Carpe Diem, introverts

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Photo illustration by: Brinda Ambal

Self-isolation as a response to COVID-19 had more benefits beyond containing the spread; it also helped some people discover their introvertedness.

You say quarantine made you understand the value of a little ‘me time,’ appreciate a little quiet, become a little more introverted. Amazing job, I’m so proud of you. But you did not change, your environment did. Our extrovert-centric society suddenly ceased to function, giving you the room to discover a truth that had always been a part of you: you are an introvert, and it’s time you learned that your strengths can give you a unique advantage.

Stay-at-home orders created an effective roadblock against regular social happenings, which all cater to extroverts. In school, our desks are arranged into tables and we participate in fishbowl discussions. In college, we are urged to join Greek life and make friends with dozens of people. Even at work, more and more companies are moving toward collaborative work environment precedents set by Google, Pixar and the like. Now that the environment has changed, introverts can play to their own strengths instead of struggling to fit in with previous social norms.

Introverts are blossoming in virtual discussions with amazing ideas, even though we might have never heard them speak up in class before. Instead of feeling pressured to come up with insightful comments on the spot in class-wide discussions, introverts now have space to formulate carefully thought out responses. The more one-directional learning style allows introverts reprieve from teachers randomly calling on them. The slower pace of life creates time for lots of self reflection while on long walks with your dog.

Now that the environment has changed, introverts can play to their own strengths instead of struggling to fit in with previous social norms.”

— Brinda Ambal

Most introverts don’t aim to leave society entirely and rhapsodize about nature in the woods (I’m looking at you, Henry David Thoreau). They do like collaboration and can actually contribute in ways extroverts might not be able to. Authors like Susan Cain, Beth Buelow and  Jennifer Kahnweiler have researched and written entire books on the amazing contributions introverts specifically can make to companies, teams, media and more.

In both her book and her TedTalk, Cain details how introverts can and will further our society, and that it is well worth our time to stop and listen to them. She flows through the numerous qualities of introverts: having deeper connections, being observant, staying calm in crises and being able to map out and understand various elements of a complex problem. A quiet person can have amazing insight to share if given the chance.

These are just some of the qualities introverts bring to the table. (Brinda Ambal)

There have been many successful introverts. Take Bill Gates: if you watch just a bit of the Netflix docuseries “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates,” his thoughts, habits and other actions tend to demonstrate traits characteristic of introverts (see infographic). There is one stickler, though. Most people consider shyness a telltale sign of introvertedness, but Gates seems to have no problem speaking his mind. Is he still an introvert? The answer is yes. 

Most people exhibit a combination of both introverted and extroverted traits. You can fall anywhere on the spectrum from introvert to extrovert, or even be an ambivert if you feel like you fall dead center. Introverted and extroverted traits complement each other. Gates praises collaboration between each side, attributing success to taking advantage of each personality type’s benefits. 

For most of us who think quarantine has turned us into introverts who find ourselves needing extra time to recoup after Zoom class or preferring a solo walk around the neighborhood, we’ve most likely been closeted ambiverts. But instead of pushing these feelings aside whenever quarantine lifts, take advantage of the positive impact you can have on the world by staying true to your introverted side as well. It’s okay to be quiet.