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Ever since I was a child, I've been an introvert. Scientific studies have shown that the brain of an introvert is quite different than that of an extrovert. It's not something that can be changed. It's hardwired. Introverts are often accused of being shy, antisocial, or withdrawn like it's something that needs to be fixed. Well, there is nothing wrong with being an introvert.
I've come a long way from that awkward kid who couldn't order his own meal in a restaurant. Yes, I was shy. I avoided the spotlight like it was the plague. I could not stand up in front of my class and speak without sweating profusely and trembling a bit. I had a fear of public speaking. I was incredibly self-conscious of how I looked and sounded in front of others. To this day, I still can't sing in front of people. But other than singing, I have changed a lot. I became a teacher in a country on the other side of the world. I have spoken in front of groups of fifty people, and not just once. I did it daily. I even speak on camera for my YouTube channels for everyone to see. Yes, I have come a long way, but I'm still an introvert.
You see, being an introvert isn't shyness. It isn't being antisocial. It isn't being withdrawn. It simply means that the person gains energy through being alone. Being social drains our energy, but that doesn't mean that we don't like being social. Quite the opposite. I enjoy teaching groups of people. I enjoy being with friends and having a good time. But I value my time alone, reading a book or doing a hobby. I regain my energy this way.
There are many misconceptions about introverts. Shyness being one of them. They aren't the same thing. Let's look at some other misconceptions.
1. Introverts don't like people.
Quite the contrary. I'm a people person. I value my relationships with others. I tend to have a small number of close friends, but I do enjoy talking with many other people who I would consider friends. Most of the jobs I've had are people-oriented. I enjoy it!
2. Introverts don't like talking.
If you see me at a party and I'm not talking, it's probably because I'm either enjoying listening to others or I'm at a party I was dragged to and I don't know anyone. I enjoy parties with friends. We know each other. We talk about what we like. At parties where there are few people I know, there's always the dreaded small talk. Introverts tend to regard small talk as unnecessary and empty. Nothing interesting comes out of it. When we talk, we want our conversations to be rich with interesting content, not the simplistic and repetitive task of small talk. It may seem like we don't want to talk, but we would talk anyone's ears off if we have a common interest.
3. Introverts like working alone.
There may be some truth to that, but we also like working in groups when it's advantageous to the task. When I was in school, I didn't like working in groups for science labs, but that was because I was known as the science nerd, and I didn't want to have to do all the work for everyone. Now, whenever I work in groups, I tend to take the lead in some cases. It really depends on the strengths of the members of the group. If I'm not strong at something, I'll defer to someone who is. I can be a very good team player.
4. Introverts are cold and uncaring.
No, we just tend to be calm. I'm not known for showing strong emotions. One example is when I'm watching hockey. If my favourite team scores a goal, most people are jumping up and cheering. I'm sitting down, not really showing much emotion. Inside, I'm very happy, and I may even do a little fist pump and utter, "Yes!" I might not look excited, but I'm enjoying it a lot. And that's one thing that introverts often do, keep their emotions inside rather than expressing them wildly.
5. Being an introvert is wrong and needs to be changed.
Just leave me alone! Of course, that's what we're all thinking when someone comes up to us and tells us we need to open up more and mingle. We're going to alienate ourselves and spend the rest of our lives alone and sad. Of course, when I say "Leave me alone," I don't mean that I want to be alone. I mean that I don't want to keep hearing that being an introvert is wrong and a fixable problem. There's nothing wrong with being an introvert. I'm actually a very open person who enjoys talking with people, as long as we have common interests. I'm married and have a child, so I'm obviously not alone.
I have some advice for extroverts: If you see someone you don't know who is sitting in a corner at a party reading a book or just watching people, they're probably an introvert. Don't ask them what's wrong. There most likely isn't any problem. But if you want to get to know them, especially about their interests, and you engage in meaningful conversation, then they will appreciate you for that.