By Dawn Onley
I love when I learn something about myself that expands my thinking and increases my self-awareness. I’m frequently looking for these moments where something stands out that I never considered before yet feels as natural to me as the locs on my head.
Recently, as I read Susan Cain’s book: “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” I had such a moment.
Over and over again, I read sections in Quiet that describe me to a T. Sections like this:
“The highly sensitive [introverted] tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions–sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments–both physical and emotional–unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss–another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.”
Wait, what? Me, an introvert?
I’ve always considered myself to be an extrovert. I see myself as living “out loud,” hosting parties and group outings; high-energy, happy and bubbly, the kind of person who laughs loud and hearty and who can be heard talking from the next room over. I’m a people person, the former journalist who thrives off of the energy that is released from human connection.
But after reading this book, I now think I’m at least half introverted – and possibly more. For starters, I’m a bit shy. That surprises people who know me, but it’s true. I would more often than not choose to stay home with a good book than go out partying. I have spent the past decade working from home, in solitude, and I enjoy it. I have long had a fear of public speaking, tending to shy away from it unless it’s something I’m passionate about, interested in, or obligated to do, and then I’ll force myself to do it.
When I trained to run three long distance races (10 mile, half marathon and marathon), I preferred training by myself rather than in a group setting because I don’t enjoy running with other people – even my husband. Likewise, my spirit is filled on long, quiet nature walks, where I use the time to think and to meditate.
I am a sensitive person (a true blue Pisces) who feels things like hurt and pain deep in my core; a person who would much rather hang with a friend or two than be surrounded by a whole group of people and noise.
Knowing all of this, you would think that I would have long recognized the introvert within. Having finished the book, I was so astounded I reached out to my cousin, Tracye, who is also an introvert. She and I had discussed the topic in the past, with me proudly exclaiming my extroverted side. I couldn’t wait to fill her in on this new discovery and to get her feedback.
She said as we evolve and are open to learning more stuff about ourselves, it’s quite normal to discover that we are not all of one side of the pendulum. That it’s natural to have both introverted and extroverted qualities.
I’m convinced I was drawn to this book. I can’t recall how I learned of it. It could have been from a book list or a magazine article or even a mention on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, who knows. Whatever it was, I went in search of it at my local library and became completely absorbed from there.
In the book, Cain writes how important it is to become attuned to our nature and to learn what “lighting” works best for us. “The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers – of persistence, concentration, and insight – to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems. Make art, think deeply.”
Here’s to new-found illumination and perfect light.