I’ve always known I was shy. As a child and well into my thirties, I always felt “less than,” uncomfortable in my own skin, so hyper aware of my own flaws that it was hard to make friends and almost impossible to feel at ease in social situations.
That’s a hard way to live, and I’m happy to say I’ve gotten better over the years. But I’m still somewhat shy and it still affects my life.
I was reminded of that recently when I attended a breakfast at my son’s school. I already knew many of the parents, but still I felt uncomfortable, afraid that no one wanted to talk to me. The logical part of my brain tells me that’s insane—because I’m a very friendly person. Kind, too (if I do say so myself), and I’m not weird. I’m not awkward. I’m just…
Putting a label on it helps, especially when I learned that being an introvert isn’t a bad thing. It’s not a character flaw that needs corrected. In fact, only when I embrace my introversion—when I stand on the rooftop of my mind and yell out, “I am an introvert!”—that’s when I feel most comfortable.
And truth be told, being an introvert has helped me in many ways. It’s made me easy to talk to, for one thing. Because I know what it’s like to feel shy in social situations and I don’t want others to feel that way, so I use conversation to put people at ease. Even better, my introversion has turned into strength and resolve—some people call it “grit.” Whatever you want to label it, I’m always raising my own bar, striving for something better, trying to be the best version of myself. And the cool thing is… today I like who I am. Go figure.
Maybe most important of all, being an introvert has made me a better writer. When you’re writing a novel, you have to delve deep into characters’ thoughts and emotions, and who better to do that than someone who’s most comfortable in her own head? No matter how weird a thought or feeling is, I’m confident someone else has felt the same way, and when I’m able to put those fears and thoughts and emotions on paper—well, people identify. And when people identify, they want to keep reading.
My fictional characters tend to be introverts, like me. And like me, there’s nothing wrong with them. Their introversion is what makes them special. Because being in their own heads makes them more self-aware, more vulnerable, and most of all, more capable of embarking on a journey that turns them into a better version of themselves.