Even as a child, my favorite part of the day was coming home from school and running straight to my room so that I could read, draw, or paint for hours on end – alone. After spending an entire day surrounded by other children and teachers, I always returned home completely drained, and needed plenty of solitary time to recharge. Today, I remain extremely introverted.
Since then, I have spent many years questioning and doubting the value of an introvert, particularly compared to my more extroverted, social peers. Truth be told, it took about a decade to become the proud introvert I am today. But before that could happen, I had to stop asking so many negative questions about my social preferences.
I do realize that there can be a tendency to portray overgeneralized stereotypes of both introverts and extroverts. I understand that not all introverts are shy, anti-social creatures, and not all extroverts are loud, obnoxious attention-seekers. I am just here to present my personal experience and interpretation of the world around me. That being said, we do live in a society where extroversion is often glorified. When you picture someone in a successful leadership role, such as the CEO of a large organization, do you envision a quiet individual who finds social interaction exhausting? Probably not. Most likely, you have learned to associate effective leadership with extroverted traits (like ‘social’, ‘vocal’, and ‘people-person’). If you ever find yourself feeling as though introversion is something that needs to be ‘fixed’, or are struggling to convince yourself that being introverted has any real benefits (and it does!), come back to this list, and begin to eliminate that negativity one question at a time.
- Why do I find so much comfort in being lonely – is something wrong with me?
It’s probably not that you enjoy being lonely. Most likely, you find peace and comfort in being alone. And if there’s one good lesson my mother (a fellow introvert) taught me, it’s to recognize the difference between being lonely and being alone. Introverts will deliberately choose to spend a lot of time alone to ‘recharge’ after activities that require substantial social interaction, such as work or dinner parties. During this time, solitude is appreciated, not associated with loneliness. If we prefer coming home to a quiet, empty house at the end of a long day, or if we spend a Saturday night here and there cuddled up reading an entire novel instead of going out with friends, and we make these choices to genuinely maintain your happiness (and sanity), this does not make us lonely. If this precious time to ourselves is taken away, we typically feel overwhelmed and uneasy. Ensuring we have ample alone time to recover from the stresses of life allows us to gather the energy we need to be a good friend, parent, or spouse – otherwise we would make terrible company and probably truly end up lonely! Intentional solitude does not make you ‘antisocial’ or ‘withdrawn’ – it is how we prepare to be the best person possible.
- How come I’m not as outgoing as my other friends?
Though being an introvert and being outgoing are not by definition mutually exclusive, many introverts tend to be more quiet and shy compared to extroverts. Maybe no one has ever considered you the ‘life-of-the-party’. Maybe you have fewer friends than the rest of your friends. Please do not confuse any of this with thinking that people do not enjoy being around you. In fact, you can expect the opposite to be true. Your friends and colleagues most likely appreciate that you are someone who will genuinely listen to their problems and offer to help with a task instead of using that energy to create an attention-seeking opportunity or calculate whether any personal gains can be made from another person’s troubles. Being outgoing (and extroverted, for that matter) is not something to strive for, nor should it be a ‘goal’ – though the modern definition of ‘success’ may suggest otherwise. Instead of questioning why you never the first to fearlessly run up to the karaoke machine at a party, be thankful for the valuable qualities you do have (and that others appreciate), such as outstanding patience, being a (genuinely) good listener, or the ability to read and interpret body language.
- Why do I spend so much time thinking?
You are reflective. And that can be exhausting at times, which is likely why we need more time to recharge than our extroverted counterparts. If you’re like me, this time is often used to reflect on past events – not just what happened a few hours ago or earlier that day, but that time in third grade I was sent to the principal’s office for running in the hallway. Being insightful can certainly be a double-edged sword at times: on one hand, it gives you the chance to really understand the type of person you are (like how to utilize your strengths and identify your weaknesses), yet simultaneously you struggle to just be in the moment without jumping to thoughts of the past or future. Upon coming to terms with the fact that I will likely spend my entire life overthinking everything, I began forcing myself to focus only on the positive thoughts I experienced. My advice to you: always find at least one good outcome of each thought you have. That positivity will be reflected in the ideas and you generate in your lifetime.
- Why aren’t I as adventurous as my other friends?
