Being OK With Being An Introvert

10/03/2017 Discussions, Lifestyle, Personal 23

Being OK With Being An IntrovertLet’s face it: the world really isn’t geared towards introverts. From school onwards we’re subconsciously taught that being outgoing, outspoken and sociable is preferable to being quiet, reserved and needing that all-important alone time. From the emphasis on group work in classrooms, to the unspoken rule of ‘the more friends you have, the better you are’ that exists in the school yard, we’re immediately taught that being extroverted is ‘better’.

I certainly can’t have been the only one who was constantly getting ‘needs to contribute more in class’ scribbled across their school reports, anyway! Or whose parents were told at every Parent’s Evening that whilst my schoolwork was good, I was ‘too quiet.’ Because being quiet is apparently a problem, and that bias continues on throughout your life, with most employers favouring the more outgoing candidates over reserved ones. Not to mention the stigma attached to having a quieter social life – because if you aren’t out partying on a Saturday night, then you must have no life!

With all this going on, plus all those well-meaning comments you get about ‘needing to come out of your shell’ and ‘speak up more’, it can be easy to feel bad about being an introvert, and I think that’s pretty sad. Introverts have so much to offer, so it’s a shame that so many are made to feel bad about being who they are, and often feel as though they have to fake being an extrovert to get by. I know I’ve personally been to job interviews where I’ve had to pretend to be more outgoing to get the job, when I know full well I could do it fine as myself.

And so that’s why I thought I’d write a post about why it’s OK – no, great! – to be an introvert. It’s only really been these last few years that I’ve truly began to accept that I’m an introvert (and a shy introvert at that!), and that I will never be a person who prefers going out to loud, bustling social occasions over sitting in and reading, or having a huge amount of acquaintances over a few good friends. I’ve finally began to accept that needing to be alone a lot of the time isn’t bad or weird – it’s just recharging, so that when I am out and about with people, I can give my very best.

I’m finally OK with being an introvert, and here’s why you should be too:

  • You have value.

Whilst it’s easy to feel like being quiet makes you inferior to someone who is perceived as bubbly, or outgoing, it simply isn’t true. We’re all equal, no matter what our personality type, and we all have something to contribute to the world and society.

In fact, you only have to look at the many amazing contributions introverts have made to the world in the past to see the value in introverts, despite the cultural bias towards more extroverted qualities. Van Gogh, Albert Einstein and J.K. Rowling, for example, are three notable introverts!

  • You have skills extroverts don’t.

I’ve spent a huge part of my life being envious of the typical extrovert skills I know I’ll never have – the ability to be around large groups of people for a long time without feeling drained, or finding small talk effortless.

However, there are plenty of aspects of being an introvert that I think many extroverts probably envy. Being able to spend a lot of time alone, for example, without feeling bored or lonely, or being a great listener and thoughtful problem solver. The different skills introverts and extroverts have tend to compliment each other, and both skill sets are equally useful and valuable, but in different ways.

  • You’re not just an introvert – you are you.

Knowing whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert can be very useful, as it tells you where you get your energy from, and how you need to recharge: introverts need time alone, whilst extroverts need to be around other people. It can also help you understand a lot about yourself and how you interact with the world, as when I first began to understand the differences between introverts and extroverts (largely through Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts) it felt like a revelation. I wasn’t weird for enjoying alone time and silence – I was an introvert!

However, you aren’t entirely defined by your personality type, as there are so many different kinds of introverts and extroverts (for example, there are probably some fairly outgoing introverts out there, and quieter extroverts!), and we’re all our own unique mish-mash of characteristics and quirks. As humans we’re so much more complicated than a simple label, and as Carl Jung said, a person who was all one way or the other would surely be completely mad: we exist on a spectrum of introversion and extroversion, with many other factors contributing.

And so whilst I’ve spent this entire post going on about introversion and personality types as if it’s the be-all and end-all, it really isn’t: you need to be OK with being an introvert because you’re OK with being you, and introversion (or extroversion) is just a small part of your make-up.

So are you an introvert, and how do you feel about it? Have you ever felt like it’s an advantage or disadvantage? How have you come to terms with your personality type?

23 Responses to “Being OK With Being An Introvert”

  1. hillary

    I am an introvert and it took me a long time to come to terms with it but now I thrive knowing what I need to do so.

  2. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    I can relate to this so much. When I was in school, the teachers would tell my parents, “She doesn’t contribute enough.” “She doesn’t have enough friends.” “She doesn’t play with the other kids at recess.” Do people not understand how exhausting it is to constantly be surrounded by people?

    • Laura

      I know, I especially think it’s bad that they do that so much in schools. They should really be teaching people that it’s OK to just be themselves, whether they’re loud or quiet, not making being a certain personality type out to be a problem!

  3. Victoria

    As an introvert, I find the workplace can be particularly taxing. It’s frustrating when all of the praise is heaped on the loudest person in the room, even if they don’t necessarily have anything valuable to say. I feel lucky to have a friend who understands it all so well! I also cannot wait to read Susan Cain’s book. It’s about time that someone broke the stigma and highlighted that introverts are just as valuable as extroverts.

