Introversion in a college environment has the unfortunate potential to be a detriment to personal growth. In both the academic and social worlds we’re a part of, introverts are often at a disadvantage. It can be difficult to catch up to our more extroverted peers who have a leg up at every social gathering and every professional networking event they attend. Their endless circle of friends and their natural knack for talking to people only seems to enhance their confidence, happiness and resume.
Introversion is often considered a less socially desirable trait and may be associated with shyness, timidity or cynicism. In reality, it has nothing to do with those things. Yet we’re sure you introverts in the community can’t count the number of times people have used “quiet” to describe your personalities or the number of times you might’ve felt anger and shame because of it.
Introversion is too often considered a sign of weakness when it should instead be an indication of strength and associated with thoughtfulness, introspectiveness and independence. The dichotomy between introverted and extroverted personality types comes from no more than the distinction between two different sources of personal energy. The effects of this distinction should be negligible, yet they constantly permeate our society’s evaluation of social and professional fitness.
Introversion and extroversion, just like race, gender and sexuality, are traits that are more or less natural and therefore fixed in all of us. As much as you might try to convince yourself it’s only a temporary part of your personality that you could liberate yourself from if you built up enough courage, you might’ve realized, after years of denial, that it’s not something that can or should be molded.
It’s unreasonable to label people or make generalizations based on which side they fall closer to on a spectrum of introversion and extroversion. A single generalization is a ridiculously poor indicator of people’s tendencies. It’s no more than a single layer of the many layers of personality traits that make up who we all are and is more or less trivial in each individual’s personality as a whole.
There’s no harm in spending more time alone than with others. There’s nothing wrong with having fewer yet stronger relationships. There’s no disadvantage to taking more time listening and thinking than conversing. There’s no shame in valuing reflection over action. And there’s no less value in written than spoken words. The parts of your personality that are directly or indirectly related to introverted tendencies are the parts that should be appreciated the most.
Some of the most influential people in the world, including Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton and even Barack Obama are all known to be introverts. And they’re not influential in spite of their introversion, but in many cases partially because of it.
There will always be situations where introverts have a disadvantage. There will always be times where we feel inclined to “act extroverted” just to reach a temporary goal or tempted to “hide” our introversion because of the inherent social pressures in the context we find ourselves in. But there are also times when it’s OK to wear introversion with pride. And once we recognize our strengths and weaknesses and start embracing the trait that’s labeled us as reserved, antisocial and quiet, we might find that it ends up being the one trait that makes us the loudest.
Contact Jasmine Tatah at [email protected].