Let me start by saying this: I know many introverts who seek adventure. This question refers specifically to those who recognize they will not find enjoyment in certain activities that others tell us we should; those who know themselves well enough to intentionally (and gladly) refrain from big, thrill-seeking adventures. Social media, in particular, has put so much pressure on the young people of today to travel big and travel often. Just now, a Facebook friend of mine shared an article (her comment: “OMG, story of my life!!!”) highlighting the reasons why traveling is so much better than getting married, having children, or buying a house. Translation? If you are a young person for whom travel and adventure are not a priority, you are boring and uncultured. Just because vacations, trips, and thrill are priorities for other people does not mean that those of us who enjoy the comfort of familiar spaces and activities should feel guilty about our choices. Not having a big urge to travel or do other adventurous things had become almost embarrassing. For some of us, simple activities (such as reading books or writing poetry) can satisfy the same craving that only wild adventures satisfy for others, though this can be difficult for some people to understand. Let’s make the choice to no longer waste valuable energy feeling guilty about being doing what makes us happy, even if it is not considered to be the norm. If everyone were out hiking mountains, it would lose its appeal to those who find gratification in it. Again, this is not to say that introverts can’t be adventurous! If bungee jumping or hiking in extreme climates is your calling, make us proud! (But as much as you may be tempted to, please don’t go alone!).
- Why do I lack confidence?
Finding the right balance of confidence and modesty can be a constant struggle for some introverts. In some cases, the ability to appear confident may be hindered by a fear of being perceived as ‘show-off’ or ‘know-it-all’, ultimately receiving undesired attention from others. Modesty can be a good thing. It is a trait admired by many – and gladly welcomed in a society where people are so focused on making sure the world is well aware of how good they are (or think they are) at everything. Just be mindful of how your humbleness comes across to others. Failing to acknowledge any of your successes may be mistaken for a lack of passion, particularly to an employer or partner. Don’t underestimate the value of your hard work. You may have achieved great things by working away quietly on your own, but do not assume confidence always translates into cockiness.
- Do people think I’m selfish?
Doubtful. And even if they do, it is probably because your need to be alone and recharge does not resonate with their personal lifestyle. Regardless, you should never feel the need to apologize for who you are. There is nothing wrong with focusing on yourself, and there is nothing selfish about taking the time you need to be fully prepared for life’s important moments.
- Why do I have far fewer friends than other people I know – especially on Facebook?
This is a good thing! It means you’re selective; your friendship motto is ‘quality over quantity’. At the end of the day, aren’t few meaningful friendships far more valuable than accumulating so many ‘friends’ that know you only on a superficial level, instead of a fundamental one? As an introvert, you likely prefer intimate one-on-one time with close friends who have earned your valuable time, rather than large, overwhelming social gatherings with many people whom you don’t particularly care for. And whereas some ‘popular’ girls I know could effortlessly receive a whopping 183 likes for their fitting room selfie, I am well aware that I would get maybe 14 thumbs up for the equivalent photo (though I would never attempt to document such unimportant life moments). The number of people willing to hit a ‘Like’ button or double-tap an image is not a true representation of the people who actually matter in your life. Sadly, it has become difficult to avoid letting our perceived popularity on social media define how we evaluate our value to other people. In the end, there is nothing wrong with investing time and energy only into friendships and relationships that improve your quality of life. You are lucky enough to avoid superficial, relatively meaningless, and toxic ‘friendships’ that negatively impact the lives of other people you know.
- On that note – why do I have such a hard time making new friends?
Okay, so you’re not the type of person to strike up a conversation with your neighbor on the bus. Nor do you particularly enjoy being approached to engage in conversation with a stranger. There is no reason to feel guilty about maintaining your privacy or enjoying solitude – even in public. Besides, people have to prove that they deserve your time and trust before you’ll welcome them into your life. And you should – you don’t have the energy to spend on people who aren’t willing to return the same level of effort you put into friendships.
- Do people think I’m weird?
Do people think you’re weird because you choose to leave parties when you’re at social capacity? Or because you’ll choose much needed recovery time over heading to the same bar your group of friends goes to every Friday night? Or maybe because you were always that kid reading novels at the back of the bus during field trips while the others were screaming “99 Bottles of Beer”? It is likely that at some point throughout an introvert’s life, they will be inaccurately labeled as ‘antisocial’, ‘socially awkward’, or ‘boring’ among their peers. We know this is not true. As long as our batteries are properly charged, we love spending time with friends and family, meeting new people, and (usually) trying new things. We just need a little more time to recuperate before the next adventure. Forgive us for being so weird.
- Why can’t I be more extroverted?
My heart breaks every time I hear this question. Extroversion is not something to strive for. Take a second and consider a world full of extroverts – sounds tragic, doesn’t it? (But hey – the same goes for a world full of introverts!). The biggest problem with this question is context. Rather than asking, “Why can’t I obtain my energy through interactions with people?” (i.e., the definition of extroversion), people will say, “Why can’t I be more outgoing and social?” (i.e., what people often think extroversion means). I am not sure how one would go about changing their source of energy, or whether this is even possible. There is no doubt that the world needs both introverts and extroverts to maintain stability. Where is it written that one must seek to be the center of attention or seek constant human interaction to be happy and fulfilled? Embrace the things that make you happy, and people will continue to see the value of introverts like you in their lives.