The joys of being an introvert
“The perception of introversion does us no favours,” says comedian Chris Stokes. Balance is trying to find out more about introverts. If we’re honest, the office is light on the ground when it comes to introverts (company meetings can be lively affairs. Annoyingly so, really), so we’ve reached out for help on the matter.
“There is a massive misconception. People think introverts are shy and extroverts dance on the table. It’s not that,” explains guest editor, Fearne Cotton. “I communicate for a living and love talking to people. But I am 100 per cent an introvert. I feel drained in groups of people and don’t feel energised by that. I love my own company, I love one-on-one chats that are deep and I don’t like small talk.”
If you can relate to this, you’re in fine company: there’s Harry Potter author JK Rowling, scientist Albert Einstein and ex-US President Abraham Lincoln. Indeed, stoicism, thoughtfulness and quiet integrity all helped make “Honest” Abe one of the most-beloved Presidents of all time. These days, it’s all about soundbites, quips and who can dominate on camera. Heck, just look at who’s currently President. And don’t get us started on BoJo…
Indeed, in an age of social media and a “me-me-me” culture, it feels like we live in a society that rewards extroverts when, perhaps, the world needs a little more quiet dignity.
Take Chris, one of the finest comedians on the circuit. Because he’s an introvert, he wonders if it’s cost him potential opportunities. Some comics are as good at networking as they are gigging, but in Chris’ case, you’re more likely to see him go home after a gig, rather than rub shoulders with a TV executive. “We’re outnumbered 75 per cent to 25 per cent, which means it’s very easy to write us off as weird and rude and we’re not,” says Chris. “We just function differently. There have been times when my introversion has rubbed someone up the wrong way because they’ve taken it personally, or just think I’m a bit strange.
“It can get in the way of a social life sometimes, and friends eventually stop calling, or it can even have career implications if certain connections in an industry are made in a social environment.” He makes an excellent point: extroverts are celebrated. Introverts, on the other hand, need a little more help on the PR front. “Extroverts get a lovely list of adjectives to describe them: friendly; outgoing; bubbly; life and soul of the party. Us introverts get quiet, reserved, they keep themselves to themselves. Serial killers haven’t helped in that regard. It’s not that introverts are inherently more capable of killing, we’re just more capable of keeping it to ourselves and not getting caught after the first one…” See, we told you he was brilliant! But Chris would cringe at such a compliment. Extroverts, on the other hand, would revel in a pat on the back, while
outwardly looking to nail the “Aw, shucks” routine and feigning modesty.
Fearne also struggles to find the right balance. “I sometimes worry if I retreat from life slightly and can’t differentiate whether I’ve made a decision because I’m genuinely uncomfortable or because I’m retreating. I find that battle constantly hard… I still don’t know the right answer.”
Being introverted, says Fearne, isn’t without its benefits: “I like it because when I do connect with someone, it’s very genuine.” And Chris agrees. “It might be seen as a tendency to overthink, but retreating into yourself a bit more gives opportunity for contemplation and self-reflection, which in turn leads to a decent understanding of yourself.
“As introverts, we get our energy from being in our own company; it can be as nourishing as sleeping or eating, which means that quiet, alone time is most definitely a benefit from our perspective.
“A lot of people see silence as a precipice they have to save themselves and everyone else from falling over, but as an introvert I see it as a lovely, peaceful lake. That people throw shopping trolleys in.”
Ultimately, Chris likes it this way. “I value the opportunities for reflection. I find they really help with mental health in general and with it being largely where your comfort zone lies, then I’m very grateful for being an introvert as that’s where I’m comfortable. If I were an extrovert, extroversion would be stimulating for me and not exhausting, as it is now.
“If it were any other way, I wouldn’t know any different. But I am, as it stands, very happy being an introvert having weighed up the options. And believe me, I’ve had a lot of time to weigh them up…”