“The cleaner told me that there’s some staff in this building that eat their lunch in the toilets” proclaimed one of the ladies in my office. 

This prompted shocks and confusion from us all. Someone putting it down to ‘perhaps they had an eating disorder’!

Getting stuck into my book ‘Quiet’ on the way home from work – delving back into the world of the shy, the introverts, the sensitive and highly reactive folk and I was transported back to my teenage days and to one specific phase. 

It was the most solemn time of my life. High school work experience. I may as well have been on a silent retreat in India……………………..

Too shy to eat my breakfast in the canteen – I took it to the ladies toilets. Grabbed myself a cubicle and silently scoffed my toast! 

This developed into a routine over the 2 weeks I was there. My penchant for making toilets into pop up canteens thankfully ended when the work experience finished. And I all but forgot about it until yesterday. Literally flushed away that part of my past. 

You could put that down to me being a 15yr old who hadn’t yet grown in confidence but my painful shyness began to materialise in other ways. 

Fast forward to my early twenties and office life.  Where the thought of doing the tea run gave me palpitations……….interrupting people to ask if they wanted a drink, making said drink to their liking – oh hey there sweats! It was another example of how tea doesn’t cool you down! 

So I lied. “I don’t really drink hot drinks”. If only they knew – I’m sure that my family helped put Yorkshire tea on the map, the amount we drank! My Dad alone in fact! So I stuck to water – all day! I can thank my shyness for developing a healthy habit and my glowing skin – I guess. 

As I get a deeper understanding of the points made in this book ‘Quiet’ author ‘Susan Cain’ has become my new hero for bringing this information to my attention. 

I felt rather smug after answering true or false to 20 questions to see where I was positioned on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Slap bang in the middle. “Hello my name is Emma and I am indeed an Ambivert!”

I’ve lost count the number of times that I’ve been greeted with eye rolling and laughs of disbelief when I’ve said that I’m shy. And yeah, I suppose I get it. To the outside world, the extrovert part of me leads the dance. My naturally booming voice, my welcoming smile and my adventurous nature makes everyone presume that I’m all confident. 

Many people don’t want to listen to my reasonings why I’m not a full on extrovert. Tying to prove myself right, whilst not only a tiring process, also makes me comes across as defensive and somewhat abrasive. A shy person wouldn’t be like that now would they? Bloody can’t win.

So when I purchased this book, which had been sat on my ‘Amazon wish list’ for sometime, I felt like I had someone on my side for once. Cheers Susan. It also started to answer so many of my ‘Why am I like this?’ questions that I’ve been storing. 

Excitedly underlining line after line of text whilst going all Churchill nodding dog. I wished for my highlighter when I read the following: 

‘Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the “real me” online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally. The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationships into the real world.’ 

After re-reading the paragraph at least 3 times, I wrote the words ‘ME’ sandwiched in-between two arrows and I knew right then what my next blog post was going to be about. 

This book came to me at the right time as I was starting to feel uneasy as I began to share more about myself on my blog. I find it easier to share my thoughts and feelings to the world not because I’m confident to do so but because I’m not confident enough to share with people in the flesh! 

Fear of feeling awkward, being judged or having to further explain or prove myself would stop me. Then there was an additional fear that the person would try and ‘fix me’ or break my tension with throwaway ‘I’m listening’ comments like: “I know”, “don’t be silly”, “me too” or “it’ll all work out”. Or that absolute stomach churning feeling of speaking to someone who ‘listened‘ with dead eyes!

For the past 8 or so years I’ve been on a path of self improvement, trying to gain more confidence and eradicate the introvert side of me. I got frustrated when the more I moved out of my comfort zone, the stronger my feelings of introversion and anxiety would get. 

Another line in the book, a quote by Dr. Schwartz, states:

“Free will can take us far, but it cannot carry us infinitely beyond our genetic limits”

Reading this was like a big hug. A feeling of comfort washed over me and I fell a little bit more in love with the person that I am. I semi extroverted – semi introverted person. An Ambivert if you will. 

So if you happen to be one of those people that eats your lunch in the toilet. Or doesn’t like to get involved in the tea runs. 

I’ll let you know now for all the personal development I’ve done and the amount I’ve grown over the past few years, I still:

  • Feel anxious when having people visit my house (to stay over/for dinner)
  • Rehearse phone calls in my head before dialling 
  • Sometimes turn the other way when I see people I know 
  • Hover at the side of the room at networking events and workshops waiting for someone to speak to me 
  • Feel really uncomfortable being sat next to someone on a train
  • Feel nauseous at the thought of speaking off the cuff in large groups

That’s the introvert side of me and she’s here to stay. I’m going to pay that side of me as much respect as I do the extrovert side –  as the world without introverts would be chaos. 

Emma x


Instagram: @emmalouhalliday