Fighting Against My Own Nature As an Introvert to Make Change

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Make no mistake about it, I am an introvert. I like to read, write and watch old television shows by myself. My husband often complains that I hole up in my room, ignoring the whole family. This may be true. This is because I am an introvert and I crave solitude.

However, when I watched a video of a SWAT raid that occurred in my own hometown, a video that went viral on the Internet, I was outraged. A dog was killed with a Heckler & Koch MP-5 submachine gun in the presence of a 7-year-old child. The result of this SWAT raid was a drug paraphernalia conviction for a cannabis pipe. I was inflamed. I was struck with the realization that, in the famous words of the indelible Martin Luther King, Jr., “a time comes where silence is betrayal.”

I began to speak out and organize with my husband and many other concerned citizens in my community. We fought for different policies for SWAT raids in my hometown. I met other activists from all over the country. When my activism first started, it was a whirlwind! I met tons of great people and we achieved considerable success in our cause. SWAT policies were changed and there are far less raids that are conducted for non-violent drug offenses in our community. However, the whirlwind died down and to tell you the truth I was happy.

I was struck with the realization that, in the famous words of the indelible Martin Luther King, Jr., “a time comes where silence is betrayal.”

Activism is very accommodating to extroverts. If you have a powerful voice, you are likable and social, and you can stir a crowded room with your words, you can be an effective activist. I am an introvert. When I speak up, it is not because I want to be the actual face of change. It is not because I have some kind of animal magnetism that draws people to me. I want to affect change, but public speaking is very hard for me and I have to prepare for it. I may take much longer to speak up than others when in a board meeting, because when I do it is only after careful reflection. I have to know exactly what I want to say before I say it. And, you see, writing comes much easier to me than speaking publicly or trying to make connections and network. Writing is a way that I can appeal to a large number of people, make an emotional connection with them and possibly teach them something that they may not have known. Therefore, I am an activist, but I am my own kind of activist. I had to find a way to go against my own nature and still speak out when it was so important that I had no choice but to do so, and I had to find out on my own that the best way for me to be an effective activist was to write. So here I am, writing, about introverted activism.

So here I am, writing, about introverted activism.

So my point in all of this is to tell other introverts who want to be activists and change the world that you do not have to change who you are. You can be an activist, and affect change in the world around you, by just being you. If you are not comfortable speaking to a crowd, but you feel that you absolutely must, then do it because you must! That feeling that you must speak up, that my dear is who you are. Don’t ignore it. Speak to that crowd, because I am sure that the speech you write beforehand will be wonderful and moving.

Practice beforehand, and find out where the nearest bathroom is in case you have to puke after you deliver your speech (I’ve done this). The more public speaking you do, the more comfortable you are. Also make sure to recharge with some alone time or time with close friends afterward. If you are inside of a board meeting, and you have thought of something that you feel is so important but the meeting has moved onto another topic, go ahead and raise your voice.

Introverts are very insightful, and we don’t speak about ideas as they pop into our heads. We mull, we pull in enormous amounts of information that others may overlook and then take our time to process this information. This type of thinking can bring forth great insight! Interrupt and say you would like to revisit the previous topic because you had just thought of something really important to share. The worst that can happen is a little embarrassment and as introverts, it’s not like that hasn’t happened to us before! And in the middle of the night when your brain is churning, write your heart out on the issues that you care about. Start a blog, write notes on facebook, submit your writing to others blogs, and submit your writing to magazines. The important first step in all of this is to simply write.

Finally, just know that many great activists and great leaders have been introverts. You are not alone. Gandhi was an introvert, Gandhi! So were Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. So just because you are introverted in nature, this does not mean that you cannot affect monumental positive changes in society. You can!

Gandhi was an introvert, Gandhi! So were Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. So just because you are introverted in nature, this does not mean that you cannot affect monumental positive changes in society. You can!

I would also like to address extroverted activists as well. You are all wonderful! You get out there, make those important connections, and yell at the top of your lungs all of the glorious progress you see in the future. Thank you a thousand times over. But do you notice a person or a small group of people that make it out to events but don’t ever really socialize and sort of stick to themselves? You may have spotted an introverted activist or a group of them. Please introduce yourself if he or she or they seem inviting when you say hi. See how they would like to get involved, because they may be valuable players in affecting policy reform through their writing, or they may be able to author powerful speeches for others. Do you see that person at a board meeting that seemed like he or she was about to fall asleep but all of a sudden seems to want to jump out of their seat? Ask that introverted activist what he or she is thinking about. If a person seems “shy” or seems like he or she doesn’t have much to say, that person may just be an introvert and have a lot to share. Be calm, friendly, and inviting to them, they may open up to you and share all of their wonderful ideas and talents with you!