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Being an introvert in an extroverted culture

Esther-Marie Tidoso, Vienna

Everyone knows that Filipinos have big personalities, have big families and celebrate big fiestas. The big positive energy that Filipinos spread all around them is such an enrichment to everyone who gets to experience this. As much as Filipinos exert extroversion, we shouldn’t forget the introverts.

According to the American Psychology Association [1], introversion is defined as this: orientation toward the internal private world of one’s self and one’s inner thoughts and feelings, rather than toward the outer world of people and things. Introverts are relatively more withdrawn, reserved, quiet, and deliberate; they may tend to mute or guard expression of positive affect, adopt more skeptical views or positions, and prefer to work independently.

Personally speaking, being an introvert in a very extroverted culture has been challenging in a lot of ways.

What’s wrong with me?

I’ve always been the quiet type. And I never had trouble with this until peers and even Titas pointed it out to me. Being approached like this really did make me question whether something was wrong with me. Even though I felt fine. But apparently other people had a problem with it.

“Why are you sitting here by yourself?”

Big gatherings tend to become a lot for introverts. The overstimulation, noise and energy drains us. I would be lying if I said that I haven’t gone home early from a party due to these reasons. Sometimes, in order to hold out longer at parties, I would just retrieve into the background. That would also mean that I find myself sitting by myself.

“I never know what you think. Could you please express yourself more?”

Having just recently set foot into the corporate world, I was quite overwhelmed by the culture that encourages assertiveness. Not being used to such a professional environment, I had a hard time adapting as an introvert. Sitting in meetings without saying a lot, I could sense that my colleagues would get irritated by the fact that they couldn’t read me and gauge my opinions. That seemed to bother them a lot.

“Do you have a girl-/boyfriend?”

Every Tita’s and Tito’s favorite question. Over the years I have attained a thick skin towards that question. I remind myself not to take it personal and see it as a question out of curiosity. In a lot of cultures it seems like a status to have a significant other. In Filipino culture, I often feel, it’s all there is. As a pretty career oriented person, I would hardly get questions about my aspirations, which triggered a lot of frustration, making me think that I’m less because I don’t apply to the masses.

One last story that has pretty much left a mark on me: I was being laughed at a lot when I was a kid. I think humiliation is one of the biggest fears for introverts, hence being shy in front of a big audience. There was a time in our church group, when I mustered up all my courage to recite a poem and felt confident. But then I began to stutter and couldn’t quite find my way back. That’s when some Titas started to laugh. Maybe she found it cute or sweet, but to me it felt like humiliation. Today, I got past it and found ways to be confident on stage.

New year, same me

On January 2, we celebrated World Introvert Day. It’s a day that acknowledges the reserved, the deep feelers and thinkers. It puts them - although sometimes uncomfortable - in the spotlight. Since the world is pretty much aligned towards extroverted personality types, I am glad that more and more awareness is spread.

I can speak for myself, but here are some tips that I would want to give you:

  1. Respect our space: Sometimes introverts just need a short break and be alone in order to recharge. Don’t take it personal.

  2. Peace over everything else: Oftentimes, people misunderstand our nonchalance with indifference. If something bothers us, we voice it out. If not, then it means we just want peace.

  3. Don’t tell us that we should be more like “this”: Why is it that introverts have to change? Why can’t extroverts not be quiet for once as well?

  4. We are a lot in our heads: one silly look and we start analyzing the whys of that one look. Judgment triggers a lot of thoughts in our heads. We learn how to deal with it.

There are so many things that us introverts can be proud of. We bring balance and peace in every situation. Our introversion does not limit us to anything because we already know where we can grow and where we can take action. Navigating through life as a reserved personality type in a very extroverted world, is not easy. However, our contribution to the world isn’t worth less. As time passes and we start into the new year, I am realizing that everything is fine with me and that being an introvert is neither a weakness nor a nuisance.


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