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  • Writer's pictureAva Marie LaMonica

Being an Introvert Is a Disability and a Gift

The bittersweet truth I discovered growing up as an introvert.

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

Being an introvert is a disability.

Being shy is a disability.

Being quiet is a disability.

Being reserved is a disability.

I know…being an introvert is not an actual, scientific disability, but many factors make it practically debilitating, which speaks volumes in itself (no pun intended).

With all the growing awareness towards issues in the twenty-first century, especially in regards to mental health, being an introvert is usually just one of those topics that are casually acknowledged, but swept under the rug soon after.

The truth is, introverts have always gotten the brunt of society. Of course, this is not usually done with malicious intent, but more often with a belittling, patronizing superiority complex (which is almost kind of worse).

Despite my strong disdain towards many aspects of this generation, it would be ignorant to solely place the blame on modern times. The truth of the matter is, introverted people have been treated like outcasts for decades, if not more harshly back in the olden days. The shy kid was always the different one. The odd one out.

Extroversion or to put it simply, being talkative and outgoing, has been propped up as this glorious attribute that every successful individual must aim for to achieve all their life goals and become a more “likable” person.

The funny thing is the years leading up to third grade I was probably what one would consider an extrovert.

To clarify, I was never one of those rambunctious or obnoxious children who made every teacher want to pull their hair out. I was just generally sociable and did not feel much social anxiety (I would even get notes home at times, what a rebel).

My name in the same vicinity as the word extrovert seems almost inaccurate to write, but it was true!

At the ripe young age of eight years old, roughly towards the end of second grade, I started developing symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). These symptoms intensified until I was diagnosed and began attending therapy and all that (we will save those details for another time).

Moving forward, my OCD caused me to start developing very bad social anxiety, and slowly withdraw from other people in school.

Yup, this is when I officially would consider myself an introvert. This is also the time when I was introduced to how ridiculously debilitating it is to be an introvert in a world full of condescending extroverts.


Condescending Extroverts

First, there are the extroverts who snark “You’re so quiet!” and constantly remind you that you’re kind of different from everyone else (as if you aren’t already conscious of your personality). All that social anxiety you already have just emphasized after being around people like this because now you feel judged for staying silent.

Also, when you finally do speak or open up around these people they make a huge celebration out of it bantering things like, “Oh my gosh, you talk!” as if they just witnessed the sighting of the Loch Ness Monster.

Next, there are the extroverts who take pity on your quietness. They will say things like, “Awww you’re so quiet” or they might even compliment how cute you are because of your timid nature.

Now, I know the intention of this is usually harmless and not meant to be impertinent by any means, but it’s by far one of the most belittling things to say to an introvert and even thinking about it just makes my blood boil.

These are usually the same people who subtly take advantage of introverts, believing that quietness is code for complying with whatever they want you to do without speaking up. In short, they see shyness as weakness and introverted people as lower on the totem pole, which makes a perfect opportunity to benefit from.

Then, there are the extroverts who have to emphasize their phony superiority by saying things like, “We’ll get you out of your shell in no time” or “You won’t be shy after being around us.”

First of all, I’m not a turtle or a snail, so I’m not planning on coming out of my shell anytime soon. Second, no one is responsible for changing my personality, so yes I might become more comfortable around you, thus causing me to talk and open up more, but your extroverted personality should not earn the credit for my change in personality. It is simply just the result of my comfort, don’t flatter yourself.

Finally, there are the extroverts who are just blatantly rude. The funny thing is, these extroverts are rude even when you work up the confidence to speak to them first or try to possibly build a friendship with them (many people I encountered through my involvement in theatre are a great example of this).

They consider your reserved nature as boring and as a result, avoid interacting with you or becoming any closer than acquaintances with you. These are probably the worst extroverts of the four, but then, of course, there are some with qualities of each and those are truly the worst of the worst.


Introversion is a Strength

Now, I know it seems as if I just trashed extroverts and their entire existence, but I swear that is simply not my intention of this blog or any post I make.

My purpose is not to attack extroverts, but to simply call out the many types of extroverted people I’ve encountered throughout several years of my life as an introvert.

To clarify, I know that this does not apply to all extroverts. I’ve met many extroverts who were very kind and never once saw my quietness as inferior. I have extroverted family members, an extroverted boyfriend, and some extroverted friends, and they never showed any of the qualities I previously mentioned.

