There is Nothing Wrong with You
“Don’t underestimate me because I’m quiet. I know more than I say, think more than I speak and observe more than you know.”
~ Michaela Chung
I have a special heart for introverts…because I am one. I spent much of my life thinking there was something wrong with me. I have learned, to my great relief, there is not!
About one-half of the population is introverted but you might never know it because our culture offers great rewards for being extroverted. It is usually much preferable in our society to be sociable, “outgoing,” fun, loud, spontaneous, energetic and fiery. But half of us have personalities that cause us to be more quiet, calm, thoughtful, deep and to need time alone.
A very extroverted colleague of mine once said to me: “You know how there are times when it is difficult for you to speak up? That is how difficult it is for me to be quiet.”
Exactly. It is just one difference in the human personality. If you are introverted, there is nothing wrong with you.
Introverted people are emotionally energized by being alone. Extroverted people get energy from talking, socializing and laughing, singing, dancing and being hilarious, and all of that is great, and introverts may like that stuff as well…to a point. But after it is over, they feel drained and exhausted and need some time alone to recuperate.
Introversion and extroversion is simply about what gives you energy. The easiest way to discover which one you are is to honestly answer this question: Do I feel more energized when I am with others or when I am alone.
It is important to remember that no one is only introverted or extroverted, we all have the capacity for both and everyone fall somewhere on the continuum, so if your answer is “sometimes I feel energized by people and sometimes I feel drained by them” then you may be more a balance of the two. But most of us will be able to answer that question one way or the other with relative ease and if being alone refuels your emotional energy, then welcome to the world of introversion…there is nothing wrong with you.
It does not mean you hate people.
“I’m very picky to whom I give my energy. I prefer to reserve my time, intensity and spirit exclusively to those who reflect sincerity.” ~ Dau Voire
A big misconception is that introverted folks do not like being around people. They are often called “antisocial” or “stuck up.” Not at all! Introverts just prefer to take fewer people at a time, versus large groups, and have conversations that are more meaningful, deep and personal. Introverts tend to hate small talk and lots of noise, both of which can get in the way of truly connecting with others. Many introverts love socializing, it just looks different than it does for a more extroverted person.
It does not mean you’re scared of people.
“I think a lot, but I don’t say much.” Anne Frank
Introverts may be more reserved, slower to speak, quieter, but this does not mean they are afraid. It means they prefer to think carefully before they speak and to listen more than they talk. Being introverted is not the same thing as social anxiety, which is a mental health condition involving a debilitating fear of social disapproval or humiliation. Many introverted people are quite sociable and self-assured, they just prefer to interact in a calmer, more deliberate way. For example, as introverted as I am, I absolutely love public speaking. It does not scare me a bit! I love it because when I speak to a crowd I actually get the chance to share my thoughts and ideas without being interrupted. But after speaking I feel exhausted and need time alone to recover.
It does not mean you’re shy.
“I am rarely bored alone; I am often bored in groups and crowds.” ~ Laurie Helgoe
Shyness is a component of temperament that involves feeling self-conscious or timid in relationships. Some people are naturally shyer than others. Certainly, some introverted people are “shy,” but not all of them. Shyness usually develops in connection with the feeling of shame, and it is possible to be introverted and have no significant shame issues, just as it is possible to be more extroverted but also shame-filled and “shy.” It is a mistake to assume that someone is shy only because they are quieter or need alone time. There are many introverts who have enormous courage and self-confidence.
It does not mean you’re better than extroverts.
“Everyone shines, given the right lighting.” ~Susan Cain
One is not better than the other, introversion—extroversion is just one of the ways humans can differ. Extroverted people bring gobs of zest and spice wherever they go, and we need all the gifts they bring. They pull us introverts out of our shells and invite us to open, experience and share. We introverts, in return, invite extroverts to slow down, self-reflect, think deeper and find the wisdom hidden in silence and calm. We all need each other. It is about knowing yourself and accepting your way of being in the world, while valuing and respecting the way of others.
Here are some resources for anyone (introverted or extroverted) who may want to know more about introversion. These resources have significantly helped me at various points in my own journey of self-understanding and self-acceptance.
The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain