I believe it was Susan Cain, author of the (rightfully) famous book Quiet, who first distinguished between shy and introverted. Sometimes, though, these two attributes meet in one person, which leads to a particularly awkward result.
I happily announce that I am one of these people.
Despite being generally very enthusiastic about my life, I can confirm that being a shy introvert really sucks sometimes. It’s a challenge, a persistent one – it keeps striking back on a daily basis, and as it often comes in a 3for1 package together with overthinking and oversensitivity, you’re in for some fun. (no)
I was lucky to land an internship at a design magazine this year. That proved to be a perfect opportunity to test my charming character traits in a brand new setting. And I’m here to tell you that the mythos of overcoming introversion in order to become a new bubbly person is, gently put, a nonsense.
The Lows Can Hardly Come as Unexpected
During that three month period I spent in the office, I frequently looked at myself with a snide entertainment. Surrounded by beautiful, fashionable people, I often turned into a catalogue example of awkwardness. Not always, but often.
I still remember that one photoshoot with three designers who came to our office/studio, together with a make-up artist, an extern PR-manager and a random friend of theirs – long story short, a bunch of unfamiliar people. Unfamiliar to me, because the whole magazine crew seemed to know them, and in a minute I was surrounded by more than a dozen social butterflies, mingling around. Did someone introduce me? No. Did I introduce myself? When the opportunity offered itself, I did. But frankly, for the most of the two hours preceding the actual photoshoot, I was alternately drinking gallons of water and kept going to the bathroom – just to make myself seem busy. I don’t think my pee was ever as clear as that day.
That, of course, is only one example of the office struggles. I’d say that shy introverts often reach a social deadlock, which other people don’t even notice. The awkward situations can then hardly come as unexpected, as they often revolve around the same themes. Introducing, networking, smalltalk. I worried about joining lunch breaks if I wasn’t explicitly invited; I fretted about people not smiling, not replying to my e-mails, talking over me. Then I realized that these concerns are a fair price for the inconspicuous advantages I first didn’t even notice myself.
The Perks Came out of the Blue
Being more sensitive comes hand in hand with being more perceptive – and I treasured and utilized this trait in every aspect of my work. From grasping the overall concept to empathizing with people and being creative; being a shy introvert really helped me with my tasks. Being constantly lost in my thoughts turned out to be useful, as I was able to concentrate on writing even in the busy office environment. I learned to camouflage my insecurity with politeness and smiles, which proved to be surprisingly convincing many times. Fake it til’ you make it, they say. I gladly confirm that it works.
Last but not least, I came to realize that I was by far not alone in all of this. I was, in fact, surrounded by numerous introverts. Not only were they not in disguise; they turned their introversion into a natural part of their work attitude, which was only playing in their favor. As much as I’d hate to generalize, I must say that they often happened to be the most inspiring, bullshit-free people around.
A Wide Spectre
In my life, I haven’t met many introverts who wouldn’t try to look more extroverted. Vice versa, I haven’t met many extroverts who would like to appear more introverted. So I officially give up the fight. There is a lot of space for us introverts on the scale between an extroverted person and a sociopath.
I don’t aspire to be a fake bubbly person with zero personal integrity; I’d actually much rather be a genuine loner.
A creative loner with a social life and a nice personality, to be more accurate – because apparently, such a concept exists. Even in the office.