I’ve been reading Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength by Laurie Helgoe for the last few weeks. It has taken me that long to read it because it was so good and so revolutionary (for me) that I chose to savor it chapter by chapter in order to fully absorb everything she had to say. I’ve read many books on introversion over the years, but I’ve never had one have such a profound impact on me as this one has.
Keep in mind, I am a quintessential introvert. I’ve known this for years. In fact, I’ve spent much time trying to explain to other people around me how my form of extreme introversion makes me so different from them to try to help them be less freaked out about the ways I don’t meet the cultural norm. I know introversion well. I know how it affects me. I know how it plays out in my life.
So what is it about this book that has had such an enormous impact?
The fundamental difference is that Laurie argues that introversion is normal, not a deviation or a minority position that should be apologized for or explained away. She freely acknowledges that US culture is not friendly to introverts, but this problem is exacerbated by the fact that most introverts accept the cultural norm assumptions of extraversion as right and healthy, when they are not … or at least they are not for those of us who are introverts.
One of the key myths about introverts that she debunks early in the book is that idea that introverts are a minority. Anyone who has paid any attention at all to this idea of introversion and extraversion has heard the commonly quoted statistic that introverts make up less than one-third of the population. Where did this number come from? It was from an early unpublished study that Isabel Briggs Myers did as she was formulating the MBTI that was based on 399 male eleventh and twelfth grade students. This number has been quoted and repeated by so many people over the last 50+ years that it is now considered a “known fact.” The truth is that more recently published surveys of larger, more representative samples show that introverts make up at least 50% of the population. In some studies, it’s been as high as 57% of respondents testing out as introverts! We are NOT the minority!
Why does this matter? It matters because it completely overturns the culturally accepted notion that extraverted is “normal” and that introverts need to adjust to the majority’s way of doing things. It removes the idea that we need to adhere to the assumptions about how things “should” be that place extraversion’s ways of being ahead of introversion’s ways. Introverts are at least half of the population, and it’s time we stepped up and owned the value and validity of our way of operating in the world.
She relates so many ways that many introverts (not to mention extroverts) subtly devalue introversion and its ways of being. As much as I’ve been convinced that I have spent my years being a proponent of the value of introversion, I realized over and over again that I have bought into these extrovert-centered assumptions about how the world works. These subtle assumptions show up in the way I see myself and in the way I talk to others about introversion. Seeing the insidious nature of these assumptions has set me free from so many subtly self-devaluing thought patterns so I can take joy in being who I am and to fully own (without apology) my true nature.
Every other book on introversion I have ever read has approached the subject from the culturally accepted view of the minority status of introversion that produces a need to defend our differences from the norm. The power in this one is that she steps away from the defensive position and embraces the full and equal value that introversion brings to the world as something to accepted as being as much the norm as extraversion. It turns the entire conversation on its head.
The entire book is a beautiful celebration of introversion. Page after page, example after example reminded me of the joy and the value of having been made exactly as I am. It showed me the many gifts that I have to bring to the world when I let myself be the introvert that I am. It’s been instrumental over the last few weeks in helping me embrace myself as I am. The adjustment in thinking that this book has brought about was a key factor in enabling me to relax into the amount of solitude I’ve had in recent weeks that has led to the growing self-respect that I talked about yesterday.
As much as she celebrates introversion, however, she does not do it at the expense of putting down extraversion. In fact, she readily points out the value that extroverts bring to the world. Her real point is not that introverts are better, but that we are just as valuable and just as populous as the extroverts are. She argues that we need to find a better balance as a culture and as an overall population that can appreciate and value both ways of being equally.
If you’re an introvert, I can’t recommend this book highly enough as a means of adjusting your view of yourself and the world around you to better fit the reality of the actual distribution of introversion and to help you embrace with joy all that you are. If you’re an extrovert, I also highly recommend this book because it just may help you better understand and appreciate how the other half (or more) of the population functions.
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a very fragile place, and it takes a good deal of vulnerability to share this personal journey of transformation so openly. Therefore, I need this to be a safe place for exploration and sharing for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight—or the expression of that experience or insight—are NOT welcome here and will be deleted.