Without going too much into detail, Cain is one of the most vocal introverts out there, dedicated to helping people understand the “power of introverts” in an extroverted world. She kind of opened the pathways to discovering the pros of having introverts in a work space. She made me, personally, realize that being introverted isn’t necessarily a bad thing or something to be “fixed.”
I could probably do a whole A to Z Challenge about Susan Cain’s work, with a different quote or philosophy of hers every day, but I’d like to focus today on a quote from an interview she did with TIME Magazine:
“Shyness is fear of social judgment and humiliation, and introversion is really preference for less stimulation. You could have a child who prefers to work alone but is not afraid of other kids, but just has this preference. They sometimes come together but they can be very different. It drives non-shy introverts crazy when people assume they are shy when in fact, they are [simply] not wanting to participate.”
Now this interests me because I was always called shy as a kid. Sometimes I felt–and still feel–shy, but I wonder if I was always so. Did I become shy because I was told I was shy? If you say something often enough, it can become true. Or, am I just a shy introvert? They certainly exist.
Either way, I have grown out of much of my shyness, but not my introvertedness. I love how she said, “introversion is really a preference for less stimulation.” I like to think of it as a preference. You don’t control what foods or colors you like, you just discover it on your own through trial and error. The same thing happens with stimulation levels; the preferred level is discovered over time.
Even though I just admitted to sometimes feeling shy, I hate when people call me that. Especially when they say it like I’m not in the room, “Oh, she’s just shy,” as if my shyness caused hearing loss. While I see introversion as a positive part of my personality, I see shyness as a bad thing. A fear, like Cain said, of other people. Nothing racks up my anxiety more than someone calling me shy when I thought I was doing well and participating enough.
Worse than “shy” is “antisocial,” which I have also been called (to my dismay). When I read Cain for the first time I was relieved to find my feelings validated, to hear someone else’s voice tell me that I wasn’t antisocial, I just preferred less stimulation. That there was nothing wrong with me–in fact, my quiet tendencies gave me “power.”
Cain taught me and countless other introverts that it’s okay and natural for us to want to be alone now and then and to prefer less stimulating activities. She’s a wonderful woman and I highly suggest all introverts, especially ones just beginning to discover who they are, to read her work.