“L’ain sheggetha wehda, ghir shouftha mahi” (“All eyes have similar pupils, but their visions differ”) is a beautiful poetical saying from Southern Morocco, referring to the famous quote “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
Challenges as an Introvert and How I Overcame Them
I am an introvert which means it’s so hard for me to take the first step and make friends easily. In a group of people, you’d recognize me quickly: the one who prefers to stay quiet only talking when spoken to. Maybe “talking” is too big of a word, I usually “nodded” my answers. For many years, even whispering the very basic words “What about you?” to keep the conversation alive was an insurmountable barrier. My lips were glued together, and detaching the upper from the lower brought pain and anxiety with a red face and palpitations. Sounds like an exaggeration, but it truly is not: the introverts out there would understand.
To overcome my debilitating shyness, I had to go to extremes, so I became a professor. I created my own little life challenge and voluntarily put myself in an agonizing situation where I got to meet people all the time and more than that, I had to talk to them! Not only to answer back, no no… but to start conversations and oh my, fill the silence. Me, who couldn’t put two sentences together without choking. And I did it.
It was very hard at first, but I succeeded in my challenging career. I even liked the human interactions it brought with it. Now, of course, I am still an introvert. That’s my default mode, and I go back to it every so often but at least, I learned how to approach many different young people who taught me as much as I taught them. We learned from each other, and that opened my eyes on the fact that conversation is key.
Discuss What You Read, and Open Up to Different Opinions
I learned that we all have distinct views and perspectives. I learned that we are all equal but different. I learned that sometimes there is no wrong answer.
In the languages and literature classes I taught, my students’ creativity and understanding always impressed me. We read texts that made perfect sense to me, only to have students underline misconceptions I had overlooked. This made me realize that reading shouldn’t be a lonely activity.
Therefore, I always sought my friends’ opinions. Once, I loved a book so much, I obsessed over it. It was part of a series and the ending was a cliffhanger. My emotions were in turmoil, I am sure I shed two or three (maybe more) tears to what I considered a betrayal from the protagonist. I just needed to express myself and share my feelings. However, my friends in real life rarely shared my taste in books, and no one had read that particular one. Basically, I ended up retelling the story so they could keep up before sharing our thoughts and feelings.
By doing that though, I realized that no matter how many details I gave them, I was still reshaping the story according to my views, my feelings and my (selective) memory. I was stressing the parts that marked me and ignoring others that they might have considered important. Unconsciously, I was paving for them the path to follow, and it felt like cheating.
The Importance of the Other’s Eye
So what to do? I couldn’t not talk about the books I read. And that’s when I discovered online reading groups, and it opened a whole new world to old introvert me. It’s such an enriching experience, because it proved the Moroccan saying true. We see and read a book the same way but our reactions to it is a world of difference.
We might agree or disagree, but it is fascinating to see through the other’s eyes and discover their truth. You get to learn new meanings, new references, new ideas, new interpretations, or new details that you had missed or overlooked, and it takes you beyond the actual book. By sharing opinions and reactions to the written word, you get a glimpse of other people’s minds and cultures while opening a window on yours. You get to borrow a different set of eyes each time. It’s such a fulfilling experience; I can’t recommend it enough.
So, my advice: read as much as possible, always share what you learned with others, and always listen to their perspective. Before you know it, you’ll gain a collection of new sets of eyes. What to do then? Open them wide and enjoy the world.
Thoughts? Leave me a comment.