    • Laura

      I feel exactly the same, and I find that so annoying that louder people always seem to get more credit for things, and quieter people are often forgotten about!
      It’s definitely nice having a friend whose a fellow introvert! 🙂
      And I’d definitely recommend Quiet by Susan Cain. It was one of those books I’d kind of forgotten about until I was setting up my new Kindle the other day. I had a quick skim read of it and remembered how much I related to it all! 🙂

  4. Greg

    So many good points. Especially true in school- it can be tough on an introvert to get by in school! I don’t know why being an introvert is such a problem for people- it must just be the societal expectations, like you say. I for one like being an introvert lol- once you get out of school it’s not so bad, but yeah I do think things like the book Quiet and others are helping people understand that introversion is fine, just like extroversion.

    And when people realized that it’s an energy thing to some extent- you get energy from being alone and recharging, instead of socializing, has helped me understand introversion better. It’s not just being antisocial! Staying in and enjoying a book is not a character flaw ha ha!

    • Laura

      Yeah, I think it’s so annoying that schools do that, and make introversion out to be a problem that needs to be fixed, as opposed to just a different personality type. I think you’re right and it’s just a societal expectation that people (and especially kids) should be really sociable and loud, but not everyone is like that, and it shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing.
      And I definitely think learning about the whole energy thing can be a turning point for a lot of introverts. I did always just think I was weird and anti-social for wanting to be on my own for a lot of the time. It was only when I properly learnt about introversion that I realised that it was actually really normal and necessary for my personality type 🙂

  5. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I am introverted but whilst I know introverts like time alone (I do) and don’t tend to be one for small talk (it’s the worst, I avoid hairdressers because of it) I always hate the misconception that being introverted means you’re quiet. I am the person who takes a long time to warm up to people and really come out of my shell because I wait and get to know people first. When I first started my job I was quiet, kept my head down and did the work but then after a while I started talking. I got to know people properly and honestly, they probably want to shut me up. I need to recharge my batteries with alone time when I get home but it doesn’t mean being introverted that you’re quiet and that always bothered me.

    I also hate that being introverted is a bad thing because it’s not. It’s not a disadvantage. Sure, I still have to fake being the chatty person I can be when I meet new people and it’s exhausting but I find people I know well don’t drain me. Maybe that just means I’m antisocial, I don’t know, but introversion gets a bad rep and I’m glad to see you calling folks out.

    • Laura

      Yeah, I see what you mean about the stereotyping of introverts as quiet, and I can see why that would be annoying. I guess I’ve always just been OK with the stereotype because it does actually fit me (I am very quiet in general, even with people I know), but I do know introverts who are quite chatty, so it isn’t fair to stereotype them.
      And it really is so annoying that introversion is considered a bad thing! It can be perceived as being anti-social, but I think there’s nothing wrong with needing alone time! 🙂

  6. Mimi @ Poésie de la Lune

    Hey Laura,

    great article! I’m an introvert, too and I’m proud of it. But I didn’t always consider it a good thing to be “quiet”. In school I got bad marks, because I was “too quiet” and I didn’t have many friends. I often felt unloved and not accepted.

    A few years ago I started a blog on Tumblr about introversion and it meanwhile has over 15,000 followers. That shows me, that we are not alone, there are many of our kind out there. I shared your article on my Tumblr blog, hope that is OK?

    Kind regards,
    Mimi

    • Laura

      I’m glad you’re an introvert and proud! I’m glad to say that so am I these days too 🙂
      I hate that so many introverts are made to feel bad at school because of their introversion! Schools should really be encouraging acceptance of all kinds of people, not saying that being a certain way is ‘wrong’, and especially not marking people down for being quiet. I used to get that too, where my written work would get good marks, but because I didn’t speak up enough in class, I would lose out on marks for contribution.
      Your tumblr blog definitely goes to show though that there’s a lot of us out there though, and thanks so much for sharing this! I really appreciate it 🙂

  7. Jenna- JK I'm Exploring

    I’m definitely an introvert. However, I can pretend to be an extrovert during work and just have to take time after to relax and massively unwind. My teachers would always say that I should speak up in class because with my friends I would talk a lot and that just made me speak even less. Sometimes I do such a good job faking it that people are shocked I’m an introvert, but it takes so much effort!

    • Laura

      I know what you mean, it’s definitely possible to fake being an extrovert, but it can be so exhausting! And it sucks that we feel like we have to do that a lot of the time.

  8. Michelle @ FaerieFits

    I have ALWAYS been very much an introvert, and I can DEFINITELY relate to putting on a face at job interviews just to get the job. When I was applying for companies right out of college, that actually put me into a downward slump of feeling bad about myself. I knew I was more than capable of doing any of the jobs I was interviewing for, but ESPECIALLY out of the business school, employers look for people who will be sociable with other employees and outgoing. I tried to put myself out there but it just felt wrong, and I ended up not getting the job(s) anyway.

