friends.

quiet by susan cain

I recently read Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” This book talks about some of the very distinct characteristics and abilities of introverts in a world seemingly dominated by extroverts.

The very, very important thing to remember about this book is that it is written with the idea that being extroverted is the norm — being extroverted is a fantastic thing that people are praised for, and those that are extroverted tend to excel in life while those that are introverted have a harder time getting their words out and actions noticed. You may not feel that this is true, and that’s a point of debate, but that is the perspective with with Cain writes.

While reading this book, I found myself feeling bad for extroverts — she can paint them as being quiet baboonish — but the point of this research isn’t to shame extroverts for their personality traits, it’s to highlight what introverts can also bring to the table. The world wouldn’t function properly with only one personality type — we need both — and it’s important to remember that.

“Quiet” is a case study on introversion. Introverts aren’t just one type of person. Being introverted doesn’t always mean you’re intelligent (something I think Cain pushes in her book). It doesn’t mean loving to read books, or relating to cats on a deeper level. It means those things to me, but it doesn’t have to mean those things to every introvert out there. Rather than presenting quantifiable research, Cain’s studies are mostly on a case-by-case basis. She visits conferences and small cities in California. She talks to one specific couple and one unique family. It’s important to remember that personalities and situations cannot be generalized.

The most important takeaway for me from Cain’s book wasn’t that introverts are an important part of society (which I believe is her main argument), but how to handle introversion as an introvert or a friend of introverts.

Let me be clear — I also don’t think there’s any reason to be ashamed of being an introvert. I am an introvert. I think introverts are awesome (as are extroverts). But I have struggled, and continue to struggle, with that part of my personality. It sounds stupid, but when it’s harder for you to make friends than it is for other people or you have to promise yourself a quiet night in as a reward for going to a party, you feel a bit odd. I am incredibly open with friends and family about my need for time alone and desire for social plans to be discussed at least three business days in advance, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wish spontaneity came more easily to me. That I don’t wish I didn’t have to psyche myself up to go to a party where I don’t know anyone.  Cain put my pre-activity nerves into perspective for me in an introvert context when she explained that introverts are uncomfortable with the new and different — they are creatures of habit, and when something new comes along (like going to a new school or starting a new job), they can handle it, but they might need some extra time to adjust and some more mental preparation to be totally ready for what is to come.

Another “Aha” moment happened for me towards the end of the book when she talks about a particular couple where the husband is an extrovert and the wife is an introvert. She starts talking about the couple making compromises about how often they will host dinner parties — an activity the wife is fine with skipping altogether but the husband is passionate about. She mentions that these compromises with others are important, but it’s also crucial to make these compromises with yourself. This resonated with me so deeply. As I’m finishing up my first year post-grad in a new city, I’ve struggled to really meet people and make solid friendships like the ones I had in college. I’ve been really hard on myself about that because I do tend to spend more time alone working on my blog or reading. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I’m an all or nothing kind of gal, so seeing it in black and white on paper that I didn’t have to force myself to go to a social engagement every single night of the week if I didn’t want to was mind blowing. I know it seems so simple, but I really hadn’t thought of it like that until I read it in “Quiet.”

Cain also features in-depth cases about being an introvert in the workplace, raising an introvert when you aren’t one yourself, introvert/extrovert relationships, the extrovert mask, and many other elements of being an introvert in an extrovert-dominated world.

I didn’t necessarily agree with every point Cain made throughout the book, but what I did like about it was how it made me feel like I wasn’t alone. Now don’t look at me like I’m crazy. I know there are tons of introverts in the world — some of my best friends are introverts — but Cain put everything I’ve ever been self-conscious about when it comes to my introversion in a book for me to see that I’m really not alone in my feelings.

All in all, being an introvert is pretty awesome. I’m sure being an extrovert is awesome too, but obviously, I don’t know that side of life quite as well.

If you’re an introvert and you’ve ever struggled with being an introvert like myself, I highly recommend “Quiet” by Susan Cain. It has it’s problems, but it puts being an introvert into perspective in a world where being friendly and outgoing are highly admired traits. And, if you’re extroverts looking to understand introversion, I still recommend picking it up. It can teach you a lot about the other people in your life and the way they process their experiences and surroundings.

If you have comments/questions about “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading,

P.S. Sorry this was a bit of a rambly review/post. This book just gave me a lot of feelings, and I wanted to share!



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