Growing up, I was usually the kid who always tried to do “what I was supposed to do.”
I went to school to learn, I didn’t play around very much, I didn’t talk to my classmates a whole lot. I always just did my classwork and tried to cause as little trouble as possible—I didn’t want any negative attention brought upon me.
For about as long as I can remember going to school, I have endured hearing the same questions over and over again from my peers:
“Why are you so quiet?”
“Do you ever talk?”
“I don’t know,” and “Yeah,” were usually my answers.
These questions started to define me as a person. At first, it didn’t bother me too much, but, as I got older, being asked those questions over and over had an effect on me. It made me wonder if I was really that much different from the majority of my peers just because I would rather keep to myself most times.
Carl Jung, the man credited for popularizing the concepts of introversion and extraversion in different psychological types—like those from the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator—explained that while no one is completely one or the other, everyone tends to be on one side, especially when they are in a group setting. Jung described introverts as having an “inward flowing of personal energy—a withdrawal concentrating on subjective factors.”
Basically, it’s someone who prefers time alone in order to think and reflect on a more personal level rather than on a broader, larger level.
Often, people misinterpreted what being an introvert really entails. They think all introverts are shy, socially awkward or fearful of human contact. That is not entirely true.
While some extreme cases of introversion can be relative to shyness, social phobia and autism, it is not an absolute given. Some people’s introverted attitudes have less to do with how they interact with the outside world and more about their tendencies to focus on their inner world.
Stephen A. Diamond, a psychologist, wrote in Psychology Today: “The introverted type finds most of his or her meaning and satisfaction not in the outer world of people, objects, things, accomplishments, but rather in the interior life, the inner world.”
Those misconceptions led to some of the struggles I endured in school. Because I stayed to myself, I was a target for bullying and teasing. It was difficult to make friends and I started to feel even more isolated from my peers than I already was. I would hear whispers.
“He never talks to anybody.”
“He must think he’s better than everybody else.”
I was judged just for being myself, and I can’t, and might never, understand that.
When I graduated middle school and got ready for high school, I made it a goal not to be so introverted anymore. I wanted to be outgoing and lively, just like everyone else.
My freshman year, I came to realize something big. Being introverted isn’t really a choice, but a trait. While it is likely no one is born as an introvert or extrovert, life experiences can help alter or determine which side of the spectrum a person tends or prefers to fall into.
Knowing this, my decision to study journalism was a far from an easy one. Journalists, by nature, love and are very comfortable interacting with people. They’re outspoken and outgoing individuals by nature and by practice—traits that aren’t usually used to describe me.
People who have known me for years question why I would choose this as my major. When I chose it while applying to Temple last spring, I had my doubts and concerns as well. I wasn’t sure how comfortable I would be going out and talking to random people.
Almost a year in, I’ve realized the practice isn’t as intimidating as long as I don’t make it so. I do like talking to people and listening to their views about certain topics, it just doesn’t come naturally to me the way it might for others.
My choice to study journalism is a way to challenge my love of writing with my tendencies to stray away from people. My introverted personality shouldn’t be a hindrance to me as I continue to progress through my journalism courses and definitely shouldn’t be a hindrance afterward.
Journalism has helped me quite a bit. It’s forced me to go out and talk when I otherwise wouldn’t have. The more I do it, the more comfortable I become.
I probably won’t ever completely leave my introverted personality behind, but I am working on it one article at a time.
Jensen Toussaint can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.