    I ended up “settling” for a great company that has done WONDERS for me. I am STILL an introvert, but I’ve been recognized for my problem solving, and I’ve actually ended up in somewhat of an educational/consultant position for the rest of the organization. Oddly enough, I’m more extroverted in that work environment than I ever have been! And it’s not that I’m less introverted now than I was, but that I have so much support and people who value my skills that it doesn’t feel scary to speak up or put myself out there.

    Anymore, coworkers are SHOCKED to hear me talk about being introverted because I lead so many meetings and teach so many people, and I’m comfortable around leadership. But I actually think the introversion HELPS with all of that — I’m not DEPENDENT on having everyone in the company like me. I have confidence in my OWN skills, with or without the support of everyone else, so if I say something unpopular and people don’t like it, I don’t feel like everything will end.

    It’s funny because what I’ve observed these last few years is that most of the people afraid to really CHALLENGE their leadership are the extroverts — the ones who like to be noticed but don’t want to lose their connections or risk burning bridges. And, in my office anyway, more of the introverts are the ones speaking out because, frankly, we just don’t CARE what people think. We’re not going to be fired for being the voice of common sense. And if we’re not overly liked — well, we can always go back to being quiet and keeping to ourselves and not feel uncomfortable about it 🙂

    (And that’s not to speak ill of extroverts in ANY way; without having extroverts to lean on in that kind of work environment I would wither away at my desk and never develop further. Because being personable really is a skill (a necessary one), and it’s one that I REALLY have to work for and it’s EXHAUSTING.)

    • Laura

      I’m so glad you’ve found a job where you feel like you have so much support, and you’re comfortable being an introvert! I have definitely always been made to feel bad about myself when searching for jobs too because they are all looking for more outgoing people, and it makes me feel like I’m not good enough even though I’m sure I could do the job. So it’s great to hear that there are some workplaces out there that do value people for their individual skills, whether they’re an introvert or extrovert. Workplaces can definitely benefit from a combination of both personality types, and it’s great that yours recognises that! 🙂

  9. Michele

    I love your article and it is so true. I am an extrovert but my daughter is not and I have a hard time relating to that sometimes. She is going into college this fall and will major in law. I envy her ability to just sit and take everything in and be content with being alone as where I cannot. This was a helpful article.Thank you dear!

  10. Puput @ Sparkling Letters

    Amazing post, Laura! I’m more of an extrovert but I agree with you, the world “forces” everyone to be outspoken. I have to admit, sometimes even I do it to my brother because he’s so… I don’t know, he doesn’t like talking to people. He doesn’t even like talking to service workers and it sometimes annoys the hell out of us because we have to do it for him. I studied psychology so I know that if it’s a personality, you can’t change that. So I always wonder, is it the right thing to do, to ask and expect my brother (or every other quiet people) to be more outspoken? Because to be honest, I feel guilty sometimes. But to me, it’s also important to understand the line. Like, is a person an introvert, or simply need a push? I’ve been talkative ever since I learned to talk but I wasn’t always confident talking in front of other people, especially strangers. I was kinda shy, but society forced me to be brave and they made me who I am now. Now I’m comfortable talking with everyone and actually good at public speaking, so I guess it’s also important to take that into consideration : whether someone is an introvert or just needs a little push. Anyway, this turned to be a long ramble, I’m sorry and great post <3

    • Laura

      That’s definitely an interesting question, as to whether or not a person is an introvert or needs a push. I think there definitely can be a danger with shy introverts of it going too far and becoming some kind of social anxiety, and I have definitely suffered from that myself. For example, I was always terrified of speaking on the phone, so if I could get away with having someone else make a phone call for me, I would do, but that wasn’t helping me. I had to force myself to start doing it, because you can’t really be a 20 year old who still needs your mum to ring the dentist! Maybe it’s the same thing with your brother, where there are some things he is just going to have to be pushed to do, because however introverted you are, it’s a necessity of adult life to be able to do these things. It’s definitely an interesting thing to think about, where that line is! 🙂

  11. Katie @ Foxy Readers

    This is such an important message, BUT I feel like institutional systems still really don’t value introverts. I see that especially in the classroom setting of my college classes. Almost all of them have an attendance policy that includes class participation as part of your grade. As someone who is not at all likely to speak up during my classes, this has often had an impact on my final grade in the class. It’s such a disappointment, especially when I get As on essays, tests, etc.

    • Laura

      I definitely had that at university too – there were several classes where I lost marks for participation, and I really don’t think that’s fair! That isn’t about what you do or don’t know, but about whether or not you’re comfortable or want to speak out, which I don’t think should come into it.

  12. Trish

    I’m a 41yo female introvert and my husband loves to boat all summer weekends with friends. They are mostly families with kids, like us, but they tie their sleeper boats together along a river island shoreline. They’ll socialize all weekend with music and festivities. I am the odd duck out because I don’t stay out for the entire weekend. It pulls me out of my comfort zone but I go out for an afternoon or part of a day. But secretly? It’s not fun for me. I’d much rather stay home and do quiet things there. We’ve been married for 17 years and I see this summer-long tradition continuing long into the future.

Leave a Reply