What Is an Introvert?
Thinker, independent, quiet, dreamer, focused, shy, private, observant…these are often the words used when describing an introverted person. Introverts usually find themselves most comfortable and relaxed when alone.
It has been reported that one third to half of the population is made up of introverted individuals, and the other two third or remaining half are extroverts. Even if you are extroverted yourself, it likely that you have some family members, colleagues, friends, relatives, and neighbors who may be introverted. In our culture, extroversion is often valued more than introversion. Though both have a positive and constructive approach.
Introverts often feel internalized shame due to their nature. If you are an introvert, and want to be healthy and happy, it is important to understand and accept yourself for who you are instead of trying to force yourself to be an extrovert. Rather than viewing introversion and extroversion as black and white, they should be viewed as continuum. This means that you should accept the fact that some are introvert, some are extrovert, and some simply fall in the middle. The ones who fall in the middle usually belong to one type more than the other. Use the category introvert or extrovert to understand the person and not pigeonhole them.
Types of Introversion
Social: Social introverts prefer to be with smaller group rather than larger ones. Sometimes, they prefer solitude and no group at all. Such people often prefer staying at home with a computer, book, or prefer being with close friends. However, this type of introversion is different from shyness. It’s just the preference of being in solitude or small groups.
Thinking: This type of introversion is new. Thinking introverts are people that are self-reflective, thoughtful, and introspective. These people may get lost in their imaginative, creative, and internal fantasy world.
Anxious: Anxious introverts are people that often seek solitude. They usually lack confidence in their own social skills. They feel awkward and painfully self-conscious with the people around them. Even when an anxious introvert is alone, their anxiety remains. When something has gone wrong, or could go wrong, it is often a great source of anxiety that is repeated in their mind over and over again.
Restrained: Restrained introverts are highly reserved, meaning that they think before they speak or act. They work at a slower pace. It may take time for an individual of this type to speak or act.
Characteristics of an Introvert
- Clarity: Since they know themselves, they know what they want from life and can figure out the way to get there.
- Few but trusted friends: Loyalty and trust is everything to an introvert. If a friend breaks that trust or is disloyal, it can hurt the introverted individual deeply. They often become closer to individuals who they are comfortable around and feel they can trust.
- Depleted energy after being in a large group: After large gatherings, their energy is drained and they prefer alone time to reenergize.
- Alone time: Introverts like their own space and spending time alone with nature or with a trusted pet.
- Analytical: They do not judge by one piece of information. Instead, they always search for the bigger picture. Introverts tend to be very observant.
- Writing: Introverts usually have a creative and imaginative mind. They can often make sense of the world by putting it into writing.
- Carefully chooses locations: Introverts often choose a spot in the restaurant, room, or public transport with friends or loved ones very carefully. They prefer a place that makes them feel at ease or comfortable. Mostly, they choose a place that is not heavily occupied by other people.
- Easily distracted: More effort may be needed to keep an introvert’s attention, since they can easily become distracted. They can quickly become bored, irritable, or exhausted.
- Sense negative energy: Introverts can easily sense a bad atmosphere. With little effort, they can sense if a person’s mood is low or if they are agitated. Additionally, an aggressive confrontation can have a longer lasting effect on them.
- Avoids crowded places: Supermarkets, nightclubs, bright lights, loud noises, and crowded places can be sensory overload for a person who is introverted. They often prefer calm, quiet, and relaxed locations.
- Usually dislikes parties: Introverts often only enjoy a social event, such as a party, if it is a smaller gathering. They do not like being in crowded rooms, being forced into conversing with strangers, and extremely loud music or chatter. They always look for breathing space.
- Small talk makes them feel intrusive: They do not like to share personal information and will often avoid answering or change the subject.
- Cancels plans: The stress of attending an event that will potentially make them uncomfortable may cause them to cancel plans at the last minute.
- Attracted to extroverts: Introverts may find themselves drawn more to extroverts. They both tend to compliment each other as friends or partners.
- Does not respond to texts or calls: Often, an introvert will not start a conversation or call to chat. They will reply back only if they are in the correct frame of mind.
Strengths of an Introvert
An introvert can have many strengths despite the daily challenges they face. The following are five strengths that make introverts excellent friends, family members, romantic partners, and colleagues.
- Reflective: By reflecting on the experiences they have had in life, introverts gain a rich perspective. Introverts spend time focusing on inward situations and experiences. They examine the situation from multiple perspectives. This can make them very wise. Introverts do lot of self-reflections and this helps them accumulate lot of self-knowledge. They tend to be sincere and authentic.
- Creative and idealistic: Introverts, with their creativity and idealistic nature, can envision a better world. They possess talents for arts, music, writing, and more.
- Independent: Introverts do not go by what others say; they think for themselves. They are very conscientious. They have their own internal compass that guides them and do not let the opinions of others cloud their judgement. Their decision on various subjects is guided by their sense of morality. This means that they do not pass judgement on someone or something simply because society tells them they should.
