Do you get emotionally and energetically drained by too much time spent in groups of people?
Does nothing make you happier than a free weekend at home with new episodes of your favorite shows, unstructured alone time, and quiet and peace?
When people last-minute cancel their plans with you do you feel relief?
And when you make and set plans with others do you sometimes dread following through on them?
Can you not for the life of you understand why people would spend their weekend nights at bars and clubs after a long work week spent with people?
If you found yourself nodding along to any of these questions, you may have some tendencies towards introversion.
And if that’s the case, my article today is a veritable love letter to you, my dear fellow introvert.
In it, I talk about what introversion is, how you can assess if you are an introvert, the unique challenges and needs you as an introvert may have in this modern world, and I pose some prompts and questions to help you uncover and unpack any lingering embarrassment, resistance, or stories you may have around identifying as such.
And, at the end of the article, I also share a list of my very favorite introvert-affirming resources with you.
Note: If you don’t identify as an introvert but possibly know one (maybe your spouse, child, someone you supervise at work), this article may prove valuable to you, too!
So whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, keep reading.
What exactly is an introvert?
Introversion is a core personality trait that, along with extraversion, exists on a spectrum within each of us.
It’s a central tenant that exists within most personality typology systems, perhaps most famously the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (based off the work of Carl Jung) that illustrates what an individual’s dominant behavioral inclinations are.
Introversion essentially posits that those of us who fall more heavily on the introverted side of the spectrum tend to have an inner-focused orientation to life while extroverts tend to have a more outer-world focused orientation.
There’s informally a third category, too, that I personally appreciate: ambiversion, which accounts for the fact that some of us may fall squarely in the middle of that spectrum.
And, in my opinion as a therapist, I don’t think where we fall on this spectrum is rigid and set across age or circumstance.
In other words, we may shift and slide along the spectrum at different life stages and in different circumstances, feeling more or less introverted or extroverted in response to life.
However, generally speaking, those of us who self-identify as introverts at one point or another are:
- Usually concerned with and deeply reflective of the richness of our inner mental and emotional worlds;
- We get more energized by time spent alone versus in crowds or with others;
- We may prefer to have a smaller group of very close friends over a larger group of acquaintances;
- We can be very self-aware;
- Networking, small-talk, and meeting new people at parties/events can feel very challenging to us;
- And too much stimulation may overwhelm us and make us feel crabby, tired, scattered, and prompt us to “shut down.”
Of course, these are only a few of the characteristics of introverts and, like with everything else in life, how introversion shows up in you personally will be subjective.
Just because you don’t identify with the above short-list of criterion doesn’t mean that you’re not introverted.
So how do you know if you’re introverted?
Certainly, reviewing the above list and trusting your gut hunch is one way to assess if you identify as an introvert.
You may have even read the title of the article and knew instantly that this was you.
But if you’re still unsure, if introversion is still a new idea you’re toying with, it can be helpful to take one of the available personality typing quizzes out there to help you assess more concretely.
The official Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment is a great option, but it’s a paid test.
A free one that I really like is the Neris Type Explorer personality test.
Definitely, do take the personality typology tests but realize they are just a piece of the puzzle that makes up you.
For example, you may have family or cultural conditioning at play that informs how you show up in the world as much (if not more) so that a quiz that tests for introverted traits.
In other words, it may feel hard for you to answer these quizzes honestly because of how you think you “should” respond.
So let me ask you: is it okay that you’re introverted?
Is it okay that you’re introverted?
How we were raised by our families, how we were steeped in our local and national culture, the stories we tell ourselves about what is okay and not okay to be, all of this informs how we show up in the world.
It can also mean that, like for so many of us naturally introverted folks, you may have had (or still have) some shame and resistance around identifying as an introvert.
If this is you, you’re not alone at all.
I personally think that we live in a modern world that’s built for extroverts, not necessarily introverts.
We can see this in everything from the structure of early childhood schools and classrooms, to social championing of group sports and teams, the proliferation of open office workspaces, and endless pop culture praising of extraverted ways of life.
Moreover, if you grew up in a family of extroverts who couldn’t understand you, or with people who were ashamed of and resistant to their own introversion, you may have received messages implicitly and explicitly that naturally being who and how you are in the world isn’t okay.
So I want to ask you: is it okay that you’re introverted?
I mean, of course it is! Objectively, it’s completely fine that you’re introverted. But how do you personally feel about identifying as introverted?
