I was the girl at the back of the class who always knew the answers but never raised her hand.
I spoke softly, dressed modestly, and it was far more likely that one would spot me with a book than a friend on any given day.
While other girls got dressed up for parties, I spent my weekends curled up with a novel, a sketchbook or a new CD.
Because of this, I was often asked the same question: What’s wrong with you?
Was I antisocial or socially-anxious? Did I hate people? Was I stuck-up, boring, or even crazy?
I was surprised by just how perplexed people sometimes were by the simple fact that I enjoyed spending so much of my time alone.
This realization hit me even harder when I went to high school and realized just how talkative my world was. The world, it seemed, was made for extroverts; at the top were prom queens and football stars, and at the bottom, the reclusive nerds and so-called “weirdos.”
Friends and family members even tried to “correct” my wallflower tendencies, and told me I would never succeed if I didn’t learn to be more charismatic and assertive.
What they discounted were the number of reasons why being an introvert was actually just as helpful as it was hurtful.
Though our society tends to value extroverts more, there are so many ways that introverts are important and maybe even necessary to our social spheres.
Here are just a few ways that wallflowers play important roles in our lives as friends, thinkers and creators of change.
#1. Introverts make great friends.
It may seem contradictory, but introverts actually make for some of the best friends you may ever have, for more reasons than I can list in a single article.
Introverts often choose to have smaller friend groups that involve deeper and more intimate connections than their extroverted counterparts.
This means that despite their need for alone time, the time that introverts do put towards others tends to be dedicated and sincere.
Introverts also make for great listeners and can be surprisingly insightful when the moment demands it.
They can be great for one-on-one conversations and times when you may otherwise just feel the need to “get away from it all.”
#2. Time usually spent talking is used for thinking.
Sure, it’s a bit of a stereotype to say that all of our world’s greatest thinkers are introverts, but we do make up a surprising number of them.
Introverts are often more conscientious of themselves, others and their environments, making them capable of noticing things that social butterflies may not pick up on.
This level of perceptiveness can often mean that they can draw connections that others may not notice, and when it comes to pulling things together, it’s often the introverts who know just what needs to be done.
#3. There’s less of a performance.
Introverts, as shy as we may sometimes be, don’t tend to put on as many masks as extroverts.
This is purely because they feel that their inner world is sacred and for those who enter it may as well know exactly what they’re in for.
While extroverts tend to build much of their identity on what writer Susan Cain calls “the performing self,” introverts are perfectly content to spend their time with a select few.
By spending time with a select few means that beyond minimal initial barriers, they don’t tend to hide under layers of false charm.
Many of the values of introversion come down to this ability to think differently and be unswayed by what the “in-crowd” might be demanding in the moment.
For introverts, actions and decisions are more often reflective of their genuine beliefs rather than social appeal.
Call us what you want – aloof, evasive, awkward, or even crazy – but introverts play an invaluable role in our world as thinkers, innovators, and friends.
They make up some of the world’s brightest minds and warmest hearts. So if anyone asks you why you aren’t talking, ask them why they aren’t taking the time to listen.
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