Happy Hump Day!
So today I am doing something a little different. I’ve done plenty of reflection on the blog, but today, I won’t lie… This is a slightly raw topic for me; however, I feel particularly compelled to write about this topic due to recent circumstances.
At the beginning of this year, I accepted a change in position at work. I’ve gone to sit at a customer site. The exciting thing about this move is that I am a contractor for the Public Affairs Office (PAO) of a government entity. The PAO is sort of a dream for me, as I have a technical background but thrive in creative environments. This position allows me to strike balance between the technical and creative aspects of my personality, all the while supporting a great organization.
The PAO has a vibe like no other. It is almost always buzzing with excitement of upcoming events and projects. Most of the office is staffed with other contractors from my company and some wonderful government folks, so I really enjoy my team.
One of the first things I noticed as I met people in the building where I sit is that almost everyone has a sign indicating their Myers-Briggs personality visible at their cube or desk. For those of you that don’t know, Myers-Briggs can be googled for an amazing personality quiz.
The system breaks all personalities into 16 different types. I first took this quiz years ago, and my results were dead on! The quiz shares celebrities and fictional characters who share your personality type, and also describes how different personality traits interact. This interaction guide can be really useful for learning how to work and successfully interact with different personality types!
One of the first questions I received from my team on my first day at my new duty station is what personality type I fall under. Without thinking, I responded “The Defender.” Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judging. ISFJ.
ISFJs are true altruists, meeting kindness with kindness-in-excess and engaging the work and people they believe in with enthusiasm and generosity. -16personalities.com
I did not expect a reaction beyond “Oh, cool!” to my response.
Instead, I received: “What? An introvert?” “We have an introvert among us!” “Um, I’m going to need you to retake the quiz. That can’t be right.”
I hadn’t even realized that everyone else’s signs started with the letter “E.” These reactions stung initially, but that’s not a new storyline in my book.
While I am a quite social person, and I am able to converse and enjoy interacting with people, there is no mistaking that I am an introvert. I’ve always struggled with a seemingly imaginary social problem, but in reality it is not a problem. It is who I am. I am introverted.
As an adult looking back, I now see that a large portion of my feeling inadequate throughout childhood into young adulthood can be attributed to introversion. I have always had a strong sense of self. I know what I want. I know what I like. I know my values. The problem is always that my sense of self typical does not correspond with social perceptions of myself. Internally, I chalked this up to me not being enough of…some thing. Of some item valued socially. I chalked it up to my being lacking.
My mother sometimes talks about how as a child I always strove to be like others, to follow norms, and how I always seemed ashamed of how I was or what I had. Even though I see things with more clarity now, these feelings still flood my plains of thinking occasionally.
One of my biggest continuous internal areas for improvement is acceptance. It’s normal to want to fit in, and to be valued within a group of people. However, I’ve decided that fitting in and being valued are not worth it if these are occurring for less than the fullest version of my being. While I may not experience these two feelings, I think that it is time to start paving the way for future acceptance of introversion.
I try not to get too down on myself for feeling like my personality type is a problem because as few as seven years ago, experts in the field were considering introversion a disorder according to this Huffington Post article.
That’s right–experts RECENTLY viewed having an introverted personality a disorder. This is pretty messed up. Like majorly messed up. But hey, now is as good a time as any to start the dialogue about the importance of introverts in societal systems.
Thankfully, leaders such as Susan Cain have started platforms to inform and educate people on not only what it means to be introverted, but how and why these individuals are important to a functioning society. Cain’s platform is called Quiet Revolution, and you may recognize her from TED Talks, where she delivers a presentation on celebrating the power of introverts. I get chills every time I listen to her talk because it hits so close to home.
Introversion isn’t a disorder, nor is it a lack of competence in social situations. Introversion is truly a difference in where an individual draws her or his energy. Introverts find power, answers, and energy from within; whereas, extroverts draw theirs from external environments.
For example, I love spending time with people! I love being a friend. I enjoy working on a team. However, naturally I am in my head. I plan, create, and execute all things in my head before I vocalize them when left to my organic devices.
While I love collaborative efforts, I am most comfortable presenting what it is that I bring to the table after I’ve prepared, and I also need time to recollect afterwards. I used to mistake some of this nature as self consciousness, but now I understand that this is part of my introverted nature. I thrive most when I am go through processes internally and personally versus candidly.
I guess this is my feeble call to action: quit buying into the idea that whomever is loudest is the best or right. Extroverts, I challenge you to look at your workplace, your home, your group of friends. I challenge you to tune into the introvert in one of these places. Seek what they have to say. Study them. Embrace them.
Introverts, I challenge you to accept yourself. Accept who you are. The way you are, and let your work speak for you, rather than forcing yourself to raise your voice!
I hate feeling like I am less than enough, and I hate even more the idea that a lot perfectly talented, intelligent people do at times all because they aren’t loud or as outgoing as an extrovert.
What is really crazy to me is that according to my Myers-Briggs results, ISFJ is not an uncommon personality type. It reported a statistic higher than 10% of our population (presumably speaking about the United States) shares my type! It’s time to change how we perceive those that draw from within for energy and inspiration.
What is a time people have viewed one of your personality traits as a disadvantage? How did you disprove them?
“So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multi-tasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way.”
― Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking