Too Sensitive? Why Being Shy Kicks the Ass of Extroversion

by Matt on February 5, 2013

Quiet Cover

If you’re sensitive, or maybe you have a child or co-worker that people are always saying, “you’re too sensitive,” about; then guess what? You are sitting on a gold mine.

I just finished listening to the audio book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, and what a trip into my past it was-and to me a revelation.

It makes a lot of sense that we don’t all have to be gregarious with the ability, and want, to run a marathon and then meet friends for dinner after a long day working. But in the west, consistently, over the past decades these are the people who get ahead in the corporate setting.

Cain shows with Statistics and Studies, talks with Doctors and Scientists, and gives real-life examples, that being outgoing is great for about half of us, or maybe a little more, but that at minimum, in the west, a third of us are straight-up introverts, who contribute just as much value, even if we are a little more quiet about it.

The Quiet Giants:

The power of quiet is the unspoken of tool for many of the worlds greatest discoveries, thinkers, and works of art. Think Einstein, Newton, Jackson Pollack, and Warren Buffet. Think Lincoln, Rosa Parks (who is one of the more prominent persons discussed in Cains book) and Emily Dickinson. Think Thoreau and his escape to Walden pond(though I hear he came in on the weekends to drink at the pub!).

So I got a true look into myself as part of listening to this book. I am either an introvert who learned how to mask this very well(a widely used coping mechanism among introverts) in order to deal with the demands and pressures of having a wildly extroverted father and brother and one of those “you can do everything and still have more left over at the end” families. Or I’m one of those weirdo balanced introvert/extroverts, who scores about even on the Meyers-Briggs personality test. (I just scored INFP… Introverted, INtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving, but only scored really strong on the Inuitive section though, the other were all moderate)

My Introverted Discovery:

As I listened to the stats, descriptions, and stories presented in this book, I recalled so-often my intro-verted side that was made to fit in with the extrovert ideal that our country has perpetrated upon us since the early 1900’s. A mix of bad science, entrepeneurialism, and idealism(sound familiar?) created this “everybody should be an extrovert” false utopia which-by extension- has created a lot of unhappy introverts.

The, for me, heart-wrenching stories about introverted people and how they had overcompensated for authorities that didn’t understand them were so spot-on with my own feelings and thoughts about my growing up. And, interestingly, now sober again after many years spent partying, over-working and sick all the time, I’m not sick so often and I’m finding very little motivation to go to all those parties I used to love to “drink away my shyness” at. (Note: Cain describes a difference between shyness and introversion, and does not use them interchangeably, as I am in this article.)

I found myself wondering over and over throughout the book, “yeah, what the hell, why wouldn’t they just leave me hell alone when I was tired, and learn that I couldn’t handle all day trips to the mall… I mean did they think I was dragging my feet because I was just being disagreeable on purpose?” And cussing this mentality: “you can play every sport around the calendar, be busy every weekend, and, by-the-way, you’re still expected to make straight A’s and be happy all the time.” (I must state that here that my feelings are in no way to be construed to cast blame at my parents, who are awesome, for anything; but are expressed in the spirit of reality, and about me uncovering who I really am, so I can deal with that effectively to heal and offer the world the best of me)

Old Ideas which New Science Confirms:

So Ms. Cain presents some newer science about the the brain differences between those we would call introverts and extroverts, about the characteristics of each type, and about the child-rearing styles and management styles that suit this type of personality as opposed to the one-size-fits-all mentality(haven’t we had enough of this phrase, I can’t think of any situation in which it is the best option).

Interestingly, Ayurveda, the thousands of years old healing science of India, is based around knowing- and keeping in balance- your Dosha, or constitution. The doshas are different for everybody, and are found by studying your body type and other physical, mental, and emotional tendencies. You can find you dosha by doing this test: (Dosha Test). Cain, though warning this is sort of new and harkens back to some other now disproved theories, says that the introvert ‘may actually have certain physical characteristics.’

Well, whether this is true or not, I fit the basic physical assumption: tall, thin, blue eyes, fair skin. Sensitive to my surroundings. Also, my voice tires easily, and synchronistically, as a singer, I have recently been exploring the option of using a quieter voice and cranking the mic level up to get it in the mix correctly. So this was at least basically confirming for that approach. Actually, yesterday, extending this synchronicity, I read in a Japanese novel, 1Q84, a description about how Americans use a lot more muscles when they talk. Which is just like what I have been instructed to over-come by a vocal coach! But I digress.

In Conclusion, The Value of Diversity:

Like the title of the article explains, there is a lot of value of accepting introversion in others and for even encouraging it. I know that companies, like RackSpace, do a lot of personality testing to get you into a role that fits well with your style.  Families could go a long way toward supporting their members who have different constitutions. Serving their health may be best accomplished by understanding these differences and trying suggestions that Cain offers.

Let’s accept that we are different in the ways we express the Oneness of the Universe, and so let’s honor each others strengths instead of forcing an outmoded ideal.

And to all you extroverts: I love you too, you make things a lot more exciting for us introverts!

Note: If you have a story about introversion or questions, post them below and I’ll do my best to answer! (after a short nap) Thanks.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Princess February 17, 2013 at 3:42 am

Thank you for sharing! I alawys feel a little guilty about not getting out and socializing more with my Son, (who is now 29 months) but, transportation and finances won’t alawys allow it and, i’m also an introvert. The only person to watch my Son, before he was a year and a half, was a my Husband. So far, we’ve only left my Son with his Grandparents and, recently, his Aunt, for a Date night. We’ve only had two since our Son was born. We stay at home, enjoy some wine, watch a movie or, do individual things we enjoy while our Son is napping or, down for the night. We went on “Family Dates” until my Son’s desire to sate his curiousity with exploration at restaurants, (i.e. he would only stay in a highchair or, lap for 15-20 min. before becoming restless). That’s when my Husband and I stopped eating at restaurants with our Son, (it stopped being a pleasurable experience and more stressful and anxiety ridden). Now that our son is 29 months, we feel a lot better about having family watch him but, we still don’t go out and do a lot of things. We’re happiest at home. =)

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Waseem February 17, 2013 at 3:44 am

I absloutely LOVE this post and I am so happy to have found it! For two years now, I have felt like no one else in the world feels the way I do – but I just have absloutely no interest in going out at night without my little one. My friends are all urging me to do girls nights out (actually, they have stopped – they urged for about a year and then gave up on me). But nighttime is sacred at our house, it means bedtime and bedtime means nursing and cuddles and songs and lying together holding each other. Why would I want to give up all that awesomeness just to go out with other adults?! So, I have no night life but I have an amazing homelife with wonderful evenings. And, as I blogged about recently, I’ve discovered the joys of “date days” with my husband (ie, taking vacation time together at home while our little one is at daycare, which she adores). So, it’s all good! Glad to have found your blog. 🙂

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