Do you always suspect there is something wrong with you but you can’t put a name or a finger on it? Do you feel inadequate when you are in a large crowd and don’t quite know how to blend in? Do you feel the need to be alone to recharge after being around people for the whole day? Do you know why you find your spouse incessant chatter exhausting to your mental state?
Our lives are driven by a fact that most of us can’t name and don’t understand. It defines who our friends and lovers are, which careers we choose, and whether we blush when we’re embarrassed.
That fact is whether we’re an introvert or an extrovert.
The introvert/extrovert divide is the most fundamental dimension of personality. And at least a third of us are on the introverted side. Some of the world’s most talented people are introverts. Without them we wouldn’t have the Apple computer, Google, the theory of relativity and Van Gogh’s sunflowers.
I was born an introvert. You may be surprised but I am a true blue introvert, my father’s daughter. I spent most of my childhood in my own head, building lego blocks, drawing cartoons, taking breaks alone in primary school. It’s not that I have no friends, but I didn’t felt the need to be affiliated to a group and prefer not to have someone tag along. I dipped in and out of groups, as they played skip and cat and mouse. That was how introvert I was. As a result of that I was seen to be “arrogant”. Being arrogant is tantamount to a sin especially in Chinese school, when you are expected to blend in and be part of the community.
As I started secondary school, my life was surrounded by extroverts. Resisted at first, I was dragged into groups and began to socialise, using my wit and intelligence, I became the centre of attraction, I cracked jokes and entertained the bored crowd, learning to cope with the joy of acceptance and also the disappointment of rejection along the way. At times, juggling 5 to 6 different social groups at one go.
I had this book on Kindle for 3 years and didn’t read it. I picked it up from the library shelf and I was hooked. Alongside Michelle Obama’s biography, I read this book by Susan Cain. Both Princeton and Harvard Law School graduates, written an inspiring book that I love. Except this book speak so much of what I wanted to say all these years but couldn’t.
You see, this book is not only about how introverts can thrive in a world that won’t stop talking. This book is a manifesto of being an introvert. In the East if silence is golden, choose your words carefully when you speak; in the West it is all about Extroverts Ideals. You have to express and talk loudly to be heard, you have to be eloquent in a meeting to appear brilliant etc, we have come to the point of putting the charismatic and extroverts leaders on the pedestal and shun the quiet voice of reason and resolution from the introverts. We prize extroverts and sociable personality and scorn at person of few words. We put our kids to school to learn to socialise at a young age, so that they get a headstart in life…..
“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.” – Anais Nin
Some of us became a pseudo-extrovert so that we could make a living or do our day job. This is not necessarily wrong, because every great idea needs to be expressed and make known to the world, using the extrovert personality of engaging with people who would listen. The danger is not knowing who you really are that makes you feel inadequate, suffered low self-esteem, anxious of not living up to the standards of the successful extroverts.
“Love is essential, gregariousness is optional. Cherish your nearest and dearest. Scan new acquaintances for those who might fall into the former categories or whose company you enjoy for its own sake. And don’t worry about socialising with everyone else. Relationships make everyone happier, introverts included, but think quality over quantity” – Susan Cain
This book has changed the way I see myself and understood the root cause of everything that is going wrong. I did not expect a nondescript and a book about Quiet to do so, but judging by its 2 million copies sold it has started a Quiet revolution and I hope soon there will be the day when people recognise that being an introvert is cool.
– Introverts will absolutely LOVE this book.
– Extroverts will understand why introverts are “weird” and may learn to respect them as they are
– for anyone who are not sure which spectrum you stand (not 100%, because 100% introvert or extrovert belongs in the mental institution) maybe you will understand yourself better after reading this book.
I encourage you to pick up this book.
Publisher: Penguin 3 Jan 2013; Length: 352 pages; Setting: Non-fiction Source: Own copy. Finished reading on: 2nd March 2019, Saturday.
About the writer:
Cain graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1989 and earned her Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School in 1993. Cain worked for seven years as an attorney at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and then as a negotiations consultant as owner and principal of The Negotiation Company. Cain has been a fellow and a faculty/staff member of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, an educational non-profit organization. Cain left her careers in corporate law and consulting for a quieter life of writing at home with her family, likening her years as a Wall Street lawyer to “time spent in a foreign country”.