The latest issue of Psychology Today features a cover story by Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D., titled, “Revenge of the Introvert.” I’ve wanted to write about it, because it’s an excellent article that brings together scientific research with real life stories of introverts who are acknowledging and honoring their preferences and needs.
Something’s been bugging me, though. It’s the word “revenge.” I know it’s a play on “Revenge of the Nerds,” and it still bugs me.
According to Dictionary.com, words used to define “revenge” include “vindictive,” “retaliation,” “vengeance” and “resentful.”
Those are some pretty powerful words! And the title doesn’t match what I took away from the article.
Square Pegs, Round Holes
Several people quoted in the article – including Helgoe – discovered that they were trying to fit themselves into others’ expectations, especially when it came to professional choices. With understanding came compassion, and with compassion came empowerment to work with their preferences (taking smaller case load, forgoing after-work socializing, becoming a solopreneur). They make it clear that by owning their introversion, they can live according to their own rules, rather than the “shoulds” that surround them.
The Island of Misfit Joys
The article shared some fascinating information about happiness, or lack thereof. As Helgoe points out, we end up “feeling less happy, then feeling guilty and inadequate for feeling that way.”
This begs the question: what is “happiness”? According to the article, in the United States, people rank “happiness” as their most important goal, and introverts generally don’t describe feeling “happy” as a top priority. Perhaps our definition is different. For me, “happiness” is more transitory and circumstantial. And it’s not a goal I pursue – it happens to me, often when I least expect it (which makes me happy!). I want to create and attract something more sustainable… contentment, freedom, ease and flow. Satisfied with my own definition, I’m able to release myself from any guilt or feelings of inadequacy if my “happiness” looks, feels and sounds different from yours.
It’s All Relative
Helgoe mentions the “Big Five” in personality typing: extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness. When I first learned of those five traits several months ago, I was annoyed. It was as if psychologists were starting with a measuring stick of extravert and judging our personality based on that. Helgoe is more objective; she sees the inclusion of extraversion as inferring introversion.
Perhaps this is where the revenge comes in for me, or at least, where I get prickly. I took a quick “Big Five” online assessment. No surprise, I came out at the introverted end of the Extraverted scale. The descriptions for each of the five traits are not unbiased, and maybe they aren’t intended to be. Extraversion read: “High scorers tend to be sociable, friendly, fun loving, talkative; Low scorers tend to be introverted, reserved, inhibited, quiet.” While the words describing low scores don’t offend me too much, they might as well read “not sociable, not friendly, not fun-loving, not talkative.” Perhaps I’m being too sensitive; I like to think I’m simply being an inquisitive and reflective introvert.
So, where was I? Oh yeah, “revenge.” What I see happening is less revenge and more the start of a reclaiming, a rising up, a celebration of our true essence. There is a movement towards “pride of ownership” in being an introvert as we understand and claim what it really means. And this movement is not what I imagine when I hear the word “revenge” (a word I can’t say without crinkling my nose and squinting my eyes in hostility). It’s a growing chorus of voices, confident and persistent, writing and speaking out in ways that raise awareness in introverts and extraverts alike.
What do you think?
- What lifestyle and/or professional choices have you made that reflect your introvert preferences?
- How do you define happiness?
- How do you describe yourself in terms of who you ARE, rather than who you’re NOT?
PS: I’m looking forward to interviewing article author Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D., for my podcast series later in 2010; if you have any specific questions you want her to address, share them in the comments or e-mail me!
PPS: And speaking of words I don’t like, “hate” is one of them. In my quote in the companion piece to this article, I point out something introverts dislike… and I’m reflecting, “Did I really say ‘hate’?! I must have!” Oy.