Introversion Is Underrated

This has a double meaning. The first is a well-trodden path, especially lately: Introverts are just as capable and important as extroverts. (If you have enjoyed even a shred of 30×30, that’s a good start. It was written by an introvert.) Many experts have gone to great length to explain why introverts have a special and meaningful role in society, and not just as shy artists, so I won’t beat a dead horse… too much: “People persons,” “go getters” and other extroverts are not, by default, the best at what they do, nor are many of them as happy and stable as they seem. They just appear this way because they are so good at broadcasting excitement and selling their virtues. We introverts don’t think or act that way, for better or worse, but still have just as much to offer. Give us a chance.

The other part of introversion’s importance might be a slightly less traveled path, which is contained in the verb form of introvert: to direct interest and attention to the self. That’s something everyone can do, yet most of us rarely try. In fact, the only time we’re ever really told to do this is after some kind of life failure, usually a bad breakup or loss. That’s great advice, but not enough. It’s perfectly alright to seek solitude, even allow some unhappiness to fester and build, when there’s nothing actually wrong.

Because the truth of the matter is that modern life makes it increasingly difficult to be fully alone, and thus less and less of us tend to discover solitude’s reward. It’s actually much easier to be distracted — to always be in a relationship, to check our phones, plan the next trip, tinker on the computer, watch TV, or even hum along to the muzak that seems to fill every little corner of America. Seclusion is hard to find, and even harder to commit to. This is why more people watch TV than read, and it’s why more people read than just sit in an empty room alone and think.

Even worse, those who take the time and mental energy to really reflect on their thoughts and feelings often don’t enjoy where their mind takes them. Turns out it’s actually really challenging to be personally fulfilled and satisfied without the approval of others or the distractions of modernity. But if this is your aim, I don’t see any other way to hit the mark other than taking the time to ask yourself tough questions, and then turn your inner voice’s answers into action. Just don’t run away for too long… it’s not that fun, and you’ll be missed.

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© 2012, Ian Mathias