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I used to think that being an introvert would severely limit my success in life. I’ve since discovered that the opposite is true. However, it took some trial and error to understand this.
Growing up in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, PA, I knew most people in my community. As an introvert, this was a huge blessing for me socially. Making friends with, or even talking to, people is much more manageable when you already know someone. Eventually, I graduated from high school and was preparing for my first year at Penn State University. Situated in the middle of Pennsylvania, the university is home to more than 46,000 students — an intense step up from my 1,200-student high school.
I knew no one. After several months of worrying leading up to it, move-in day was incredibly stressful. While the actual moving itself was irritating, navigating a brand-new social structure was what really had me frazzled. Coming from a town where I knew pretty much everyone, making friends in this new environment was foreign. Pretty much every first-year student there was like me and knew no one.
However, as an introvert, I struggled to make the first move towards building a friendship. I frequently found myself lonely and sitting in my dorm room, waiting for someone to talk to me. Eventually, I did make friends due to some great extroverts that came and talked to me.
Regardless, I couldn’t help but think that being an introvert would severely limit my success in life.
Talking to people is such an essential part of being a human. If I couldn’t even do it with kids at school, could I ever do it? Would I ever find success?
Eventually, you’ll learn what you’re really good at
As the years in school progressed, I joined a fraternity and met many great friends through that. My social life was flourishing, but at the same time, I found myself diving deeper and deeper into career paths that primarily required me and my computer.
I loved business and information systems, but what I loved even more was when I could put my head down and work on a problem — completely alone.
I hated it when the teacher would assign group projects or force us to do in-class group activities. I loved learning, however, I just preferred to do it alone. While I did okay in these group projects, I really flourished on the solo assignments where I could be alone with my thoughts—the projects where I could dive deep into a problem head-first and run away from everything else.
Ultimately, this habit where I excelled at working alone did well for me in college. I ended up graduating manga cum laude from Penn State with a 3.9 GPA, majoring in Risk Management with a minor in Information Systems. I don’t say this to humblebrag or show off, but rather to explain how I succeeded despite being an introvert. When I first arrived at college, I thought I would struggle because I was an introvert. However, this was the exact reason why I ended up doing so well.
Being an introvert is an advantage to be utilized
When I graduated, I finally understood that being an introvert wasn’t a weakness but rather an advantage to be exploited.
I loved working alone on problems to figure out a thoughtful solution. I loved being alone with my thoughts. I loved typing away on my computer, with music in my ears and no one to talk to.
Other people, extroverts, for example, often hated this. They needed human interaction in order to thrive. I, on the other hand, did just fine without human interaction. And that, the difference between extroverts and introverts, was my advantage. I was looking at the problem in the wrong way. I wasn’t doomed for failure, I was simply comparing myself to the wrong group of people.
Being an introvert gives me an inherent advantage of being alone with my thoughts. At thinking through problems alone and coming to a thoughtful conclusion.
Introverts are great at thinking and writing
I’ve since dropped the ideology that I’m doomed for failure just because I’m an introvert. That was such a silly notion, and a quick Google search helped me squash that belief in a few seconds.
There are thousands of uber-successful introverts. From Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg, it’s clear that being an introvert isn’t a disadvantage but rather a unique skill set to wield with power.
One specific field that is uniquely suited for introverts is writing. As New York Times bestselling author John Green once said:
“Writing is something you do alone. Its a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” — John Green
Writing is perfectly suited for me as an introvert. I get to be alone, with my thoughts, thinking about the world. I get to tell a story that everyone loves to do, but I don’t have to do it in front of other people.
“The reality is that we often enjoy our time alone, thinking, and pondering the most profound questions of life.”, writes fellow Medium writer and introvert Matt Lillywhite.
If you’re an introvert, you are not doomed to failure. Being an introvert is an asset to be utilized, not a liability. Some professions and activities are perfectly suited for the introvert skillset.
Writing is a perfect example of one.
Writing requires the strength to go deep inside. To be alone with our thoughts in a way that empowers us to carefully consider what’s going on around us. And then, to write about it all in a way that makes sense to other people.
The truth is, being an introvert helps us do this in a more impactful way. Because introverts prefer to be alone, we are perfectly suited to write and tell stories.