THE BLOG

In Defence of the Introvert

30/03/2015 17:02 BST | Updated 29/05/2015 10:59 BST

Stop thinking I am lonely. I am not.

I need neither your sympathy nor your company but if I have to choose I will take the former because the latter requires relinquishing time to myself. You are expending too much effort to push me out into a world I prefer to watch from a distance. A world that, frankly, looks too crowded, too cold, too shallow and too disingenuous.

I do not reject all of the world. I love the open spaces and a dark night sky. I love trees, birdsong and the primal feel of nature. I don't even mind people so much. I've embraced my introversion enough to win awards for public speaking. You see, being introverted does not mean I lack confidence. It does not mean I lack talent. I simply prefer the people around me to be anonymous, part of a faceless crowd. It's the one-on-ones that make me uncomfortable. People I barely know and, based on experience, probably won't like, forcing me to obey societal rules that require me to win friends I do not want and influence people who really should be allowed to make their own choices.

I like people when I get to choose them myself. I admire the cerebral and look up to the profound. I celebrate the witty and remember the knowledgeable. But my mind requires its own space. I need my own time to mull that profundity and to internalize that knowledge lest it slip away in a life of meaningless, fleeting moments that the extroverts would have me live.

The introvert's power of observation is acute because we are so practiced at watching. I learn faster because my mind naturally turns inward toward my thoughts and doesn't covet what it's missing in the world outside. Indeed, this is how I outperform extroverts on stage and in my career. The joy of being an introvert is that I've thought more deeply about things. I've prepared more carefully with intense mental practice. My nerves in public keep me focused; they make me feel alive.

And yet everyone who knows me will swear I am an extrovert because we equate introversion with mediocrity. This is wrong. Elevating extroversion requires that I celebrate Kim Kardashian over Steven Spielberg and Carl Sagan. No thank you. It means putting Steve Ballmer over Bill Gates and Ted Nugent over John Lennon. I'll pass. Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Mozart ... the contributions of introverts are too voluminous to argue that any of us are broken.

Introversion means creative, insightful, knowledgeable and prepared. It means welcoming silence and the introspection silence brings. It means the peace and reflection that come only from a quiet mind. Stop trying to change introverts. None of us would trade what we have for 100 outings, 100 friends or 100 parties but we're happy to wish you well with all of those while we quietly pity you for having to endure them.