Ali Girard


Closet Introverts: Give Yourself Permission

I’ve always considered myself a “closet” introvert. However, when I tell people this I get incredulous responses. “What? No, you’re too friendly!” or “That’s ridiculous, you’re in communications.” Misunderstandings of introversion aside, I also had trouble reconciling the person I was in my social and professional life with this understanding of my character that I knew to be true.

When I read the story of Professor Brian Little, the “vaudevillian professor” who’s also a “true blue, off-the-charts introvert”, in Susan Cain’s Quiet, it clicked – that’s just like me! Little attributes his adopted character to Free Trait Theory, which holds that a person born with certain personality traits can act out of character for “core personal projects” – work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly.

My career and friendships were important to me, so I made an effort to adopt characteristics that supported their growth. The kinds of characteristics were determined and reinforced by the bias the world has toward extroversion. I was constantly taught that being an introvert was undesirable. For example, a friend at university once told me that she thought of me as a “b-word” (hint: not bossy) before we became close friends because I rarely spoke up in class.

However, by constantly enacting extroverted traits and suppressing introverted ones, I was making what Cain calls “reflexive self-negating choices”. It was draining. I felt the need to be “on” all the time, and had little of the alone time I needed to feel refreshed. I wasn’t doing as well at work as I wanted to because I didn’t have blocks of quiet time in which to think, create and revise, and I was getting snappy with my boyfriend and family because they were claiming my precious quiet time on evenings and weekends.

I realized that I needed to change something – that I needed to scale myself back toward the introverted end of the spectrum in order to be happier and perform better. After reading Quiet, I started repeating this mantra:

Give yourself permission.

Permission to put your earbuds in at work. Permission to say you need time to think before making a decision. Permission to go for a walk. Permission to say no to going to that movie that you don’t really want to see. Permission to carve out time alone.

I encourage other introverts masquerading as extroverts to do the same. It’s hard. You will feel like you’re disappointing other people (which will probably hit you harder, being an introvert). You may be concerned that someone’s using the “b-word” to describe you. But in the end giving yourself the permission to do what you need will result in you doing better work, having more satisfying relationships, and being happier.

If you’re interested in learning about the strengths of introverts and what it means to live in a world biased toward extroverts, watch this Ted Talk from Susain Cain:

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  1. Luke Lafreniere |

    Hey Alicia,

    First off I would like to say that I really enjoy your writing – The passion flowing from your text is almost tangible.

    I have been watching TED Talks for a long time now and this one has always stood out amongst the rest. Computers, reading, and technology have always interested me because I was able to escape and tinker/explore in my own little world without any worry that others would be all that inclined to bother me…

    Eventually, after all my schooling, I was able to secure a dream job as what is essentially a product tester for a technical review company that creates videos for YouTube. We would receive a new product, our host would inspect it quickly and then pass it on to me – I would run various experiments logging all of my results in a database that I created. Then I would translate these results into easy to understand graphs and pass them onto the host.

    This worked for me – People that watched the various videos knew I existed and I was given a nickname by the host… Anonymity for me while still being recognized for my work. This system worked perfectly for me, I was able to soak up engagement on my own accord and hide away with my computers and experiments as much as I’d like.

    This is no longer the case. I was eventually dragged in front of a camera and am now expected to host various content including a live show which averages 6000 live viewers and 90,000 archive viewers. This takes a serious toll. I tell essentially everyone that I sleep in hilariously late on Saturday(3-4PM) just because I’m lazy and a deep sleeper.(Really? People don’t question this?) In reality I wake up relatively early and read for most of the day. If, for some reason, I must skip this Saturday recovery process The entire next week will likely be a disaster unless I am somehow able to hide away during the week.

    Almost no one knows that I’m an introvert except maybe my mom… The few I have tried to tell usually just brush it off and say I’m crazy because I’m often so outgoing and I mean come on… I make videos for a living! -_-

    Anyways – Thanks for the article, I noticed it has been a while since this entry was posted… I do hope you continue writing!

    – Luke Lafreniere

    • Ali Girard |

      Thank you, Luke, for your incredibly thoughtful and encouraging comment. It’s interesting to know that I’m not the only one who tells white lies about when I’m sleeping.

      What a fascinating story you have! It’s funny, I picked communication courses for similar reasons to why you pursued your interests. Most of my coursework was reading and writing, which allowed me to hide away with my thoughts (“Sorry, can’t hang out this weekend – paper due on Monday!”). However, when I looked up halfway through my degree I realised my career options were in fields like PR and marketing. It took me some time to find a proper fit for me career-wise.

      I’m trying to write a post at least once a month. I have a list that I keep of ideas, it’s just a matter of getting over the hemming and hawing and actually hitting the “post” button. Also, I write a lot for work, so sometimes it’s a matter of not opting to watch Netflix in the evenings instead.

      Congratulations on your success! (35.8K Twitter followers? Oh man.) I’m sure it’s very well deserved. I hope that you can continue to carve out time for yourself, even if you have to pretend you’re sleeping.


      • Luke Lafreniere |

        I’m excited to read more! Honestly I had no idea I would be the first to comment – I just happened to think this was an email submission field instead of a true comments section!

        My twitter can get a little crazy sometimes and with it directly beaming into my phone it can be hard to get away! Sometimes I just have to completely turn off all of my devices and hide in an “offline” zone to get away – Also doesn’t help that our main YouTube channel has over a million subscribers now… That’s a lot of eyeballs! The success is fantastic and I am extremely proud of both our community and our company but it can be overwhelming at times.

        I liked your comment on the whole “Sorry, can’t hang out this weekend – paper due on Monday!” thing… I have used this time and time again! Sometimes it’s actually true and sometimes it isn’t… just a lot easier than explaining that I just need to relax with a book for a while!

        Anyways, thanks for the reply and the tweet! If you keep writing I’ll keep reading and now… commenting as well 🙂


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