Are you fed up being that ‘little mouse’? Pauline Dunne writes about life as an introvert, and the inspiration behind this week's RTÉ Documentary On One production.
One of the worst memories I have from primary school is being asked to read something out loud in class. It doesn't seem like a big deal at all - and it shouldn't have been. But what burned it into my memory was the fact that my teacher cut me off mid-sentence and began a barrage of criticism about the volume of my voice in front of everyone. I was mortified.
When I think back on it now, I wish I'd had the confidence to stand up for myself, but of course I didn't. After all, this teacher was just reiterating something that had been burned into my identity at that point - I was too quiet. This was a problem. I needed to change.
Twenty odd years later and I've finally realised that being quiet, or being an introvert, isn't a weakness. It's not a problem - but the way society champions the extroverts among us definitely is.
Susan Cain's best selling book Quiet - The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking, describes this as the 'extrovert ideal' - the 'omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight'.
This is definitely more present in the US, but as they say, 'When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold'. And there are plenty of examples of the extrovert ideal trickling into Irish culture. Open plan offices are everywhere these days, and it's not very often you see companies advertising jobs for people who are 'thinkers', 'calm' or 'don't play team sports'.
It seems to me that it's not enough to be able to walk the walk anymore, you need to be able to talk the talk as well, and forcing this, especially on our children, is not necessarily a good thing.
The fact of the matter is, it takes all sorts to create a harmonious environment. Introverts, extroverts, and everyone in-between. So it wouldn't do us any harm to stop shouting at each other to "speak up", and instead, to listen a little bit harder, to that little mouse in the corner.
Hear more about being an Introvert on Documentary On One: The Little Mouse in the Corner, December 2nd, 2017 @ 2 pm on RTE Radio 1. Hear from from Documentary On One here.