Shy showoffs sitting on the social spectrum

UPDATE: 27 July 2019 I don’t think I’d formed my band C5 at the time I wrote this, with it my shy extroversion/showy introversion expanded a little more as we have ended up playing in front of half-decent crowds at pub gigs, various outdoor festivals, England’s oldest village fair (Reach Fair), several significant birthday parties and weddings, and I’ve organised and the band has headlined at four big fund-raising events in the Cottenham Community Centre. I’ve played probably a dozen or more times solo at various events too. Playing solo at a birthday bash this evening and in The Hop Bind pub, Cottenham on Sunday afternoon.

I’ve always thought of myself as a shy showoff…others may disagree, especially my fellow singers in the choir bigMouth and those with whom I jam on guitars and sing etc. But, nevertheless, to my mind, it explains why you’ve probably never seen me give a lecture a science or journalism conference but you may have heard me sing and play guitar in front of 600 people at West Road Concert Hall in Cambridge or perform at the Royal Albert Hall in front of quite a few more than that. Anyway, character traits are almost always spectral. Some people are highly extrovert, exhibitionists, hankering after fame and celebrity, others prefer the quiet life and their books illuminated with a comforting reading light rather than the sulfurous glow of limelight.

I was intrigued to watch a recent TED Talk by Susan Cain on the subject of the power of introverts, then that discusses how there are many people who are neither extro- nor intro-, but ambi-verts. As with those of us almost equally happy to use left or right hand for countless tasks, an ambivert is equally happy to be chatting and laughing out loud (or playing guitar in front of a crowd) as alone musing on the meaning of liff. All of us, wherever we turn on the character spectrum should recognise that others may be on a different wavelength and that there are benefits to learning how each perspective can benefit the others.

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.