You walk into a classroom and see students in groups of three or four, talking animatedly with one another. Glancing in the corner, you see a student quietly sitting by himself, simply observing the others, his thoughts and emotions impossible to read on his expressionless face. Immediately, the first thought that comes into your head is that this student is probably just shy, a problem which can be cured over time. It wouldn’t even cross your mind that this student might just be differently social. We all know people like that student.
People who aren’t interested in the trivial matters of succumbing to social small talk. People who don’t mind being alone since it helps them think. People who’d prefer to have deep one-on-one conversations rather than the trivial rubbish of who’s dating whom, or what the weather’s like, or what was on TV yesterday or what grades you’re getting. People who can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience but seem awkward and out of place in groups. People like that student – people like me – are called introverts and we are misunderstood and consequently oppressed in today’s ignorant extroverted societies.
First off, it might help if you knew what introverts and extroverts actually are. An introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people for long periods of time. An extrovert on the other hand, is a person who is energised by being around other people and feels drained if he/she is alone. Introverts are rechargeable batteries; they can last for some time before they need to rest in order to recharge. Extroverts are like solar panels. For extroverts, being alone, or inside, is like living under a heavy cloud cover. Solar panels need the sun to recharge; extroverts need to be out and about to refuel.
In a world where extroversion is seen as the norm, introversion is seen as some sort of problem which can be overcome. Society does not understand that introversion is a psychological temperament of the mind and has absolutely nothing to do with shyness. How do you deal with something you can’t quite understand? Something complicated like a Physics word problem. Normally, individuals like you and me would try our best to understand it by asking questions and doing research. But how does society react to introverts? Does society try to understand the differences between extroversion and introversion? Of course not! Seeing it as a problem, society will try to change introverts to become more extroverted in an attempt “fix them”. Realistically, this is just plain stupid. You don’t go to your exam and re-write the question so you can answer it easily. Like I said, you try your best to understand it and answer it. Individually we know this and yet in society, we lose our individual ideals and become ignorant followers of a widespread misconception. Consequently, this leads introverts to think that something is actually wrong with them. They themselves will succumb to the pressure and try to change into the ideal person; the extrovert society so desperately wants them to be. The bias towards extroverts is particularly evident in schools.
Today’s schools are constructed solely for extroverts because we are constantly encouraged to work in groups rather than exercise individual growth. Although group work builds valuable skills, the extent to which group activities are encouraged in school is, in fact, laughable. For example, reading a paragraph and answering two questions has to be done in groups of three or four. And even then, it takes 15 – 20 minutes to complete such a mundane task. At the end of the day, what we subconsciously learn is that reading and answering a few questions is obviously too much work for just one person to handle. Consequently, we learn to become extremely dependent. And believing that every student is extroverted and that some are just shy, most teachers will often pick on the quiet students to answer questions in their pathetic attempts at drawing the students out, desperately hoping that these students will gain confidence and actively participate more, fundamentally failing to fully realize that these students don’t actually have any self-confidence issues and are simply introverted and not shy. Too associate shyness with introversion is just plain ignorance.
We’re told that to be great is to be bold and to be happy is to be sociable. We live with the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious and comfortable in the spotlight. In a biased society that prizes the bold and the outspoken, introverts are perceived as shy extroverts. We are not all painted with the same brush. We are all different. We are all unique. A fact that we all know about yet choose to forget or simply ignore. I’m not saying introversion is better than extroversion. Not at all. Extroversion or introversion is neither right nor wrong, better nor worse. They both complement each other and society needs to understand this. By valuing and appreciating each other’s strengths and weaknesses, only then can we advance. Although humans are instinctively social creatures, we aren’t all social in the same way; some of us are differently social. We are not all painted with the same brush; I’m an introvert and I’m proud of it. We are not all the same, and we shouldn’t try to be either.