- Empathic: Introverts are very sensitive towards to the feelings of others. They are very clear and fluent about their feelings. They open their hearts only to those who care. Introverts can often make valued and trusted confidants. They feel the emotions of others on a deeper level.
- Thoughtful: Rather than just saying the first thing that comes to mind, an introvert will always think before they speak. They will take the time to decide what message they want to communicate, how to present that message to others, and how others may feel about what they are saying.
Problems Faced by Introverts
Many introverts can relate to the struggles and problems faced by other introverts. Below are five struggles faced by introverts:
- Feeling weird and isolated in normal situations: In a normal gathering where most people are having fun, the introvert may feel deeply uncomfortable and eager to leave as soon as possible.
- People perceive you as snooty or shy: People may assume that you are stuck-up due to your inward facing, quiet, and reserved nature. This becomes a problem since introverts do not like to be the first one to start a relationship or friendship. Giving off an unapproachable vibe to others may make the introvert comfortable; however, this vibe may also lead to isolation and feeling alone.
- Feeling over extended due to the demands of daily life: When an introvert has been surrounded by people for an extended period, they may need some extra downtime alone, with pets, or with nature to re-energize.
- Unable to interact with others: Though introverts often enjoy spending time alone, they also still want friends and close relationships; however, they have trouble reaching out to others. This may cause them to be left alone in their time of need by others who do not understand them.
- Fearing or disliking situations that require small talk: For introverts, the moment of exchanging shallow, pleasant conversation with a stranger may become awkward, boring, or overwhelming. Introverts often freeze up during a routine interaction with strangers or those they don’t know well. However, they find that they can speak with a trusted confidant all night.
Can an Introvert Become an Extrovert?
In mainstream society, the nature of an introvert is usually undervalued. Individuals who are introverted often seek out tips and tricks that can help them fit into the extrovert society. Extroverts tend to have power, success, status, and popularity, at least on the surface. However, introverts tend to be easily targeted, bullied, and teased by peers and siblings. Usually, parents tend to compare an introverted child to an extroverted child.
So, can an introvert train themselves to become an extrovert? The answer is no. Very early in life, based on nature and nurture, the nature of being an introvert or extrovert is already determined. The nature that you develop early in life is always going to be more dominant. Introversion is a trait that is hard to change and cannot be altered as per wish.
Introverts in an Extrovert Society
Sometimes it becomes necessary for an introvert to act like an extrovert, at least for a short time. In such situations, introverts are forced to wear a mask and portray themselves as an outward person. Though many introverts dread a situation such as this, they deal with it uncomfortably until it’s over. Depending on your degree of introversion, and how often you are forced to pretend you are extroverted, you may often find yourself frequently experiencing distress or fatigue. Below are five self-care tips to help avoid becoming overwhelmed:
- Minimize time spent as an extrovert: Many introverts give into the pressure of society and force themselves, to the point of total exhaustion, to be extroverted. Try to make your life more introvert-friendly. Your introversion is a gift which you are offering to the world, not something to be ashamed of. Do whatever is needed in situations that require you to be extroverted, then return to your shell. Take up jobs that suit your introverted nature, your interests, and your skills.
- Make sure that you distinguish introversion from mental or emotional disorder: There is a huge difference between being introverted and having a mental or emotional issue such as anxiety or depression. Though introverts are at a higher risk of suffering from these issues, it does not mean that you automatically suffer from mental or emotional disorders simply because you are introverted. If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, ensure that you speak to someone about the matter.
- Communicate with your family and friends about your needs: Do not over commit. Stand up for yourself and clearly communicate with others that you need downtime.
- Schedule adequate downtime: If you have a job that requires you to be extroverted, and you become exhausted and drain your energy at work, ensure that you schedule adequate downtime for yourself in order to recover. This downtime may include hobbies, taking walks in nature, art projects, and other relaxing activities.
- Be true to yourself: Society may try to convince introverts that something is wrong with them because of their introverted nature, but it is important not to entertain or internalize these opinions. Do not try to be something that you are not. Instead, eliminate any negative self-judgement that you have about your nature and love yourself for who you are. It is only when you accept yourself that you can become a better partner, friend, and family member.
Introvert defines your personality. It is part of your identity. Don’t give into societal or family pressures and force yourself to be extroverted simply because others expect you to be. Your nature is something that you cannot change willingly. Love yourself for who you are and do not exhaust yourself by pretending to be something that you aren’t.
- Society may try to convince introverts that something is wrong with them because of their introverted nature, but it is important not to entertain or internalize these opinions.
- Introversion is a trait that is hard to change and cannot be altered as per wish.
- If you are an introvert, and want to be healthy and happy, it is important to understand and accept yourself for who you are instead of trying to force yourself to be an extrovert.