We live in a world where extroverts run across fields of daisies while introverts fight to emerge from the shadows and shine.
Introverts are the underdogs, and while in fiction they are mostly cheered on, it would be difficult to picture that in a real-world setting.
On the other hand, extroverts are seen as of the “better” nature. Extroversion has long claimed its seat as king, and has established itself as a person’s preferred option since childhood, and developed until adult life.
Dance for your ‘titas’
During family gatherings, it’s not uncommon for mothers to force their little children to dance or sing. The adults find amusement in the barely-there performance value of these tots, and any niece or nephew who speaks freely (that is, without “shyness”) quickly earns applause. As for the other children who would rather sit and observe, relatives will remark, “He’s so quiet.” To which parents will respond, “He’s just shy,” with a hint of disappointment in their voice.
Extravagant social events among Filipinos are a nightmare for introverts. Forced to abandon the perfection of their homes, they find themselves compelled to watch people dance to loud music and sing (badly) to old love songs. It would seem like, because of the extreme nature of social interaction in these gatherings, all Filipinos are extroverts. But one must ask: Are all those in attendance truly feeling energized by being there, or are they just putting on an act in order to fulfill the notion of pakikisama?
That alone says much about the norms that have been set. It seems that, from a very young age, children are made to believe that being outgoing is better, that keeping to oneself is dangerous, and that there is something definitely wrong with you if you are not as sociable as the rest.
For extroverted children, it would be easy to please such a tough crowd. But for the reserved and introverted ones, much effort is required from them if they want to please the adults.
Life doesn’t get easier for introverts in school. With oral reports, speeches and group projects, they find themselves in a state of anxiety and discomfort, forced to venture way beyond their comfort zones. But extroverts breeze through these assignments, even taking the time to high-five everyone.
It would seem that these classroom activities are tailored to fit extroverts. Teachers sigh dreamily when a student confidently speaks in class, and shake their head when one seems unable to cope with the activity. It is quickly established that the introvert is at fault for struggling with, say, class recitation, because many teachers fail to understand that not all children are the same, and that learning can take different routes. They cannot see the brilliance in introverts because the latter do not express themselves in the same way as extroverts. They do not realize that these assumed-to-be-shy students are merely keeping gems in their heads, and are just waiting for the right moment to break their walls by themselves.
An introverted student might gain the skills of an extrovert, but he or she will only access these when needed, and will still inherently be reserved.
Probably the most demanding stage of introverts is adulthood, when they find themselves in an environment of never-ending competition — for example, for promotions, rewards, power, and more in the workplace.
Extroverts will most likely get comfortable fast. Meetings will become their playground, and higher-ups will appreciate their charisma. They might not have the best ideas, but their enthusiasm and ability to muster teamwork is admirable. They will spend lunch breaks with coworkers who love them, and after work, their social skills will shine as the life of the party.
Meanwhile, introverts are left in their cubicles, their mind overflowing with ideas that their superiors do not notice, maybe because they lacked enthusiasm during discussions in the last meeting. Their coworkers do not see them as possible friends because they don’t talk much as a matter of choice. And what began as a simple act of choosing to be alone quickly turns into a subject for gossip and backbiting.
Clearly, extroverts have the advantage, but when have they never had an advantage, really?
It would be a lie to say that introverts have it easy in this world. They are often misunderstood and perceived as “shy,” “different,” “quiet,” even “weird.” To be sure, some introverts may have such qualities, but these must not define them entirely. These presumed qualities must not serve as a hindrance to their success.
There are introverted leaders who shape the world. There are introverted actors who share stories with the world. There are introverted writers who manage to find themselves in the hearts of many.
Introverts should not be made to feel as if they were offending people with their nature, as if there were something wrong with them. They should be free to express themselves in ways they find comfortable, and should not be shunned just because they seem different. Forcing them to change will never work; allowing them to use their skills will.
Though having an extrovert work hand in hand with an introvert might not be easily imagined, having these contrasting types create something together can be done. In a business environment, introverts can express their ideas to trusted extroverted acquaintances, who can then put these proposals into action. In addition, other people need to see introverts not for their perceived limitations, but for their abilities. Although introverts may be withdrawn and introspective, they are still capable of doing great things. How they spend their downtime should not be a basis of how they can function at work or in school. An introvert must still be given the liberty to grow and to create.
It will take time to change the system, for introverts to warm up. The world does not necessarily have to change for them, but discover their subtle yet awe-inspiring skills. In the end, this seemingly extroverted world needs all kinds of people to function. It may be overflowing with unique individuals, but there is still room for everyone to thrive.
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Gail Aranas, 20, of Cagayan de Oro City, is a technology communication management graduate of the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines.
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