What does it mean to be an introvert? There are various ways of defining introversion, but according to some, they are the people who listen rather than speak. They choose to read instead of partying. They like to work independently over collaborating with teams or groups of people. But this doesn’t mean that introverts are antisocial or shy at all – they are just social in a different way. For example, introverts may prefer to spend time with a handful of friends at a dinner party rather than at a loud crowded college house party.
In modern Western culture, we find a pervasive extrovert ideal in which a magnetic personality is very much cherished, though oftentimes leaving introverts undervalued. Between the emphasis on effective communication and collaboration, whether for job interviews or class projects, we see the extrovert ideal on Bowdoin’s campus too. And in Susan Cain’s work Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, she argues that though extroversion should be valued, it can be a challenge for introverts to succeed in a world that just can’t stop talking. Especially at Bowdoin, a small liberal arts college where there is little personal space and sometimes an overwhelming close and constant proximity to hundreds of people our age, finding the time to be alone is hard.
Nobody is a pure introvert or extrovert; in fact, some of your friends may fall in the middle, often called ambiverts. For the most part, however, we identify with one or the other. Knowing where you fall on the spectrum can be helpful to understanding what makes you happy and healthy. It can help you figure out what types of career paths you might be interested in or how to make the most of your weekend free time. Take a personality test to find out more – you can find hundreds online, but here are some links:
Big Five Test: http://www.outofservice.com/bigfive/
Myers-Briggs Test: https://www.humanesources.com/capp/login.php?url=bowdoin
Now that you have a better sense of where you are on the spectrum, what’s next? Well, for all the introverts at Bowdoin, remember that solitude matters. Though you may feel the need to be gregarious and be an effective team player, it is also important to give yourself quality alone time. It is okay to spend a weekend night engaged in conversation with two close friends and a burger from the food truck. College isn’t just about loud music and crowded living spaces. For all the extroverts at Bowdoin, look around you because a third to a half of the world’s population is an introvert, meaning it is quite likely that some of your closest friends are introverts. Just something to keep in mind as you think about how you want your semester or year to look.
Interested in reading more? Check out these links for more thoughts: