I'm not shy. I was once, but that's not my thing these days. I'm nervous sometimes and public speaking makes me weak in the knees like the majority of mankind, but I'm not shy. I am, however, an introvert. Not so long ago, someone told me I wasn't, because I wasn't awkward or weird. Umm. Thank you?
The comment was a little annoying, but they were on to something. A few things actually... First, our culture discourages and insults introverts. Second, we don't really understand what introvert even means. Western culture tends to think about introverts as awkward loner hermits, asocial, detached, and underachieving. It's a near insult. Almost, and usually indirectly, which is worse in some ways... Introversion is not something you'll often be directly criticized for, but it's descriptors are negative and it's behaviors are discouraged. So basically, you've been criticized.
The funny thing is though, while I'd have promised you it was what I was, it was also something that I sometimes tried to talk myself out of and let others talk me out of. Society loves extroverts. Gregarious, boisterous, active, charismatic - all good things (but maybe not the only good things?). People (at least the noisy ones) love these things though, and so I tried to "improve" my introversion. If your very being is discouraged though, it's hard to actually understand what it is you are exactly.
And so once you wrap your mind around the definitveness of the fact that you'll just never REALLY be an extrovert, you might realize you don't want to anyway. You can convince yourself that you shouldn't have to prove your worth amongst constant groupthink and noise.
Today I came across a TED Talk on the topic. Susan Cain on The Power of Introverts. Nineteen minutes of brilliance and it explained it better than I ever could. And I sort of want to be friends with this person who was a 10 year old annoyed by a misspelled cheer and still travels with a suitcase full of books. Maybe I could just sit in the room with her and read? Yes please!
And this is an oldie, but also good on what an introvert is not. 10 Myths About Introverts.
So, this introvert business has nothing to do with social skills, liking people, or liking books more than people. It's about stimulation and the way your brain processes it. If you are an extrovert your brain craves and appreciates dopamine. So, your brain calls dopamine's friend adrenaline. When you are all pumped up with adrenaline the brain makes more dopamine and so the loud, the exciting, the crowd pumps the extrovert up. On the flip side, excess dopamine overwhelms the introvert brain. It overstimulates them. Introvert brains like acetylcholine. Unlike its counterpart adrenaline, acetylcholine is the mellow thinker feeler. It gets introverts happy and sustains calm in times of deep thinking or feeling. I'm no scientist, but here's one who explains it better: Introverts - Different Brain Pathways and Neurotransmitters.
Tonight, my introvert brain likes the dark, quiet of night. The happy mellow after an evening with dear friends. Just enough time to embrace and connect and then enough space to appreciate and absorb and put words on the page. Settled in on being who I am designed to be. Introspective and not one bit broken.