I just re-watched Susan Cain’s TED talk with an astonishing sense of contentment. Why contentment? Because Cain eloquently states what many of us have felt deeply for years: The loudest voice in the room doesn’t always have the best idea, and being shy or quiet is not a deformity. Finally. It’s out there. I can relax.
Those who know me are always surprised to learn that I was a painfully shy little girl. My nickname was “nose-in-a-book” and I didn’t see why anyone had a problem with that. Books were a loyal friend and they never turned against you. As a result of some playground bullying in the fourth grade, I became terrified of rejection. By sixth grade my mother sent me to a summer theater camp hoping I’d come out of my shell, and it worked. I loved the camaraderie of the theater, even though I remained shy, and it was liberating for me to express myself as a character: I had a role. For a long time I was petrified of social situations where my role was undefined. Remember: the stage, the classroom and the meeting room usually have clear rules and roles. The playground does not.
Cain very rightly calls people like me “shy extraverts.” Shy people fear social judgment, yet as an extravert I still get my energy from being around people. Today I love the energy of both the classroom and the meeting room. You’ll find me there every day, but a tiny part of me is still walking that line between the need for social stimulation and the fear of rejection. That’s okay. I’m working on that.
In the end, after a great day of social stimulation in the classroom, I need to be by myself for a little while. And yes, you’ll likely find me with my nose in a book.