Being an introvert in today's world hurts. It's exhausting. It's psychologically demanding. And in some cases it takes its toll on you physically. That being said, I still believe that being an introvert...is awesome.
A few months ago, being a textbook introvert myself, I picked up Susan Cain's book QUIET: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can't Stop Talking. In her book, Susan mentions a scientific experiment (I don't really remember the name of the scientist, but it's in the book, I swear), that demonstrated whether being an introvert is nature or nurture. Are you born an introvert or do you grow up to be one?
Like so many other studies about human nature, this study concluded that both nature and nurture play a role, and who you are today is a mix between the hand you've been dealt at birth and how you decided to play it along the way.
What's all this got to do with hurt and pain? Well, in this study it was found that babies, who grew up to be introverts, cried a lot and were annoyed and agitated by the different stimuli they were exposed to like noise and such. Why? Because it turns out that introverts are very sensitive to external stimuli. They pick up on most things going on around them and they have a reaction to it. And as babies, just as the adult ones, the noise was too much for them.
I only realized the nature of being an introvert a couple of years ago. Before that I had no explanation for all the sad stories from my childhood about the countless times I cried, in class and at home, for reasons that, to others, seemed ridiculous. I could never get them to understand that changing my music teacher was just too much to take.
I remember crying my eyes out on the first day of school, after we had moved to a different country, because I was so embarrassed for not understanding what to do during the assembly. The teachers were talking in code. And all the kids were responding in unison. It was like a scene out of an Orwellian novel.
Turns out the teacher was just calling out different morning stretching exercises. I was let in on the secret later that day when someone felt sorry for me after a full day of intermittent crying bouts. I was also scarred for life on that same day when I saw the law of "Survival Of The Fittest" displayed full fledged by the kids as they FOUGHT to choose their seats in the classroom.
As an adult, I still get that gut wrenching feeling I had that first day at school. I get it when a colleague says something hurtful and I don't want to respond; when I do a job and someone else gets the credit; when I realize that today I have to give a presentation in front of a room full of strangers out to get me even though I've gotten pretty good at it.
Some would call me a wimp for having these feelings, but I like Susan Cain's explanation. I am an introvert.
At last, what moved me to write this post is that I'm getting these feelings again now because my daughter starts school this month. And as she runs around excited by her new bag and chanting "going to school, going to school", I cannot shake off this knot in my stomach when I realize she will be going out into the world and, if she's an introvert, it's probably going to be exhausting for her too. It's probably going to hurt a lot and it's probably going to take its toll on her physically. But it's still going to be awesome!