I also am not trying to put introverts on a pedestal as these superior, flawless individuals who could do no wrong. I’ve met some pretty awful introverts too, so your personality classification is certainly not the determiner as to whether or not you’re a good or bad person.

At this point in my life, I consider myself to be caught somewhere in the middle between introvert and extrovert — ambivert, that’s the word!

Ambiverts take on the traits of both introverts and extroverts. For example, I enjoy making plans and going out with my boyfriend and friends, but I also need my space from others and have quality time by myself to relax and recharge.

I am generally very reserved as well, especially around people with who I am not fully comfortable. I do not usually go out of my way to speak first to others and when I do, it usually takes my anxiously racing mind to finally convince myself to speak, following an instant rush of relief and gratification immediately after.

The problem is, society shoves it down your throat that you need to be extroverted to be a whole person. Loudness has always been viewed as a strength and quietness has always been viewed as a weakness.

People will constantly argue that being social and outgoing is a vital necessity in the workforce, in your relationships, and in being a successful well-rounded person, overall.

I argue this notion false.

Of course, what do I know? I’m just a college student and not in a position of any ultimate success at the moment.

But being an introvert for several years allowed me to learn so much and discover that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert.

In fact, there are several advantages to it that are so overlooked:


Introverts make great listeners.

One thing I found being an introvert is that I study people very intently. Often, when people are constantly speaking, they fail to recognize when they are being taken advantage of, lied to, or talked down to. They also are less likely to notice certain character flaws such as lack of empathy, jealousy, patronization, etc.

This applies to people’s strengths as well. If you are constantly speaking, it is much harder to appreciate people’s character strengths and the special qualities they embody. Introverts are spectacular at knowing one’s true colors before they even get a chance to reveal them.

Introverts are very creative and innovative.

Introverts often view things from a deeper perspective, rather than following along with the loud and fast-paced world around them.

Generally speaking, introverts usually gear their interest or hobby towards some form of creativity. For me, it has always been writing, theatre, and music. This is because it is much easier to excel creatively when you are so accustomed to observing.

And the most important strength that stands out to me amongst them all:

Introverts are content with being alone.

So many individuals who do not fall under the category of being an introvert, need to be around others and if they are not, they will pretty much go all Jack Torrance from The Shining (let us hope without the ax).

Introverts have become so accustomed to being alone that we have found comfort in it. This beautiful capability of actually finding comfort in loneliness opens up a whole new door of self-discovery, and what could be better than truly knowing the person whose mind you’re living in every single day.

Of course, the world rarely appreciates these strong advantages. Society’s goal is to always overcome being an introvert to please others. This seems pretty contradictory in a world that redundantly preaches, “Be yourself”, doesn’t it?

I always felt less than for being an introvert. I did not feel normal for being an introvert, but I would eventually realize that this is not true and it was society that was putting these false narratives into my head.


The Best of Both Worlds

Despite the advantages, I also understood that certain disadvantages of being an introvert were holding me back from experiencing things, I wanted to experience, like building relationships with others, being comfortable in social gatherings, and overall missing many opportunities that could have been remarkable memories to look back on.

I drew the differences between the strengths and the weaknesses of being an introvert and realized that you could truly live in your full potential and embrace the advantages of the reserved you while ridding yourself of some of those disadvantages that make you live in fear.

Not to say that I am cured of these disadvantages by any means, but I have certainly come a long way. By embracing the strengths of being an introvert and overcoming the weaknesses, you can live much more comfortably in your personality, (Yeah, you’ll still have to deal with those condescending extroverts from time to time, it’ll be less frequent, but unfortunately, they’re inevitable).

Whether you stay an introvert, become more of an ambivert, or maybe even an extrovert, knowing these strengths and weaknesses means you’re doing something right.

Plus, when people badger you about your quietness, their words will start to just roll off your back. Because you will know the copious amount of strengths introverts have and not allow these strengths to be dwindled out by a society who always questions the reserved, but admires the obnoxious.


A Disability and a Strength

Being an introvert is a disability.

Being an introvert is a gift.

Sounds kind of contradictory, doesn’t it?

The truth of the matter is, being an introvert is only a disability because a narrow-minded society constantly reminds you every day that it is.

But, with most disabilities comes gifts, and being an introvert is no exception.

If you can manage to overcome some of the struggles that come along with being an introvert, while disregarding the comments of those people who always have something to say, introversion does not have to be a disability.

Introversion can be a gift and a very special one, to say the least.


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