Posts Tagged ‘Susan Cain’

Like most military brats, I loved traveling, but hated moving. There was nothing more terrifyi"Adolescence"ng than the first day at a new school, where I was expected to “put myself out there” and speak to kids I didn’t know anything about, and who knew nothing about me. In middle school, I can still remember sitting pressed against the window at the front of the school bus, lost in a novel that transported me far, far away from the snickering older teenagers behind me.

My shyness started to fade by the middle of high school, and I like to think a military upbringing had something to do with that, since I was forced again and again to confront the fear that rises up from a sea of unfamiliar faces. But I am still an introvert, and it took a little longer to see that trait as a strength, not a weakness. Contrary to popular belief, being an introvert is not the same thing as being “shy” or “reserved”…it has more to do with how you recharge your batteries. Whereas extroverts thrive off the energy of large groups, introverts are drained by extended social interaction and need time to retreat into their thoughts.

We live in an extrovert-dominated world, however, so many introverts grow up believing that something is wrong with them, that they just need to “come out of their shell,” otherwise people are going to associate them with the anti-social crowd who wear trench coats. The thoughtful, more reflective kid may make a loyal friend, but he will likely never be the life of the party (not that he would want the spotlight anyway), so it’s especially easy for teens to internalize society’s message: boisterous is better.

I first confronted this “lie” my freshman year of college when I wrote a research paper on philosophers and writers who were introverts, or some might say, “loners” (Emily Dickinson, Henry David Thoreau, and Franz Kafka, to name a few). My professor gave me the most glowing remarks I have ever received on a paper, spawning not only a new found interest in the world of academia, but confidence that the world is far better off thanks to creative introverts who had the courage to be themselves.

So if you are raising a teen who is an introvert (or are one yourself), encourage them to search for wisdom in their own minds and virtue in their books. The world needs innovative thinkers who can venture into the wilderness alone.

Susan Cain makes this claim very clear in the TED lecture below, as well as in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts.

TED Talk: The Power of Introverts