Thanks to writers like Susan Cain, it’s not unusual to hear people proclaim themselves as an introvert these days.

Literally so, according to some reports that I’ve seen on Twitter of people introducing themselves like this…

“Hi, my name is Bob and I’m an introvert”.

Whilst I’m grateful for the work that Cain and others have done to normalise (and celebrate!) the ways of quiet people, there’s a danger here.

Like any label, the term “introvert” stops being meaningful when you slap all over the place.

(Ahem…. “millenial” anyone?)

You don’t need to read a ton of books about introversion and extroversion to figure this stuff out though. You just need to listen to yourself.

For example, here are some of the things about myself that I’ve become more aware of in the past few years:

  • Big groups of people make me freeze up — I’d much rather spend time with people one-to-one than all together.
  • A few hours at a party or gathering is usually more than enough, and often I’ll slip away rather than go through the rigmarole of saying goodbye to everyone.
  • Sometimes I just want to be alone. (Or hanging out with a cat).

Despite all of this, I’m wary of using the “I’m an introvert” line as an excuse not to do things.

I don’t believe our personalities are fixed. In fact quite the opposite: I think the human brain is far more pliable than most people realise.

So I’ve devised a few different ways to push myself out of my quietness comfort zone:

  • Taking street portraits for CycleLove (Everyone I’ve approached has been friendly, and 80% of people say yes to having their photo taken)
  • Striking up conversations with other people on bikes at traffic lights. (No danger of awkward silences because when the lights change it’s game over anyway!)
  • Going to design meetups and hosting my own freelancers meetup (You don’t have to be loud to be a leader).
  • Writing publicly about things I wouldn’t usually talk about, like depression (Knowing that this opens up the possibility of me or other people talking about it face-to-face)

There’s nothing wrong with being a quiet person. (Or a loud one).

But…

Use your introversion as a superpower, not an excuse.

Being quiet allows you to notice details that other people miss, to build amazing one-to-one relationships, and to spend more time independently working or thinking about things that matter to you.

And more than that, don’t worry about being anything, other than yourself.

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