Discover more from Introvert UpThink
What I’ve Learned This Year About Introverts
My reflections after writing Introvert UpThink for more than a year.
Before I launched Introvert UpThink in June 2022, I’d already pondered and researched issues involving introverts for more than a dozen years. I took mental notes as I worked on marketing, writing and publishing projects with clients, about three-quarters of whom had a reserved personality like mine. I ran several surveys on how introverts felt about marketing. I created three online courses on marketing and branding for introverts. I wrote up thoughts occasionally for a list of about a thousand people also interested in the dynamics of being an introvert in an extrovert-dominated society. Yet many discoveries still lay ahead of me.
Casting a long look at the sixty-odd topics I’ve written on so far for Introvert UpThink, I can tell you that the biggest impact on me has come from reading biographies of distinguished introverts and extracting insights and lessons from them. Besides biographies or autobiographies, I studied commentaries that analyzed those individuals’ personal lives and careers.
I’ve seen how common it is for people with a public profile to be misunderstood or misconstrued, for armchair psychologists to project illnesses onto individuals who didn’t necessarily experience distress or suffering, for distant observers to assume that anyone who achieved fame intended to bask in a social spotlight, and for admirers to overlook clues about how someone expressed their personality and preferences when they felt most themselves.
Such distortions reflect prejudices and attitudes that affect many of us. If I had a dollar for every introvert who’s been told “No way you’re an introvert!” after giving an effective conference lecture or testimony at a municipal hearing, for instance, I’d be loaded. Similarly, the idea that introverts are timid, shrinking souls ignores the boldness of inner lives like Emily Dickinson’s, who had a mind like Vesuvius, the volcano, and referred to her own existence as “a loaded gun.” Not all boldness expresses itself in showmanship or daring out in society.
Through this research, my mind has also lit up many times encountering creative strategies for preserving emotional equilibrium in the face of pressures to be more socially involved than an introvert might want to be. For example, Edith Wharton’s dining room had space for just six people, her comfort limit. (This reminded me of a friend who custom-built her dream house in a gorgeous location with no guest bedroom at all, so as to better prevent her relatives from proposing to visit and stay.) Although Thomas Edison made himself the king bee of a beehive of experiments and inventions, he strategically maintained a zone of privacy by waving off any proposal to fix his hearing loss.
Charles Darwin and Florence Nightingale leveraged their respective chronic illnesses to stay home most of the time and concentrate better on their work. Both likewise engineered a significant public impact for their work through connections with highly placed acquaintances and friends while remaining offstage themselves. And contrary to a presumption that introverts don’t care about how they’re viewed, activists Nelson Mandela and Susan B. Anthony gave careful thought about what to wear at their public appearances. Mandela preferred to dress as the African he was rather than copy European corporate titans, while Anthony always wore black and white so audiences at her lectures would concentrate on her message, not her appearance.
I’m continuing to find unexpected patterns and fascinating strategies in my research. So stay tuned for more biographical portraits of accomplished introverts in Introvert UpThink in future months.