“Always wanted to be the quiet girl. Probably precisely because I’m not.”

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In lieu of reading recommendations this weekend, I want to share the following passage and ask for your reactions. It’s from Eat Pray Love, the memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I’ve just started reading five years after everyone else (I do that with TV shows, too. In this case, I loved Gilbert’s TED talk so much that I picked up the book.)

Gilbert is a naturally talkative, gregarious person, and here she is wishing she were quiet:

“I decide that I’ve been talking too much. To be honest, I’ve been talking too much my whole life….This has been the story of my life. It’s how I am. But I’ve been thinking lately that this is maybe a spiritual liability. Silence and solitude are universally recognized spiritual practices, and there are good reasons for this. Learning how to discipline your speech is a way of preventing your energies from spilling out of you through the rupture of your mouth, exhausting you and filling the world with words, words, words instead of serenity, peace and bliss….

I’ve always been so fascinated by these wraith-like, delicate souls. Always wanted to be the quiet girl. Probably precisely because I’m not. It’s the same reason I think that thick, dark hair is so beautiful — precisely because I don’t have it, because I can’t have it. But at some point you have to make peace with what you were given and if God wanted me to be a shy girl with thick, dark hair, He would have made me that way, but He didn’t.”

Curious about your reaction to this passage. Did it surprise you? Do you believe her? Other thoughts?


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11 Comments

  1. Christy on 30.10.2011 at 10:33 (Reply)

    I love her description of “wraith-like, delicate souls.”
    It’s nice to know that introversion can indeed be seen as valuable by extraverts and that the stereotype of extraverts as pushy, arrogant, shallow, and closed-minded that tends to come out on introvert forums is quite wrong.

  2. Susan Cain on 30.10.2011 at 11:06 (Reply)

    Yes, I agree with you — and, personally I am a big fan of extroverts.

  3. molly on 30.10.2011 at 12:49 (Reply)

    I know exactly what she means, although I’ve always been quiet and can’t seem to feel as favorable toward myself!

  4. Becky on 30.10.2011 at 15:23 (Reply)

    I remember this passage from when I read the book, and I really loved the author for it. It’s actually how I see *other* introverts, as long as they are making any kind of effort to keep a conversation going - as deep, thoughtful, generous souls. It was nice to see an extravert get the same impression.

  5. Anne Elliot on 30.10.2011 at 20:16 (Reply)

    Quiet, dark-haired girl here. Funny, I always wished I was gregarious (much like Ms. Gilbert herself)! The grass is always greener, as they say.

  6. Kendra on 31.10.2011 at 07:21 (Reply)

    Yes, this passage was wonderful. First time I can remember actually reading/hearing something positive about the way I am. Which is kind of sad.

  7. Darren on 01.11.2011 at 05:52 (Reply)

    I liked this, nice to ear an extrovert say something so positive about us. Like Susan I am a fan of extroverts too. I have few friends and those tend to be extrovert. Hanging around with other introverts can be painful sometimes as conversation tends to be full of awkward silences - I agree with Becky on this, it’s fine if someone makes an effort to keep things flowing.

    Possibly because I don’t practice my social skills much I find other people difficult to read. I like my extrovert friends because they are less guarded, tend to say what they mean and therefore leave less room for misinterpretation - i.e. they are less like hard work to be around.

    I once wished I were more extrovert but with age (I’m 45) I feel less pressured to conform and am much happier to be who I am. Not that I ever did conform :)

  8. Cris Cohen on 02.11.2011 at 09:20 (Reply)

    It is a little surprising. I’ve never come across anyone who wished they were quieter. I’ve encountered plenty of the opposite, including myself at times — people who wished that they were more outgoing.

  9. JennP on 05.11.2011 at 08:33 (Reply)

    I completely related to this passage in the book. I have always wished that I was the more serene, quiet person in the room. And try as I might to change…I can’t seem to ever be that person.

  10. Jackie on 06.11.2011 at 13:52 (Reply)

    I am both extroverted and introverted and I often wish I had kept quiet. Sometimes extroversion blocks true connection between you and others. It’s more like performance than communication and afterward, strangely hollow.

  11. Amy on 12.11.2011 at 18:34 (Reply)

    I like having both introvert friends and extrovert friends. My extrovert friends often get me to do things that maybe I wouldn’t ordinarily do. My introvert friends have taught me a lot about myself as an introvert.

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