I’m an introvert and I’m okay

This is a blog post I started to write a few days ago…

One of the great things about uprooting your life is the chance to re-invent yourself. I’m going somewhere that no one knows me. There are no pre-conceived notions about Christa Galloway in the far reaches of northern Alberta. I have a chance to be the person I want to be.

Then something happened, I become addicted to TED talks. Specifically the TED app on my iPad. It’s like watching TV but instead of it being a guilty pleasure, it’s just a pleasure. I have become a database of various interesting pieces of information and gleaned some insights that are having a positive influence on my life. One talk in particular made me re-think my post, a TED talk was by Susan Cain called, The Power of Introverts. 

At the beginning of her talk, Cain described an experience at summer camp where she was encouraged to be outgoing.

“I got the message that somehow my quiet and introverted style of being was not necessarily the right way to go, that I should be trying to pass as more of an extrovert. And I always sensed deep down that this was wrong and that introverts were pretty excellent just as they were.” - Susan Cain

Right away, this struck a chord with me and without trying hard I could think of dozens of similar situations I have been in. I remember feeling that being told I was “quiet” had the same sting as if I’d been called a “loser.” My 7 years of 6-month contracts working on cruise ships gave me the opportunity to continually re-invent myself until I’d eliminated “quiet” from the vocabulary of my friends and colleagues when referring to me. On my first contract, a young man nicknamed me “mouse.” By my fourth contract my manager complained that I spoke to much at meetings. He meant it as a put-down, I took it as a triumph.

To that very minute, I was still in the process of my lifelong effort to be a more outgoing extroverted person. Was Cain saying I could be an introvert… and that was okay?

She spoke about the benefits of introverts in leadership roles, and how a third to a half of people are introverts, and how introverts are at their best when they can do their thing.

“…the more freedom that we give introverts to be themselves, the more likely that they are to come up with their own unique solutions to these problems [in fields like science and economics.]”

And boom, duh, it hit me, why is it that I think I have to be an extrovert? I mean, at this point in my life, I really have no idea. I’m a pretty great thinker. I love to read and write. Big groups are not my cup of tea. In fact, I would prefer a cup of tea. I’m not the star of the show. Don’t want to be. And that’s… okay.

I was burning with the urge to write about my revelation when I looked back at the post I had started to write… I have a chance to be the person I want to be. I realized something. The person I wanted to be when I started the post, who I thought I could become (and might have succeeded) was someone who was more of an extrovert. I realise I’ve had a history of doing exactly this. For the first time I don’t feel like trying to be this person anymore. I’m actually quite happy with my introvert-extrovert ratio. I feel like I have permission from myself to be me.

Don’t get me wrong, there are changes I want to make on this road north. I want to be more self-sufficient, I want to be less judgmental of others, I want to have a smaller environmental impact and I want to be an active part of a community (and I want to learn shoot a target with a bow and arrow from horseback). But I don’t need to be a social butterfly and I will give myself guilt-free permission to go off and spend a little me time.

If you’re interested, here is a link to Cain’s TED talk…

The Power of Introverts