I have my hand grasped on the door handle about to pull it open until I hear a collection of voices outside the room next to me, and I freeze. I wait, standing behind my bedroom door for almost five minutes until I am certain the voices have moved down the corridor. It is only then I decide to open the door and go to the bathroom two metres away.
Welcome to one of the many experiences people with introverted tendencies face. This little story of mine begins from February of this year. I, a fresh first year starting his new life at college, was willing to hold my bladder to avoid engaging in casual conversation with my neighbours on a short journey to the toilet. Yet here I am, six months later, publishing the first personal piece of writing I’ve ever written.
Before I go any further, I’d like to make it clear that I am not trying to pigeonhole people into binary categories of introvert and extrovert. Everyone is a unique basket case with traits associated to both, and whether someone associates more strongly with one end of the spectrum is up to the individual. This piece is intended to be somewhat helpful and encouraging to those who feel they lean more towards introversion, but, nonetheless, I direct it to everyone.
Throughout high school, I was known as a kind of quiet achiever. I’d sit down at my desk and work to the best of my ability, and generally this would lead to a tick in a box or a relatively large number on a piece of paper. When it came to class discussions, or even just lunchtime group chat, I tended to contribute little, partly due to being intimidated by the hoards of voices, but mostly because I just felt that there wasn’t any need for others to know what I was thinking. I had valid thoughts that would have contributed well to the discussions but, for some reason, I felt perfectly fine entertaining myself with a different discussion, the one that was in my mind and the one wherein I was the only audience.
This got me through high school just fine, and I got the ATAR I needed for the degree I wanted. However, my first semester at university has led more than my fair share self-evaluation. For many introverts such as myself, living on campus means a bombardment of over-stimulation. From dining hall small talk to tutorial group discussions, I found that I had to interact with people more than I ever thought was possible. Towards the middle of the semester, I became rather overwhelmed by all the social interaction that faced me when I left the comfort of my room. Naturally, I opted for the stereotypical introvert response and spent most of my time in my room, studying. Spending so much time alone studying inevitably yielded satisfying grades, but something was missing. I thought I’d give a new little project for my mind discussions and figure out why I didn’t feel happy.
I realised that a university is a special place for the development of a young adult because it is a place of ideas. Ideas are the catalyst for change in a world that desperately needs it, not the mark that goes on your transcript for Micro 1. The free exchange of ideas at university is unparalleled, but too often it is the ideas motivated by the loudest speakers that are the ones which dominate. The volume that propels an idea into the world is in no way correlated to its quality. By all means, outgoing extroverts have brilliant ideas, but they frequently cast an unintentional shadow on those who have the quieter voices.
Recent US statistics say that roughly a third of the population associates themselves with introversion. So my message is quite simple. To those with loud voices, share your ideas, but also be considerate of those who may not be inclined to be the loudest in the room, so that they can make their own contribution. As someone compelled to introversion, writing this article was one of the most uncomfortable tasks I’ve encountered at university, but knowing that my voice is reaching people other than myself is a thrilling change. So, to the quiet contemplators who have your own ideas exchange thriving inside your minds, as much as it might go against your predispositions, speak out among the crowd of voices; you all have things that need to be heard.