A couple of weeks ago, I was driving home from a situation in which I felt deeply disrespected. I rarely ever cry, but that day, I bawled all the way home until my mascara dissipated down my face and my eyes were pink. I have heard the same insult since I was five, so one would think that I’d be used to it now, but I hate it more than ever. The issue is that I’m a very shy introvert living in an extroverted world, and that for whatever reason bothers some people.
I remember when I was nearing the end of kindergarten, my teacher vehemently urged my parents to hold me back because of my apparent lack of social skills. Luckily my parents had a little more common sense and faith in me and didn’t follow her recommendation. And because of that faith, I ended up excelling in school, with my name consistently on the honor roll and graduating with honors cords around my neck.
“My first language was shy. It’s only by having been thrust into the limelight that I have learned to cope with my shyness.” Al Pacino
Outsiders looking in tend to find my disposition out of place when they meet my crazy loud Italian mother, confident father, and outgoing sisters. Obviously I was not raised in a setting conducive to creating such a timid and socially anxious young woman.
The internal struggle resulting from this contradiction made me realize that in regards to the argument of nature vs. nurture, nature definitely (and unfortunately) won when it came to molding a big portion of my personality. I ended up learning that both of my parents were extremely shy when they were my age as well as my crazy Italian grandmother (who I believe is the loudest person on this side of the Atlantic now).
And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve actually learned to embrace who I am. (Really, what’s the point in not?!) A recent New York Times article even argues that shyness and introversion are evolutionary tactics to enhance a species’ chance of survival. Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson performed an experiment with pumpkinseed sunfish in which the more socially outgoing individuals ended up being caught, while the shyer and more timid ones ended up “surviving”.
Studies and experiments like this help show that everyone has a place and purpose in society. Type B’s are just as important as the A’s. We may not spew our personalities out on others 24/7 but we are just as intelligent, hard-working, and friendly.
“The flower that smells the sweetest is shy and lowly.” William Wordsworth
I personally believe that every single person holds some sort of value and is important and I fail to see the point in picking on someone for something that they can’t (or can only partially) control. No one in their right mind would discriminate against someone else for having different innate characteristics like skin color or sexual preference.
So why try to make me feel bad for having a personality I was essentially born with?
Unfortunately, I think a lot of the time, intolerance can stem from simple differences in personalities that other more open-minded people overlook. But how are we ever going to establish healthy and diverse workplaces and friendships if we don’t accept and appreciate each other for who we are?
Very nicely written post! The challenge for managers with different personalities in the business world is sometimes finding the appropriate roll for specific personality types. When individuals recognize and find strength in the core characteristics, but can also “flex” into other personality modes on occassion, the chances of them being successful (especially in roles that change depending on the day) go up considerably.
Love this post, Kula.