by JESSICA SMOCK
Would you rather be described as bold, active, sociable, and dynamic? Or, rather, as sensitive, quiet, and serious? Outgoing, engaging, and a leader? Or contemplative, reserved, and uncertain? And do you associate either of these temperamental extremes with either powerful males or females?
In our culture, we value the extroverted personality type: talkative, dominating risk-takers who are comfortable in the spotlight and prefer working and spending most of their time with others.
We, as a society, perceive extroversion as the ideal personality type, the real “go-getters,” as Susan Cain describes beautifully in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
Over the past few years, and especially since I’ve become a mother, I’ve come to recognise and appreciate my own temperament. I am an introvert and proud of it, and this does not make me meek, submissive, or lacking in leadership qualities.
I’ve always preferred expressing myself better in writing over speaking. I prefer solitude to groups of people. I’d much rather go to a dinner with a couple friends—or even better, one friend—rather than a large party.
I do my best work on my own, rather than collaborating with others. When I do spend large amounts of time with other people, especially lots of them, I feel drained, even if I’ve had a great time. I need time to myself to recharge.
And in my heart, I’ve always considered my temperament to be a weakness, a liability, something to try to hide just a little bit, and not a personality trait of a strong, feminist female.
For over a decade, before I returned to graduate school to finish my doctorate in education policy, I was a teacher. All teachers are exhausted after a long day of managing large classes of students, attending to every student’s needs, negotiating conflicts of every type.
But at the end of the day, I was not just physically and emotionally tired. More than I needed food or to take an Aspirin for a headache, I needed solitude. I knew that I had to go running or read by myself for a few hours. It was nonnegotiable.
I wished that I felt more like going out for coffee or dinner with friends, going to a book group, or joining a running club. But I didn’t. I wanted—and needed—to be by myself for a while.