The Dangers of Stereotyping

The day I learned I was an introvert, it was like the clouds opened up and a shining glow poured through and over me, lighting up everything around me in a warm glow, and everything finally made sense in my life. 

And I lived happily ever after...

Umm nope.

Not even close. 

It was about 12 years ago now, and sometimes I feel like I'm even more confused today than I was back then. I even wonder if I'd have been better off never knowing this about myself, living in a permanent state of exhaustion, and thinking I was just a bit lazy... 

Realistically, knowing is better than not knowing in this case - in my opinion.

There have been so many huge eye-opening discoveries along the way, and I am so much better at being able to understand my moods and my energy now. And I don't try to keep up with people who are quite clearly NOT introverts. Including the one I married 21 years ago. 

To be honest, I often think it's been harder on him than it has me. He sees no reason to change anything, so I reckon he probably struggles to understand why I’ve stopped trying to keep up with his level of energy output! 

So mostly I'm the one who's changed.

And it's not been overnight - these insights have taken years to come about, and I'm still figuring it all out. I feel guilty sometimes about putting myself and my health (physical and mental) first, even though I know I would tell anyone who asked for my help or advice to absolutely do this. 

I think many people reading this would know that feeling, in one way or another. 

There's this horrible clash of people-pleasing that so many of us feel the weight of, butting heads with  your voice in your head that is screaming to be heard, and probably has been for many years, to please not be pushed back down the queue again.

Why do we choose ourselves last so often?

Aren't you one of  'the people' you are trying to please - or at least - shouldn't you be? The most important one really - if you don't look after yourself, how can you possible have anything left to give to anyone else?   

It's so obvious, and we know the answer. So maybe it's time to listen to the little voice in your head - I think it might actually be you.

So - the dangers of stereotyping. 

When people (including me in my foolish days before the awakening!) think about introverts, they often imagine a hissing, vampire-like creature, hiding in the shadows, afraid of the light and of people. 
Some days, I totally feel like that - usually after too much socialising, not enough sleep, or generally forgetting to take proper care of my Introversion.
 
But for much of the rest of the time, I am a woman on a mission - looking for ways to champion and support minorities or marginalised people or groups - that's what I am most passionate about. Which often requires me to step out of the dark corners and into the bright lights and speak up - which is terrifying for me. There's two main scenarios I can think of immediately. 
 
- I'm asked to speak at an event, or host an event: From the second that the date is agreed, I am consumed with overthinking and imposter syndrome, right up until the minute the event is over.
 
- I'm in a situation where something is said that I know I need to respond to in the moment maybe to prevent an untruth or misconception being spread further - it might be a sexist comment thrown into a room with impressionable teens, or it might be a judgement of someone, where I know the person potentially has other things going on in their life which is the reason for the judgement, but it's not my place to divulge this information: I literally feel a huge knot start to build in my stomach, my chest will tighten, and then I will have actual pain begin in my throat - it is the weirdest sensation - my brain is racing trying to figure out - Is it safe to speak up, Am I going to make the situation escalate by saying something, Do I even know what I'm talking about??

But this doesn't mean I don't want to do it - it's just varying degrees of uncomfortable.
I am passionate about making a difference in the world, even if it is in a really small way, to be part of a ripple effect. 

And I don't always speak up - sometimes my energy levels aren't high enough for me in the moment to have the capacity to deal with any comeback from saying the thing that needs to be said. Sometimes I will take the person who said it aside at a later date and have the difficult conversation. It depends on many things.  

But I will always keep moving forward, and I won't run and hide (for long!). 

Stereotyping sometimes means that introverts stop being invited or asked to do things that seem public, or social, or uncomfortable.

I'm here to tell you that if you have made this assumption about someone that you believe to be an introvert, please make sure you ask them first before excluding them. Some introverts LOVE public speaking. Some introverts are so passionate about their subject that they will happily stand up on a stage and talk about it to a HUGE audience. 
This is me - I may not want to do it the day after I've just been to a music festival, as I will need recovery time, and I may be nervous from the second I agree to do it, but I can make that decision based on all the factors that are relevant for me - and often passion and determination win over nerves and introversion! Oh and to clarify, I'm not really one of those who likes to speak to a HUGE audience..probably.. Well, not today anyway. Ask me again in 6 months 😉

So don't exclude us from things you know we would be great at talking about, and don't be surprised when your most introverted friends speak up in a public situation about something they feel strongly about!

There are introverts (and people generally) of all different types -

  • Some are more social than others,
  • Some do a lot of thinking,
  • Others might be more anxious or restrained.
  • Some introverts are a mix of all of those.
  • And of course, some are just somewhere along the spectrum of introvert and extrovert. 
  • There are also different types of extroverts, 
  • And lots of people don't identify as either end of the scale. 
  • Some people don't even know the difference until they are in their early 40's (umm, that would be me?), or never know anything about it their whole life.

All I'm saying is - even if you know someone is introverted, and even if they have told you they like to hide out at home and don't socialise much - please make sure you don't assume they want to be there all the time. And if you do ask and they say no - ask if they would want you to ever ask a similar thing of them again 😉 - their answer might surprise you (and them!).

No more stereotyping - introverts OR extroverts.

We are all individuals, with our own views of the world, our own values, our own decision-making capabilities. And these can all change over time - we don't stay the same our whole lives. Even my extrovert prefers to stay home sometimes - and I still get surprised by that!

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