Are there benefits of being shy? Let’s talk about it…
I was quite shy as a little girl, and that certainly didn’t change as I got older. I could easily spend hours upon hours in my room playing “pretend” in the company of my dolls and teddy bears. As an adult, I preferred a movie outing alone rather than dinner with friends.
As a kid, I think a lot of people took my shyness as weakness. In fact, most people thought of me as the “sweet little girl.” But I’ll have you know that I got into a scuffle once with a next-door neighbor around the same age. I’m sure she thought I was not the kind of girl who would retaliate. But when she made a remark that set me off I shoved her, knocking her off her bicycle. I don’t think she saw that one coming.
In school, teachers praised me and considered me a top student not only because of my academic record. I was seen as trustworthy and competent — partly because I sat quietly in my seat, diligently completing classwork. Having it my way even as a teenager meant keeping to myself all day, not ever having to walk the halls, make small talk with peers or interact in small groups. I simply preferred being by myself. But when circumstances required me to step outside my comfort zone, boy was it tough.
What did change as I matured and grew older was my ability to adapt and socialize in small as well as large groups. I’m even a decent public speaker with and without practice.
In social settings, I always thought I was an odd ball because I wasn’t as outgoing as other people appeared. And I struggled to talk about myself and other things in social settings. Having to do so was mostly always anxiety-producing.
Before giving birth to my daughter five years ago, I worked in two workplaces (at different times) after graduating from college. But after deciding to leave my job to become a stay-at-home mom full-time, I realized (and embraced) something unique about myself. And that is, I didn’t care for offices very much. Unlike many people, I don’t need the buzz of a newsroom to motivate me to write. The water cooler chatter and office gossip doesn’t entice me. And round table meetings can be extremely stressful.
Could I grin it and bear it? Sure. Did I learn to “fake it, till you make it?” Absolutely. But honestly, it was … grueling.
Because of the job-inducing stress, I ended up having high blood pressure and my anxiety levels always seem to be through the roof. Does this mean that I’ll never again work in a traditional office? Not necessarily. But as long as I’m in a position to work from my home office or in the field — in solitude — that’s where you’ll find me, thank you very much.
Now that I think about it, my shyness and natural inclination to be introverted led to my decision to become a journalist; I didn’t necessarily have to do the talking, just ask good questions. Because I didn’t enjoy hearing my own voice, I became a great listener instead.
Isn’t it funny how you choose a career path based on your personality?
This brings me to today’s topic: What are the benefits of being shy or introverted?
The Feb. 6, 2012 edition of TIME magazine highlights the topic in a featured article entitled The Upside of Being an Introvert (And Why Extroverts Are Overrated), written by Bryan Walsh. I have to tell you. It brought me much solace to know that so many prominent individuals are considered introverts, which means I’m in good company. Among those profiled in the article: Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Mother Teresa, and Moses.
But what about those benefits I referred to earlier? Walsh writes:
Introverts may be able to fit all their friends in a phone booth, but those relationships tend to be deep and rewarding. Introverts are more cautious and deliberate than extroverts, but that means they tend to think things through more thoroughly, which means they can often make smarter decisions. Introverts are better at listening — which, after all, is easier to do if you’re not talking– and that in turn can make them better business leaders, especially if their employees feel empowered to act on their own initiative. And simply by virtue of their ability to sit still and focus, introverts find it easier to spend long periods in solitary work, which turns out to be the best way to come up with a fresh idea or master a skill.
In contrast to introverts like me Walsh defines extroverts as those who find “large crowds and social situations energizing, becomes bored easily when alone.”
The fact is, however, as Walsh points out, we live in an “extrovert’s world.” And he suggests that even though your inborn personality is introversion, it shouldn’t limit your abilities.
He concludes, “[W]hile our temperaments may define us, that doesn’t mean we’re controlled by them — if we can find something or someone that motivates us to push beyond the boundaries of our nerves.”