Nov 27, 2013

One of the constant advices I have heard since my childhood is 'speak up' or 'Don't be so quiet' or 'Engage in classroom discussions more!'

In school and college, I was always surrounded by people who are gregarious and bold to voice their every opinion. Whereas, I was always shy and quiet. I would know the answer to the questions put forth in class, yet most often, I chose to be silent. Many a times, I found my shyness debilitating.

Growing up, I was made to believe, introversion and shyness is a negative atrribute. Speak up to be heard, they say. It doesn't take into consideration if you feel uncomfortable or not !

Two days ago, I read the book, "Quiet - The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking" by Susan Cain. My only regret after reading the book is, not knowing about the book earlier, especially during my difficult college years!

In the first chapter, the author says, if there is only one insight you take away from this book, I hope it is a new found sense of entitlement to be yourself.

...and, so I learn.

It is alright to stand at the corner of a party hall making one-on-one conversation with some one I know rather than take centre-stage at the party.

It is alright to energize myself at the end of the day by some "me" time either by typing into my online blog or jotting down in my journal.

It is alright to enjoy books more than people ! Sometimes, atleast ;)

It is alright to feel happiness to watch a blissful sunrise or get excited while being at the receiving end of kindness by a stranger.

At the same time, it is not acceptable to be taken advantage of, due to your shy demeanour !

Introverts usually have a rich inner life, a passionate hobby, calm nature and are generally good listeners and quite observant. Yet to the outside world, they are 'nerd',' boring' or 'unappealing' ! Had there been no introverts in the world, the author points out, there would have been no Theory of relativity, Laws of Gravity or even the Harry Potter ! As extroverts bring a vibrant energy and enthusiasm in to the room, introverts bring with them new ideas, thoughts and creativity. It is high time that teachers and elders realise this, and not mold every child into the society-preferred gregarious outspoken individual, but to accept every kid as he or she is. After all the world needs its thinkers and dreamers, more so than ever !

Inspite of my shyness, there is one hobby I love -Public speaking.To a person, who has multi-coloured butterflies in her stomach before speaking in a crowd, public speaking was my idea to step out of my comfort zone and to take actions in confronting my fears.(I have to really thank my sir who taught me Qur'an and religious sciences who pushed me into public speaking at the age of 10. His opinion was, 'Whatever profession you take up in life later on, there might come a time, when you have to speak in public either representing your religion, profession, community etc.') Over the years, I have spoken in classrooms, school competitions and finally the Intern Representative speech on my graduation day. To another person, it would be a small feat, but for me, to put myself in the public like that is, was and will always be a private battle.

And to clear it up, introversion and feeling shy are completely different. An introvert need not necessarily be shy or vice-versa. ( Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. )

Introversion is not a negative attribute. Embracing oneself with one's quality of introversion is a key element for us to feel confident in our day to day relationships.

Susan Cain tells, (and, oh, I agree so much!) : Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the “real me” online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally. The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationships into the real world.

I leave with this Hadith from Prophet Muhammadصلى الله عليه وسلم :

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar (radi-Allaahu 'anhu): The Prophet (sal-Allaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) passed by a man who was admonishing his brother regarding Hayaa (shyness) and was saying, "You are very shy, and I am afraid that might harm you." On that, Allaah's Apostle said, "Leave him, for Hayaa is (a part) of Faith." [Bukhaaree]