China Elevator Stories

I'm not shy

I often receive criticism for being an introvert.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


I spend one of the wet, scorching summer days of the year 2023 in a small classroom in Vienna. The summer this year is hot and humid, and reminds me of the summers I have experienced in Shenzhen while I lived there from 2012 to 2014. The window shutters are closed so the heat stays out and two ceiling fans make a small humming noise in the background.

board - Ruth Silbermayr

“You’re too shy, you need to practice being more outgoing”, my teacher in a class I’m taking tells me.

It is a phrase I have heard so many times it now instantly triggers me. It seems to me that no matter how many good qualities a person possesses, as long as she is not an extrovert, she’ll never be deemed good enough by others.

As I have come to know it, this is the case in much of Austrian society, as well as in the workforce.

I am currently looking for a job and had to realise that whatever I have already accomplished in my life does not seem to matter as much as not being an extrovert does. In my experience, if you are not selling yourself to a prospective employer as an extrovert, you’ll get a lot of criticism from almost anyone.

I answer my teacher – who’s still going on minutes later about me being too shy and this not being a trait prospective employers appreciate: “I am not shy, I am simply an introvert. Introversion is an inborn trait, no matter how many times others tell me I need to change this, I will never do this, because that would mean changing into somebody I am not and I have learned not to do that.”

Vienna classroom - Ruth Silbermayr

After having criticised me for what is an innate quality that can be detected in a person as early as birth, she now seems apologetic: “I understand now. This would be like asking a left-handed person to turn into a right-handed person.”

I am aghast at how little people seem to understand introversion and extroversion in 2023 in Austria, and how much people are still pressured by society as well as the workforce to turn into extroverts.

For my job search, I would have to turn myself into a tik tok star to garner other people’s attention, in a figurative sense, when in reality this kind of low quality entertainment is really something I despise.

I am glad my teacher is now talking about left-handed people and has stopped picking on me for “being too shy”.

Have you ever been criticised for being too shy?

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