I remember moving to London and feeling like the coolest person in the world. I had ribbons threaded through my wild curls, I wore red lipstick and smoked menthols like mad. Never enjoying them, purely for the aesthetic you understand. Oh yes. I was cool. Ah the arrogance of the newly grad. I had my degree tucked under my belt, and I was running away from my quiet country home in a non-descript town in the middle of nowhere (on the borders of Wales if you must know) and my shy, incredibly introverted self. In London, I would be interesting. I would have things to say. I would finally make friends. I would be the kind of person that people walk past on the street and be like ‘Oh my God, I just have to get to know her’. Yup. Idiocy.
So. I got my first grad job in a very small energy sector based start up (which actually ended up being a massive scam and ended with my CEO going to jail but that’s a story for another time) and was surrounded by sales people. Sales people. The introverts worst nightmare. Chatty, confident, brazen sales people. I remember dreading going to work, the inevitable small talk, the constant banter (man, the fucking banter). I would laugh at everything because it was the way I had consistently learnt to socialise – can’t think of anything interesting to say? Just laugh and stay a part of the group, until they realise that they want someone to hang out with and not an audience. I would prep myself on the way into work with conversation topics. Things that I would talk about. Anecdotes that I’d carefully prepared on the drill of the morning tube up to work. I’d steel myself for conversation, armed in my chicest blazer (if you can’t talk to people at least you can look nice ya know?) and organise my morning routine once in work. Today you will make tea and offer it to other people. Ingenious! A way of socialising without talking. Then, let’s ask people how their weekends were. Don’t mention that you stayed in bed and watched Netflix unless someone else says it first. No one likes someone who enjoys their own company. You should always have a large and inviting social circle. Create a fictional night out somewhere cool like Camden. No, Dalston. No! Brixton. Perfect. I was ready. And every day I arrived and, alas, I was not ready. Dithering and nervous I would flee to my desk and devour the solace of my work and The Daily Mail (Sarah Jessica Parker wore what? Ew. Gross). Pretend I couldn’t hear people calling out for the tea run, eating my packed lunch at my desk in fear people would ask to sit with me at lunch … overdramatic. But it’s a blog, what were you expecting people?
Flash forward to a book sale in Waterstones and Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of The Introvert and it’s peaceful and inviting pure white cover and I discovered the normalcy of being a deep thinker and general joy in talking to a close friend as opposed to entertaining a group at a party. Ka Pow. Just what I needed. For those of you that haven’t read it: a brief synopsis. Our society is built around extroverts: open plan offices, compulsory class discussions and salesmanship (I’m sensing I may have a chip on my shoulder about sales man. Huh. Interesting). We disclude introverts without even knowing it. We create spaces that are designed for thriving extroverts and are supposed to encourage introverts to leave their cool, dreamy, introspective little caves as though it’s a disease of the mind that can be cured. By doing so, we ignore and evade the valuable input of introverts because we make it so uncomfortable for them to speak up, think and generally use the natural functions of their brain. Capitalism people!
I had a brief skim through on the tube, bumped into commuters on the way home while walk-reading (would not advise) and then fell into bed with the ideal birch box for books (wine, roll ups and dressing gown. Obvs). I forgot that I was not supposed to be spending my evenings alone – what would I say to my co-workers on the morrow? I was soothed. It was OK that I was feeling manic, and overworked in my personal life. I was forcing myself to behave like an extrovert. An actually, truly enlightening realisation for myself. I read. I drank. I read some more. I bought up the bottle of wine. I drank a lot. I read some more. I forgot what I had read and backtracked and put in a book mark and fell asleep in a comfortable, self accepting kinda way. An alien concept until that point.
I could go on about the slow and wholesome way that this book changed my life, but as I said, it was slow. You’d be here all day. No one wants that. Lets just say it totally empowered me to be my chill ass, unassuming little self. I called friends I’d been neglecting because I was knackered after a day of forced socialisation, and ranted to them about the book like a mad woman. I joined chill meet up groups and only went to them when I felt like it (I know. A truly mad concept). I moved into a group house and became friends with my house mates when I was ready to leave my room. I stopped worrying about chatting to workmates constantly, and instead fully embraced the intense, one to one chats about politics and emotions that I had been secretly craving all along. I made friends. By being completely myself.
There’s this really harmful culture of pressurising people to fall into a certain trope. It doesn’t jut exist in London, but it’s definitely seen there more clearly. An exclusivity that comes from having certain hobbies that other people don’t have, or are scared to try because of this whole exclusivity thing. A need to be bold, and forthcoming and wise, but also gentle and kind and self-reflective. We all want to be Arya, but sometimes we have to be OK with being a Sansa, or a Davos Seaworth (but never a Ramsey guys, never be a Ramsey). Susan Cain relaxed me into being myself, in the giggly, shy way that I’ve always been and made me feel completely lovely about myself. Yes, Ms Cain, thank you for showing me that you can be a badass and still a timid little mouse at the same time.
Blog post by: Natasia Sadler
Photo from Forbes