Life in the Fast Lane


Of Shyness and Introversion

By 11:21 AM , , , , , , , , , , ,

Growing up, I was one of the shyest babies in the world. According to my parents, I hated being carried by people other than them. If a relative carried me, I would cry and hold my arms out to my parents. If a total stranger carried me, they knew a full-on cryfest would ensue (because despite my shyness, I was not afraid to bawl loud enough for people in Antartica to hear me).

In my Kinder and early grade school years, it would take me a long time to make friends. Also, it would be a miracle if I actually raised my hand to recite in class. Needless to say, I loathed being the center of attention and I hated public speaking all the more.

As time passed, I became less shy and [considerably] more sociable. Nowadays, once I start talking, you'll have to cut me off so I'll know that I should stop. And any fears I may have of speaking in public, I've managed to push back into the deepest recesses my subconscious. In my line of work, particularly, I've gotten fairly used to baring my soul to colleagues (read: when we present our ideas in internal meetings or brainstorms) and giving it my all in client presentations (read: complete with sound effects and facial contortions, if need be).

However, there's still that part of me that's reserved, hesitant, unsure, and vulnerable. I'm still uncomfortable in unfamiliar social situations and would much rather host a dinner party for a few friends than throw a big one.

Which is why, when I read Sophia Dembling's article earlier today, it made me realize a bunch of things about shyness and introversion.

She writes:

A lot of people have the wrong idea about introversion and confuse it with shyness. But shyness and introversion are not the same. As described by one neuroscientist I spoke to, shyness is behavior: acting fearful in social situations. Introversion is motivation: low drive to participate in social situations. So while shy people might want to socialize but find it intimidating, introverts have the skills but can take or leave socializing.
It dawned on me only today that shyness and introversion are not necessarily one and the same. All the while, I thought that both attributes were somewhat interchangeable.

This probably explains why my friends — especially those I've only known the last few years — don't believe I'm shy, even when I insist I really am. Because I can carry on a [really, really long] conversation with those I'm comfortable with. And I'm not afraid to show my silly, quirky side, especially if this puts people at ease or gets them to open up.

My usual self with my high school group called "The TB".

The total opposite of how I conduct myself in a huge gathering, for example.

How I would probably look in a crowd of unfamiliar people. Nooneenoo.

A snippet related to this point is confirmed in the article:
While we are not averse to knowing a lot of people, we don’t believe a large circle of friends is proof of social success. Just as we prefer in-depth conversation to chitchat, we prefer a few intimate friendships to a bunch of fun but superficial ones.

This is not because we don’t like people, but because we do—so much so that we want to really know those people we care about. We would rather know one person intimately than a dozen only slightly.
Also, while there are weekends when I enjoy going out and meeting up with friends, there are equally as many weekends that find me holing up at home. Until coming across this article, I couldn't entirely explain why. But now I know that it's the introvert in me that needs to recharge my "social batteries", so to speak.

I've come to understand that my so-called self-proclaimed "shyness" actually has less to do with shyness and more to do with being introverted. In fact, all of the nine signs listed in the article describe me perfectly.

And while I've always known that I'm an introvert through and through, I realized that I'm proud to be in good company. We introverts may be the minority in a society of talkers and party animals, but I guess extroverts need us for check and balance purposes.

With my best girl friends. While we're a really talkative group, I'm probably the most quiet. Hard to imagine, right?

After all, who would listen if they needed to rant or rave, right?

Introverts of the world, stand up!

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