Updated: May 16, 2021
Dear Africana Woman,
Sis how have you been this last week? I hope you had a fabuloso week. I always find it fascinating how many times people are surprised when I tell them that I am an introvert. I think people expect introverts to be shabbily dressed, with unkempt hair and seated in some dark corner. That could not be farther from the truth. So I decided to write about it. This is especially for those of you with introverted children. I think as a child I suffered the most as I battled feelings of being broken because I was not the same as everyone else. I was the child that would spend break time in the library. Like legit excited to sit in the silence reading. I was the child who was not interested in going to my cousin’s homes for the holiday, not because I did not like them but because there was no sense of privacy. Anyway, here are a few myths I thought it pertinent to debunk.
Myth #1: Introverts are Quiet
The funny thing is because you think an introvert is quiet, you think they do not have opinions. An introvert is not quiet, we are just more observant. We take great interest in watching our environment, especially human interactions, conversations, emotions and behaviours. Therefore, introverts actually have highly developed opinions and thoughts running in their mind. As a child expressing my opinion got me in trouble. For example, when I was around the age of 13 or 14 my absentee father decided to win me over by buying a suitcase of clothes. Like it had shoes, clothes etc. He had the suitcase delivered and then went on to be unavailable. So I wrote him a letter telling him that in as much as I was grateful for the clothes, material items cannot buy affection. I said I would love to know my estranged siblings and would much rather spend time with him over the clothes. Yoh! Chulu was branded the rude child. On another occasion, around 15 years of age, my older female cousin told me how she was having problems with her boyfriend, so she decided to have a baby so as he could pay more attention to her. I remember telling my uncle how misguided (I might have said ‘how stupid’) this action was as a baby would never fill the emotional gap that she was seeking. My uncle just laughed.
My point is when our opinions and thoughts are not welcomed, introverts retreat within themselves because they do not feel there is a safe space where they can express themselves. We do not believe that there are like minded people who can understand the way we think or simply be able to have a meaningful conversation that is bereft of gossip. Instead we desire an intellectual exchange of opinions and ideas without emotional out bursts from offence. Is that too much to ask? To date the incessant need for people to gossip drives me crazy. I would rather sit in silence and block out what I consider noise. Quite frankly if many people dropped gossip as a topic in their day to day conversations they would not have much else to say. I challenge you to try it one day, Just say to yourself, today I shall not gossip and observe what else you can talk about. Let me know how it goes. So once an introvert can find like minded people and feel safe, you will actually find they are Chatty Cathy’s.
Myth #2: Introverts are Boring
When you are branded quiet, the next label is that you are boring. Which is far from the truth. I remember being in secondary school and my boisterous popular cousin was visiting for the holiday. She escorted me to visit a friend, and afterward told me, “You and your friend are so boring.” Back to the gossip element. On another occasion at one of my rare sightings at a family event, I was told, “Oh, you are the one training to be a nun.” Granted I went to a convent school, but really, a nun? Which would lead me to argue that we actually socialise introverted children into believing they are boring.
Like every human being, I have many interests from travel, dancing, singing, cooking, etc. which I currently pursue with much fervour and intent. Truth is when I was told I was boring I believed it for a very long time. It was only when I went to my IB school that I discovered I was perfectly normal. In a safe environment I was free to be myself and have what I consider genuine fun. Thing is whilst I can be busting moves on the dance floor, or chatting and laughing with random people, there comes a time in the day when I need to be alone to recharge. Where an extrovert thrives on being around people and in a sense gets energy from people, an introvert is the opposite. People drain energy from introverts. Personally, I prefer not to immediately react to thoughts or situations as my initial reaction may not be as articulate as I would want it to be. I need time to process and analyse, which can only be done when I retreat in the comfort of silence. We are not broody we are tactical. Quite frankly if I do not have this time, I can become emotionally stressed.
Myth #3: Introverts don’t like People
When people walk into my home, one of the first things they say is where is the TV, as I do not own one. Then they ponder on how is it that I can live alone with not even a TV to keep me company. In many cases introverts are believed to dislike people. Truth is in my home I have created an environment free from distractions where we actually have an opportunity to talk and connect with each other as people. Think about the robotic like behaviour most people exhibit when they get home and plonk themselves in front of a TV. I am not going to get too deep into this today (remind me to talk about it on another day). I do however, recall making a promise to myself, that I would not watch other people live their best lives on TV, instead I would live mine to the fullest. So I do what I love. I do what interests me. I make time for things that give me joy. I may look like I am busy all the time. Really, I have just made time for the things that are important to me. Needless to say I love people. I have great compassion and empathy for people. People intrigue me. I love to understand the way they think and behave. As I mentioned before, introverts are very observant. Which means we study people all the time. Personally, as someone with an interest in architecture, I am particularly intrigued by how environments influence behaviour and emotions. Which is why my house constantly changes in terms of the interior decor. I am always looking for ways to make people feel welcome, and comfortable. All this to say, I love people. I just need to interact with people in moderation. If I manage my time well, I can be around people with 100% energy and then be able to retreat to recharge for the day.
I do hope this makes sense to you. If you have a child or teenager that is an introvert, please do not treat them as if there is something wrong with them. They just think and feel differently. I would also recommend that you conduct different personality tests. They are quite a few out there. Whilst most of the time we focus on the types of professions that we are more adept for from these tests. These tests also allow us to understand the areas where we need to develop more and watch out for. For example in college I did the Myers Briggs test and I am an INTP - Introvert, Intuitive, Thinker and Perceiving. Because I learned that my personality was more likely to find comfort by retreating internally, I became more intentional about asserting myself or opinion in my work spaces. Which is why people do not believe I am an introvert. Oh well. I w