What is Introversion?
Introversion: what does it mean? Our brains immediately think of introverts as antisocial, socially awkward, or shy. There may be hermit introverts in the world, but most introverts tend to be misunderstood.
We all experience introversion and extroversion on a spectrum. It is common for people to categorize or judge someone based on where they fall on that spectrum. An introvert is someone with lower levels of extroversion, whereas an extrovert has higher levels of extroversion.
Carl Jung is credited with introducing introversion and extroversion. “Introversion means a turning inward of the libido, whereby a negative relation of subject to object is expressed. Interest does not move towards the object but recedes towards the subject.” (The Experience of Introversion: An Integration of phenomenological, empirical, and Jungian approaches). This raises the question, how did we become this way? How did we develop introverted and extroverted characteristics? Socialization plays a key role. You can see how you behaved or responded to social settings during your childhood, and perhaps those same characteristics are still present today. Genetics, environment, parenting styles, and peers all play a role in personality development.
Social interactions are enjoyable for extroverts. They are more outgoing and gain energy from spending time with others. Introverts enjoy our own company and thrive in more quiet environments. We relish the opportunity for self-introspection and are more reserved in social situations. Solitude should be embraced. It is beneficial for our mental health and our ability to function. By ourselves, we feel at ease and do not require external validation. However, solitude should not be mistaken for loneliness.
An introvert’s thoughts tend to be profound, which is a situational setting such as small talk can be challenging. However, despite popular belief, introverts can learn how to be skilled at certain social interactions says Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Thinking”. For example, an individual conversation is better than a networking event or a party. Knowing that a smaller social interaction, such as one-on-one, gives one a sense of control over the social situation, instead of being faced with a completely unknown situation. There is a sense of relief that comes along with smaller or less daunting social interactions. Some introverts might feel overwhelmed by a party or crowds because their nervous systems are more sensitive to certain stimuli or multiple stimuli at once. Taking in everything at once can be exhausting.
If you’re anything like me you’ve probably heard “But you’re so extroverted and social around us!”? Being introverted does not mean I can’t be social or talkative. Sometimes I can exhibit extroverted tendencies around family and friends. Introverts are deeply misunderstood, so here are a few myths I’d like to debunk:
1. All introverts are shy: introversion is not the same as being timid. Introverts are not the only ones who are reserved. You can be shy regardless of how you get your energy. Shyness has to do with getting accustomed to one’s environment. A reserved extrovert can show their outgoing personality once they’ve adjusted to their new environment. Being shy and feeling overwhelmed by too much socializing are two different experiences.
2. Introverts dislike interacting with all people: Believe it or not, sometimes we want to socialize and interact, but with people of our choosing, and for a chosen amount of time. When we plan social interactions that aren’t overstimulating, like a small get-together or meeting up with 1 or 2 friends, we are content. When we are surrounded by friends and family, we can be our true selves, especially when fully recharged.
3. Introverts are sad and lonely: Some people assume that spending time by ourselves equates to feelings of loneliness. Most of us don’t consider our own company lonely. We enjoy doing things by ourselves.
4. Introverts never want to hang out: We may not hang out as much as our extroverted counterparts, but we enjoy seeing friends on our own time, once our social battery reaches 100%. If we say no to heading out, it’s because maybe we don’t feel ready or energized enough. It’s not that we don’t love the person and enjoy their company.
Are introverts able to cope with a world focused on extroverts? In today’s society, extroversion is considered a positive trait. Dating, job hunting, and the ability to make friends are all advantages of being an extrovert. Extroverts profit from capitalism and self-promotion. A capitalist framework is highly valued in Western society. It is a social, competitive environment in which extroverted behavior is valued above introverted behavior. How can we survive without feeling as though there is something wrong with us? You may hear others say things like “You should be more extroverted, people will think you’re antisocial,” “You come across as a little cold,” or “put yourself out there” in daily interactions. What some extroverts don’t realize is that we suffer from ‘people fatigue,’ which occurs when we spend extended periods interacting and when we hear those comments it makes us feel embarassed.
Introverts want to feel respected and appreciated, not criticized. Harmony can be established if extroverts and introverts work together to uplift and appreciate each other. Personally, I love extroverts and appreciate my outgoing friends, because they encourage me to be myself and accept my need for alone time. So, the takeaway here is not to fix introverts, not to critique us when we’re quiet in group settings or when we don’t speak openly enough. And, most importantly, to understand that we can have fun, but we also want our need for solitude to be acknowledged and respected.
- L.D., Introverts: A Defense, Journal of Science and Healing, ResearchGate, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/296693461_Introverts_A_Defense
- Holland, K. What is an introvert? personality, characteristics, and more. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-an-introvert#vs-shyness
- Interview, T. E. D. Susan Cain takes us into the mind of an introvert. The TED Interview: Susan Cain takes us into the mind of an introvert | TED Talk, https://www.ted.com/talks/the_ted_interview_susan_cain_takes_us_into_the_mind_of_an_introvert?language=en
- Gur, T. 3 key takeaways from quiet. Elevate Abundance, https://elevateabundance.com/takeaways-from-quiet/
- The Experience of Introversion: An integration of phenomenological, empirical, and Jungian approaches: Kenneth Joel Shapiro, Bates College, and Irving E. Alexander, Duke University