- Do you feel any sense of shame or resistance to identifying as introverted? Why is this?
- What messages did you receive about wanting to spend time alone or not wanting to participate in groups when you were younger?
- Was your natural introversion perhaps mistaken for shyness, or being anti-social or distant and aloof?
- Did those messages stay with you as you entered college and the workplace?
- Did you often feel other or different and not fully understand why?
- Do you only see the traits of introversion as negatives? Can you list out some gifts and advantages that come along with being introverted?
- Today, do you allow yourself to embrace and claim your introversion? Supporting yourself with good boundaries and folks who see and accept this part of you?
I think that asking these questions are important. Uncovering and healing any shame or resistance to who we naturally are can only be helpful for our overall well-being and mental health.
I know for me personally that when I first started to really consider that I might be introverted in my mid-twenties, I felt such a tremendous sense of relief and permission!
Permission to embrace myself more fully, to design my life and career to account for my unique strengths and needs, and to forgive myself for all those times in college and in my teens when my natural introversion kept me from engaging in the activities and ways of life I thought I “should” participate in but honestly didn’t want to.
So what would it be like for you to more fully embrace and accept this aspect of yourself? What would life be like for you? What changes or adjustments might you be inspired to make to account for your introversion?
Unique challenges and needs you may face as an introvert:
Accepting your inherent introversion can be helpful as it allows you to understand that you may have unique challenges and needs that your more extroverted counterparts do not have in navigating the modern workplace, home environments, and relationships.
Why is this?
It may be because the majority of those who identify as introverts may also have what’s known as sensory processing sensitivity (not to be confused with sensory processing disorder), which, in essence, is a high or hyper-degree of sensitivity to external stimuli, a greater depth of cognitive processing than our non-introverted counterparts, and higher than average emotional reactivity.
Not all introverts will possess sensory processing sensitivity, but those of us that do may struggle in the modern workplace, school, at home, or in general social settings given the inherent amount of external stimuli in those environments.
For example, in a typical workspace, there will be bright lights and sounds, groups if not crowds of people to engage with, more opportunities for external interruptions (colleagues stopping by desks, etc), few or no private rooms in which you can control the environment, etc..
At home, particularly if you have family members or roommates who are more extroverted, you may struggle setting boundaries with them when you need space and they want to socialize, or have people over, or play music or TV loudly.
All of this can contribute to stimulating or over-stimulating an introvert.
Maybe you will be aware of this and may feel confident and motivated enough to either speak up with your managers and advocate for things that may help you cope better or simply start building routines and habits into your workday that help you cope with the overstimulation better.
Or perhaps you will feel comfortable setting boundaries with family and roommates about social versus non-social time.
But if you struggle with identifying what you need and want and, moreover, feel challenged by advocating for your needs and setting appropriate boundaries, you may want to do some self-reflection and get support around this.
The two blog posts I provide below can be a big help in this AND you’ll want to keep your eye out for a special new blog post I’ll be sending out in two weeks which talks about a very particular “fantasy” (aka: challenge) that seems to impact introverts more so than their extroverted counterparts.
In my work as a therapist and as someone who identifies as an introvert, I’ve curated (and created) some wonderful resources that can be a support (and delight!) to you if you likewise identify as being an introvert. These include:
- The official Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment quiz (paid)
- The Neris Type Explorer personality test (free)
- Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (book)
- The Highly Sensitive Person: How To Thrive When The World Overwhelms You by Elaine Aron, Ph.D. (book)
- Sensitive: The Movie (documentary based off of the work of Elaine Aron, Ph.D.)
- 101 Suggestions For Taking Care Of Yourself When It All Feels Like Too Much (blog post)
- How Boundaries Impact Every Area of Your Life And What To Do If Yours Need Work (blog post)
- Introvert, Dear: A Community For Introverts And Highly Sensitive People (website)
I hope you found today’s article helpful, normalizing and maybe even a little inspiring if you identify as an introvert.
Remember: introversion is a beautiful, wonderful, perfectly normal behavioral personality trait.
There’s not a single thing “wrong” with being introverted. It just may mean you need to adjust and accommodate your life for this since many aspects of the modern world are, in my opinion at least, geared towards those who are naturally extroverted.
If you read through this article and you don’t identify as an introvert but have loved ones in your life who do, please consider forwarding this article. It may be a support to them.
And until next time, take very good care of yourself.