If you’re an extrovert, read on—there’s applause for you ahead. For introverts, there’s a revelation herein that you don’t want to miss. If you describe yourself as an introvert, you probably have come to understand that you are different than some people who just can’t seem to get enough socializing or interacting with other people. You can literally see that they become invigorated and enlivened from contact and connection—the more the better! To you, just observing this is exhausting. Since engaging with others is stimulating and you become overstimulated easily, you require plenty of solitude, often for reading, thinking, and writing.
But a skilled showman is popular with the masses. Extroverts are revered, envied, and rewarded with leading roles, often in careers where they naturally fall into positions like “CEO.” Are they overlooked on a party invitation list? Never! A social situation draws out their animation; their energy can infuse the mood of the room enough to carry the whole party.
In Susan Cain’s excellent book, Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, readers learn that, naturally, no one would really want a world with only extroverts nor only introverts. Also, Cain garners respect for the quiet person, the one who rather not step into the spotlight (but probably performs quite well if she does). Both introverted and extroverted readers come to understand that there should be no goal to “fix” or “change” anyone with the tendency to go within themselves to meet their needs.
It is especially important to realize that introversion is not the same as “shyness.” Shyness is fear-based. It is a way to cope with anxiety, especially about social disapproval or humiliation. Introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Introversion is not inherently painful; it’s not being “painfully shy.” Sometimes there are overlapping characteristics, such as being the quietest person in the room. If someone asked me for advice about becoming less shy, I would encourage them wholeheartedly in that effort: becoming comfortable with yourself is quite freeing, and certainly is a less anxious, happier way of being. (I’d recommend joining Toastmasters International, for starters.)
Given that my passion and life’s work is to encourage people to write the book that’s inside them wanting to come out, I feel it is profoundly important to distinguish introversion from shyness. You see, I’ve talked with people who allow their demon named “Shy” to burn their book before it sees the light of day. Shy withholds from that person the kind of self-expression that makes life worthwhile and robs us readers of experiencing that person’s one-of-a-kind creative work.
Their book could be born as one unique manifestation of human life, unless something stops it in its tracks. Shy does that, if permitted. (If you don’t call yourself “shy,” okay—what do you call your internal demon that is fear-based and strangles you in its determination to keep a grip on a safe zone?)
Right now, think of a book you have read that changed your life. Thank goodness that author was not too “Shy” to publish it, right?
Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, if you believe you can inspire someone, brighten their day, help them avoid costly mistakes, or provide a momentary reprieve from tough circumstances, you can have a positive effect on others. Whether you are introverted or extroverted makes no difference whatsoever.
Do not aid and abet Shy, the thief who pretends to protect you but actually imprisons you. We readers would be most appreciative if you would instead be courageous and generous, and write your book.