The world is becoming a safer place for introverts, by and large. There are books written about us and for us. There are websites dedicated to showing us love and support. Even the word is far more common; it’s weirder to meet someone who isn’t familiar with the whole introvert/extrovert thing than someone who is.
By and large, it’s incredible.
However, we still need more education. The public has gotten used to dividing the world up; putting people in either the pajama-crazy, cat-loving, noise-hating, book-reading, glasses-wearing introvert box or the socialite, color-wearing, wise-cracking, fun-loving, more-friend-having extrovert box. The problem is…there are lots and lots of boxes. How many people are in the world right this moment? Google told me 7.442 billion. So there’s… let’s see, how many boxes? 7.442 billion. For one thing, everybody is unique. Introversion, extroversion, dog people, cat people, sweater people, weird people (see what I did there?); every distinction just serves to help us find those similarities. But they don’t define us. For introverts, it can be really hard to deal with people’s now rampant ideas about introversion. Yes, society knows that we don’t enjoy parties all that much and love meeting up separately in our homes and every other awesome mug and t-shirt slogan out there, and they may even know we’re not really shy, not all of us. But so many don’t. So many people look at an introvert and still expect certain behaviors. Many introverts don’t fit comfortably inside the introvert box.
Take me, or any INFJ. We love connections, by and large (that phrase again, I must love it). So we don’t hate small talk. Sure, we love the deeper stuff, but we know small talk builds relationships at first. I like engaging with coworkers over stale coffee. I like smiling hugely at the cashier even though I don’t speak her language. I like nodding and gesticulating to people who don’t speak my language. I’m boisterous in public. I used to prance on stage in front of my students. I use huge gestures and look like an idiot and crack jokes and use funny voices. Lots of extrovert things. And yet, I’m an introvert.
A while ago I read this post by my dear blogger friend and fellow INFJ Lani, who mentioned an article on the four kinds of introverts. Huzzah! I thought. This woman gets it. (I ended up taking the quiz, naturally, and got fairly well balanced on all four kinds, more heavily into social and less so on restrained. Again, I am NOT shy.)
Fortunately, I don’t see this yet, and I hope I never do, but I feel the sticky foreboding of introvert shame. You aren’t introverted enough. You go to parties! You can’t be a real introvert unless you shudder and abhor the very idea. You don’t like cats!? How dare you listen to sad music and read poems. That sort of thing. It’s not here yet, and I pray it never comes. We don’t need that.
That being said, we introverts need to continually put our voices out there. Keep blogging. Keep writing books. Keep being different than everyone else, including the other introverts. Yes, it’s nice to have a community, but let’s not be a cult. Let’s help the world realize that there are just as many kinds of introverts as extroverts and ambiverts and people at all.
Blessed be the weird.*
*Which is an amazing book, by the way.