Character

Ice Princess – How Introverts Became Cooler

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From the time I was in high school, I’ve been called an Ice Princess. Not by everyone, but by enough people consistently to admit there must be something to it.

The Ice Princess epithet is meant to convey that I – and others of my introverted ilk – are perceived to be cold, unapproachable, and superior. The reality is that we’re bent toward being contemplative, task-oriented, and discriminating. And although I see these as positive character attributes, I understand this bent can be intimidating to extroverts used to being everybody’s pal five minutes after they’re introduced.This bent can be intimidating to extroverts used to being everybody’s pal five minutes after they’re introduced. Click To Tweet

The Introvert’s Comfort Zone

Those who share my introverted bent are quite a large tribe. According to this article in Psychology Today, between one third and one half of the population is introverted.

Being an introvert doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy socializing or letting your hair down. It just means when it’s time to recharge, you prefer to do that in your own space. Alone. (Extroverts recharge in the company of others.) But introverts also have these common preferences and would rather:

  • read a book than go to a cocktail party
  • have a few close friends than many social acquaintances
  • have deep conversation than small talk
  • work alone than in teams
  • accomplish a task than meet someone new
  • have quality over quantity
  • write than chat (that’s why introverts make good bloggers!)
  • be publicly flogged than publicly speak

As noted above, introverts don’t shun parties or fun. Psychologist Carl Jung once said “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.” Rather, we’re all on the spectrum somewhere between the extremes – a type Jung called ambiverts.

That’s why a self-described introvert like myself can be a prank instigator, a public speaker, and a party hostess without being insincere. We do those things in small doses and then retreat to Audible or Netflix to recharge our social battery. I’ve always thought of it as balance. Apparently, that perspective of this bent has caught on.

The Introvert’s Champion

The currency of the American society (less so in other parts of the world) is visibility. Those who stand out have the most influence. So extroverts have the advantage. Rather, they had the perceived advantage.

In 2012, Susan Cain came out with the best-seller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. In her book, she explains the rise of the “Extrovert Ideal” through the last century and how it overtook our culture. She demonstrates from the lives of Rosa Parks, Steve Wozniak, and others that the world is greatly enriched by the accomplishments of introverts. The natural strength of introverts is that they take time to think through problems and plan creative solutions.

In large part thanks to Ms. Cain’s book, many colleges and corporations are rethinking their approaches to education and work. They’re scrapping open-plan, shared workspaces and reliance on team projects. In these environments, introverts no longer have to fake the team-player fever.

I, for one, am indebted to Ms. Cain and others who have publically challenged the negative stereotype of being an introvert.  And I’m grateful she has also written Quiet Power, The Secret Strengths Of Introverted Kids, a book that empowers introverted kids and teens. Every child wants to have friends. But not every child needs to be everybody’s friend at the cost of losing their own identity.

The Introvert’s Advantage

No longer are introverts assumed to be disengaged (we’re thinking), unfriendly (we’re cautious) and lonely (we have deep relationships).

In addition to the new appreciation for these points, there are many upside advantages to being an introvert:

  • we’re reliable
  • we get stuff done
  • we learn things
  • we’re high-caliber, low-maintenance friends
  • we’re self-sufficient
  • we don’t need the limelight and can let others shine (an extrovert’s best friend)
  • we’re observant
  • we don’t conform to a capricious society’s expectations

And the non-conformist in us is why, when we hear “Ice Princess” whispered behind our back, we smile and keep walking.  (That and because we don’t love confrontation, to be perfectly honest.)

(Understanding your introvert-bend family members may also help reduce the holiday family drama I wrote about here.)

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