08.21.12 Truth & Wisdom

Embrace the Introvert In You

Embrace the Introvert In You

BY Laura Anderson

The term “introversion” is frequently misunderstood and these misunderstandings can leave introverts feeling inferior to extroverts. Often introverts are wrongly accused of being anti-social or shy. Talk to an introvert and they will most likely be able to recall a time when they have been rudely asked, “Why are you so quiet!?” Anti-social is a personality disorder that tends to disregard the feelings of other people while shyness is feeling anxious or fearful in most social situations. Introversion is neither of these things. Rather, it means introverts recharge by spending quality time with themselves.

I am an introvert and have been my entire life. Only in the last few years did I finally understand what introversion meant and embraced this characteristic of myself. In school, I was never the teacher’s pet or the class clown. Other kids would try and pair up in class projects and say “You’re smart, what is the answer to this?” Sure, I did well but I came to realize I was given this title because I was on the quieter side. Many thoughts run through an introverted persons’ head, but they only feel compelled to speak when there is something of value to add to the conversation.

The problem introverts face is that our society tends to favor extroversion. Extroverts are seen as fun, friendly, and capable leaders. It becomes infuriating to consistently be told to “participate more” in school and in jobs. The truth is introverts are incredibly competent and being called out for their introversion can be debilitating to performance. It makes us feel that the way we are is the wrong way to be and we should try and force ourselves to be something we are not. This way of thinking caused me to feel embarrassed about my personality for a long time. I felt that I was weird and somehow not as good as the outgoing kids in school. Unfortunately there were a number of teachers in my past that did not seem to understand introversion and unintentionally would do or say things that made me feel worse about myself. What’s more, even introverted adults can be infuriatingly patronized by their peers because they prefer to spend time by themselves.

When I finally had the euphoric moment of realizing that I was in fact an introvert, I felt a weight had been lifted off of me. I no longer carried around this shame and envy, and I learned just how common introversion really is. We feel like outcasts but the reality is that extroverts are stimulated by being around others while introverts perform best when they are by themselves. Finally I found an explanation to why I would rather be alone in my room after a long day of socializing than continue engaging in social situations. If the topic of introversion is brought up and I mention that I am in fact an introvert, they almost do not believe me. “Really? But you’re funny!” or “But you’re fun!” they would say. Yes, introverts can be fun and funny too. In fact, many actors, comedians and entertainers fall into the introverted category. I have no problem getting onstage and performing in front of large crowds or giving a presentation in a classroom. If I have had a chance to prepare and feel confident with my ideas, I enjoy being in front of people.

Just because someone prefers to spend quality time alone does not make them sad or depressed. This is when we are at our best and most content. Sometimes at a party or a meeting I am happy to sit back and comfortably absorb the experience. Other times I can lead the conversation because I think the topic is particularly important or interesting. I like being introverted, thoughtful and creative on my own. The thought of consistently craving social attention is exhausting to me. I would much rather have one on one conversations about interesting ideas than be in a large group making small talk.

When I stopped listening to the idea that I needed to change myself to fit into an extroverted mold, I felt free, happy and more at peace with myself. Introversion should not be used as a label to define people, but rather an idea to help us understand ourselves and one another.

Featured image by JHawk on Flickr

Laura is a twentysomething writer based in New York City navigating her way through the adventures of young adulthood. Laura spends a lot of time on the internet and enjoys films and music. After being told she looked like a young Geena Davis by a customer at her high school job in an ice cream shop, Laura decided if all else fails she could fall back on playing Ms. Davis in a movie about her life. You can find her on Tumblr and Twitter.

Comments

  • C.G.

    For me the people who are more uncomfortable
    with my introversion are my parents and peers. The teachers are actually the
    people who accept it more even though they wish I participated more, in the
    end, they’re just glad I don’t contribute much to disturb the classroom.

    And I find it quite useful to be an introvert,
    since other people might not always be available. I feel very fortunate that I
    know how to be alone and those are usually the most enlightening moments when I
    find out a lot about myself and the world around me.

    For me the people who are more uncomfortable
    with my introversion are my parents and peers. The teachers are actually the
    people who accept it more even though they wish I participated more, in the
    end, they’re just glad I don’t contribute much to disturb the classroom.

    And I find it quite useful to be an introvert,
    since other people might not always be available. I feel very fortunate that I
    know how to be alone and those are usually the most enlightening moments when I
    find out a lot about myself and the world around me.

  • Cecília G.

    For me the people who are more uncomfortable
    with my introversion are my parents and peers. The teachers are actually the
    people who accept it more even though they wish I participated more, in the
    end, they’re just glad I don’t contribute much to disturb the classroom.

    And I find it quite useful to be an introvert,
    since other people might not always be available. I feel very fortunate that I
    know how to be alone and those are usually the most enlightening moments when I
    find out a lot about myself and the world around me.

  • CC

    I’m 30 years old and have only just really accepted that I’m an introvert. God, what a lot of years I spent reprimanding myself over and over, for not being like other people. And unfortunately, a psychiatrist practically reprimanded me too, when I sought help. She told me to get out more, expose myself to more social situations, and it would get easier. It doesn’t.
    What does happen is you become a great actress, and the strain of that will catch up with you.
    Good article.

  • You took the words out of my mouth on every account. For me, realizing and accepting that I am introverted greatly helped me deal with anxiety I sometimes got from social situations, because I felt like I had, in a sense, failed as a human at something that to most of my friends seemed so effortless – socializing.

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