Why Are Introverts Misunderstood In Modern American Society
Introverts Are Not Weird Wackos, Just Different
American society from the 20th century to the beginning of the 21st century prize and respect extroversion. The popular image of Americans is the happy, outgoing extrovert who is a friendly outgoing person who loves to be in the go and be surrounded by lots of people. Magazines and other media such as movies and television shows depict this image. The underlying theme of many commercials is how to be pleasing to as many people as possible. The typical image of the American child is the popular, gregarious child who has lots of friends.
Extroversion has always been deified in American society. People view extroverts more positively than they do introverts. Extroverts are people who can be trusted. People are more likely to choose extroverts as leaders and in other authoritative positions because they represent intelligence and authority. Furthermore, people perceive extroverts as possessing excellent people and social skills. Social scientists, especially sociologists and psychologists mandate that man's national status as that of a social animal who needs constant contact with people in order to thrive.
Introverts, on the contrary, are viewed more negatively by modern American society. Introverts are seen as psychotic people who have a personality defect. Until recently, they were derided by people as weirdos, backwards, socially challenged, standoffish, abnormal, withdrawn, and other pejorative adjectives. Teachers even considered introverted children to be socially retarded, needing psychological counselling and therapy. Parents, too, are not so reasonable regarding their introverted children. Many times parents are ashamed of their introverted children, wishing that they were more extroverted "like normal children are."
Often, well-meaning and well-intentioned parents damage the self-esteem of introverted children by enrolling him/her in various activities "in order to meet and socialize with other children" when he/she is happier being alone, reading a book and/or indulging in solitary activities. These are the same parents who force their introverted children to play outside with other children. Many an introvert adult bristle when remembering their childhood which this happens. While they preferred reading and playing in their rooms, their parents often forced them to play outside. If they do not wish to play outside, their parents told them to be more like "normal children" which oftentimes irrevocably damages their self-worth.
Introverted children should not be forced to be extroverts. Recent psychological studies show that introverts are wired and respond to the environment differently than extroverts. In other words, an introvert cannot be an extrovert. However, this is what many parents of introvert children do. To reiterate, this is wrong. Parents should embrace their introverted children as they are for they have special gifts.
Introverted teenagers have a very difficult time of it. They are enduring with double issues of adolescence and introversion. Introverted teenagers are not understood by their peers and their parents. They are often the unpopular in high school because their personalities are usually diametrically opposite to that of the typical extroverted teenagers who is outgoing and more popular with plenty of friends and extracurricular activities. They are usually derided, pitied, and oftentimes avoided by more extroverted classmates because they have different interests.
In movies, the introverted teenager is viewed at the outsider, the geek, and/or the weirdo. I shall name two movies as an example. In PEGGY SUE GETS MARRIED, the character Richard Norvick is an introvert who is a math and science genius. In high school, he was an unpopular loner who was ostracized by his more popular classmates. He was even nicknamed a four-eyed worm by one of the more popular classmates. In ROMY AND MICHELLE HIGH SCHOOL REUNION, Heather Mooney, an introvert, was totally derided by the more popular classmates in her high school. She also was a very smart science genius who matched to her own drummer.
Besides derision from their peers, many introverted teenagers receive little or no support from their parents. Many parents of introverted adolescents view them as colorless with no personality and compare them to their more extroverted peers. One of my co-workers at a social service agency constantly compared her introverted daughter in her teenage years to a more extroverted classmate. This co-worker remarked that her introverted daughter had very low self-esteem; however, she consistently gloated how this extroverted classmate(now a celebrity) was so outgoing and participated in school plays, wishing that her daughter would be like her.
Introverted teenagers are often not seen as authoritative and assertive like their more extroverted peers. Introverted teenagers are seldom considered leaders by their peers and teachers alike. I remember in my high school, the most extroverted teenagers were selected by their peers in authoritative positions in student government even though they were more qualified introverted teens. It was mistakenly assumed that the more talkative person have the skills to lead which is often is not the case.
Even as adults, introverts are considered subpar to the extrovert. Because they do not want to indulge in small and petty conversation, people consider them antisocial and cold. In many jobs, introverts are not considered supervisory, management, and executive material because they are deemed too quiet and unobtrusive. Many people in the workplace have the stereotypical belief that a boss has to be loud and pushy to motivate employees to produce. Oftentimes, the opposite is true.
In social situations, introverts are told that "they should go out and socialize more". Many introverts do socialize; however, they need lots of alone time to recuperate. Conversely, there are introverts who love spending their offtime home alone either reading or engaging in other solitary hobbies. Contrary to myth, introverts are not shy and do like to interface with people but they also value being alone. Being alone is not an anathema to introverts as it is to extroverts. Introverts enjoy being alone as they are very comfortable in their skins. Many introverts consider a perfect weekend as being at home with a good book and/or listening to a good CD.
Recently, there is a recognition of introversion as a legitimate personality type. It is about time! There is a greater appreciation, or at least acceptance, of the introvert than it has been in modern American society. Studies show that introverts are usually more creative and thoughtful than extroverts. Introverts have good empathic and listening skills than extroverts do not have. Introverts usually do not have to constantly the center of attention that extroverts must be. Introverts are usually more self-assured as they do not have to constantly prove themselves or try to conform as extroverts do.
Psychological studies substantiate that 70% of gifted children are introverts. Introverts have other special gifts i.e. being able to think outside the box. Psychologist Marti Olsen Laney maintained that introverts usually face life changes such as old age, retirement, illness, and other life changes easier than extroverts. Dr. Laney explained that this is because extroverts usually have a faster life pace than introverts and they find it difficult to adjust to a slower pace of life.
In terms of relationships and friendships, introverts usually have a smaller circle of friends; however, their friendships are often intense and more sincere. Introverts, because of their listening skills, have more intense, intimate relationships with their spouses and children. Introverts usually do not have relationship and intimate issues because they are not scattered and have the power to focus on one thing at a time. Introverts usually value quality over quantity in relationships.
Advice to introverts: Never estimate yourself or your talents. You have more emotional and psychological resources and knowledge than you know. When people get more involved with introverts, they are usually surprised at what introverts can usually do! It is not the extroverts who necessarily knows the most! Introverts have talents that most people cannot fathom!
Contrary to what people believe, many noted people and celebrities can be classified as introverts. They include Bill Gates, Microsoft CEO; Warren Buffett, business executive; Clint Eastwood, actor/producer; Meryl Streep, multiple Award Winning actress; Woody Allen, prolific producer; Tom Hanks, prolific, multiple Award Winning actor/producer; the late Charles Bronson, actor; the late Princess Grace of Monaco a/k/a Grace Kelly, Award Winning actress; Candice Bergen, actress; geniuses Michaels Jordan and Jackson; the great Katherine Hepburn, Award Winning actress; and Michelle Pfeiffer, actress. Introverts are great and wondrous people and it is about time that they are finally appreciated for their own personas.
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© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams