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.
Patty K says
I totally agree with your sentiments re: the word revenge. I think you nailed the spirit of the article here: “…a growing chorus of voices, confident and persistent, writing and speaking out in ways that raise awareness…”
I find the “definition of happiness” thing quite interesting. Over the years, I’ve come to equate happiness with self-acceptance and contentment. It’s not a bubbling over enthusiastic woo hoo!! kind of happiness – although that’s fun sometimes too. (And too much of that flavour of happiness would be exhausting!)
Thanks for a thought provoking article!
Liz McLellan says
I just came across your podcast – WHAT a terrific resource!
I think introverts deal with a great deal of misunderstanding in the public and private lives so it’s no surprise that even Psychology Today would hit a sour note. I am not sure their writers are actually trained psychologists so…
In the absence of information people fill-in the blank with assumptions. I’m an introvert, a night owl, I hate the phone and prefer email – All because I know when I am at my best and have the most to give and when I need to be recharging or focusing more deeply. Because I protect my time this way I stick out to my family and friends. I am a very ambitious person but I come across to those that don’t get me as detached or aloof…Or if I choose to sleep in late and after staying up until 4am – writing or reading I can be perceived as lazy though it’s the furthest things from the truth.
Because I am confident socially (after a looong growth phase) people assume I am extroverted (ad a beer and I can certainly seem very extroverted) But the truth is I am deeply introverted, my motivations are almost entirely internal as are my measures of success. That can seem like opaqueness to some.
My business however is about creating thriving neighborhoods where people grow food in yardsharing arrangements, have lots of potlucks, share tools, seeds etc…. All things that I enjoy! All social, all engaged in community building WITH people.
The language of ‘revenge’ just tells me we introverts need a really massive marketing campaign….The nightowls need an even bigger one!
It is stressful dealing with these misapprehensions…and frustrating….Not only because I am working to create something that I think is beautiful and socially nurturing but because I actually need support in getting this done!
As a lot of us know that support needs to come from other entrepreneurs — preferably introverted ones! “
Tamesha Pigott says
It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained! I’m sure you had fun writing this article.Excellent entry! I’m been looking for topics as interesting as this. Looking forward to your next post.