Permission To Be Introverted

I’m recently listened to an audiobook called Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

I was struck by something that Cain points out early on in Quiet about the differences between introverts and extroverts. It turns out that introverts can get plenty of stimulation from a book, or an absorbing chat with a friend, or a quiet coffee at the train station. Any more than that and the introvert can become overstimulated to an uncomfortable level. This is because introverts start out at a higher level of stimulation and, therefore, require only a little more to tip them over the edge. Once above that threshold the introvert experiences discomfort, fear, anxiety and so on.

The opposite is true for extroverts. Their baseline stimulation level is lower and, therefore, they need more – other people, parties, prickly conversations, contact, confrontation etc. – to get them up to a pleasant point of stimulation.

This explains why I, more often than not, will enjoy a good book more than a good party, and why my extroverted friend would prefer to abseil down the side of a tall building rather than meditate.

I’ve long known I’m an introvert. I’ve never felt comfortable being the centre of attention. I like to hide away in dimly lit corners. For the longest time – especially as a teenager – I felt I was abnormal, or that something was fundamentally wrong with me. It’s nice to read a book that puts introversion into proper perspective and provides a sound physiological basis for the trait.

The very existence of a book such as Quiet, which rightly evangelises the positive side of introversion, will act as a salve to those tight-lipped introverts. There is no shame in being introverted. We are not weird, just naturally quiet. We don’t need to defend our nature.

Quiet feels like a clarion call, a call that offers permission to be introverted. Were introverts so inclined, they would be shouting about Quiet from the rooftops.

Instead, I’ll settle for writing about it in a blog post.

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