Art by Christopher Chen
I have a confession to make: When I was a freshman, I hated NSO.
Instead of feeling amped-up when over-caffeinated students surrounded my car on day one, screaming with the explosive inner joy that comes from drinking one too many Red Bulls and being a Wave, I felt suffocated. Instead of enjoying a packed Zuma beach on a sun-soaked Saturday, I found myself wishing I were exploring Santa Monica with a handful of my new friends. And at the end of a long day jam-packed with group activities, all I wanted was some down time in my room. Put simply, I was overwhelmed.
Upon realizing that I was very different from many of my peers, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that something was terribly wrong with me. But now, I draw a different conclusion: I am an introvert. And contrary to popular belief that doesn’t mean I’m antisocial or shy or have no friends–it simply means that I draw my energy from internal sources instead of external ones. And that’s not a bad thing at all.
But if you’re like me, sometimes the overly social and upbeat environment at Pepperdine can make you feel otherwise, and it’s easy to forget there are so many reasons why being an introvert is a blessing in disguise.
You’re not afraid to fly solo
The best thing about being an introvert is that you’re not afraid to do things alone; you may even prefer it. That may seem like a detriment during your social college years, but I thoroughly believe that’s the best way to be.
At a time during which many people strive to figure out exactly who they are, being comfortable with breaking away from the group and pursuing some solo time can pave the way for some serious soul searching.
When I was abroad in Switzerland, some of my most impactful days were the ones I spent exploring and traveling solo. Introverts are not afraid to summon our inner Thoreau, and that’s a wonderful thing. When you don’t need others around to energize you, you find the source of your deepest reserves.
You harness your creative power
Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us that introverts tend to be more creative than their extroverted counterparts, a theory that’s actually backed by research. Susan Cain’s groundbreaking book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” highlights a study performed at UC Berkeley from 1956 to 1962 designed to pinpoint the similarities among the world’s most innovative creators in every field from agriculture to mathematics.
Studying the notable participants and comparing them to their more commonplace peers revealed that those in the former group were more independent and individual-minded than those in the latter. They rated themselves as being less social than many of those around them and identified spending time alone as one of their priorities.
What does this mean? If you don’t do well in group brainstorming sessions and do your best work through solo projects, you’re in good company — extraordinary company, actually. But more on that later.
You’re one of the brightest bulbs
In addition to being the most creative people in the classroom, research shows that introverts also tend to be the most successful students due to their study habits. Introverts commonly prefer to do work in environments devoid of music, TV, friendly chatter or any kind of background noise.
According to research psychologist Anders Ericsson, solitary, low-stimuli study may be the most effective way to learn material. Ericsson describes how “deliberate practice,” a sort of intrinsically motivated learning technique that turns studying into an intensely personal and effective experience, can only be attained through studying and rehearsing in a solitary environment free of distractions or collaborative interactions. Only then can we engage in deeper learning. So don’t be upset about the fact that you can’t listen to Beyonce’s velvety voice while you study — it’s probably one reason you’re doing well in school.
You have the most intimate friendships
But life isn’t all about accomplishments and test scores, and after hearing about how successful introverts tend to be in those areas, it’s very easy to infer that we’re also socially inept. After all, we don’t like hanging out in large groups and prefer to spend time alone. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Being an introvert involves preferring close and intimate social interactions as opposed to larger and less personal ones in fact our preferred social situation is actually the most conducive to building deep, meaningful friendships. An introvert’s desire to connect with people on deeper levels leads them to steer clear of superficial friendships and be one of the most genuine friends a person can have. For that reason, people tend to gravitate towards introverts when looking to create lasting friendships.
You’re not alone
Introverts may be in the minority, but decades of accomplishments prove that we are the ones that change the world. We run with the pack that includes many of the greats: J.K. Rowling, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Steve Wozniak, Steven Spielberg and Mahatma Gandhi to name a few. And where would our society be without their contributions to the world?
So, my fellow introverts, don’t let this overly social and sometimes overwhelming world get you down, and don’t try to change yourself to conform to an ideal that simply isn’t you. Instead, embrace your uniqueness and value your individuality. Make this world work for you, not the other way around. And know that you are anything but alone.
Follow Nicole on Twitter: @NicoleVirzi