Many people in creative and solitary professions like writing are introverts. And introverts are terribly misunderstood in society. They are often held up to "extrovert ideals" and judged harshly when they don't measure up.
Renowned psychotherapists Carl Jung and Briggs Myers agree that there are two main, legitimate personality types: Extroverts and introverts. Introverts are simply people who need time alone with their own thoughts and feelings.
Jonathan Rauch, in an article on the Atlantic, says that for introverts time alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping and as nourishing as eating. Introverts prefer to avoid the limelight and thrive on one-on-one interactions. Extroverts, on the other hand, are energized by people and wilt or fade when alone.
Now with all the discussions about introversion happening online (and offline), we thought we’d chime in and make clear a few things that many non-introverts oft get wrong about introverts. Feel free to add your voice in the comments below about how people misfire when it comes to perceptions of introversion.
People frequently confuse introversion with being shy and even use the two words interchangeably. Shyness has more to do with anxiety and discomfort in situations involving social interaction, while introversion has to do with needing some time alone after social interactions to recharge and regain expended energy. Bill Gates is soft-spoken, bookish and introverted, but is he shy? He is not.
Just because introverts need (and enjoy) time alone more than their extroverted counterparts does not mean they hate people. On the contrary, introverts love people more than you know. They can be your most trusted friends and will be there for you when it counts. It's just that they enjoy social interactions in a different way than extroverts. So don’t be too pushy or judgmental when at a party introverts prefer to sit calmly and watch the action from the sidelines. It’s not that they are anti-social or they don’t want to have fun; it’s just that it’s more fun for them to enjoy the party quietly.
Extroverted people might think introverts are neurotic, but this perception is often terribly wrong. Introverts don’t have extreme mood swings any more than extroverts do. They are not constant worriers, nor do they have a paranoid personality. Introverts can cope in any social setting just as well as extroverts can. They will only need some time alone afterwards to re-energize.
Introverts are not any more prone to mental illness than other people. Needing private time to restore your energy and preferring to work on your own over working in teams does not make you mentally unstable.
Historically, introverts have been some of the best leaders the world has seen. Abraham Lincoln was quiet, reserved and dignified. He was revered as a man who did not 'offend by superiority.' Mahatma Gandhi, Queen Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs and countless other people make the long list of exceptional, introverted leaders.
This misconception most likely stems from the fact that extroverts—who draw their energy from being in the company of others—feel depressed and sad when they spend long hours alone. They, therefore, imagine introverts feel the same way, spending all that time alone quietly absorbed in their own thoughts. This might be a genuine concern, but it is not okay to put the extrovert’s feelings on introverts. Introverts enjoy their time alone and are not depressed.
Many of the world’s most successful personalities in all spheres of life and industry are actually introverts. Opera Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, Christina Aguilera, J.K Rowling among many, many others are introverts. These people are not losers.
In a highly extrovert world that just can't stop talking, introverts simply won’t speak unless they have something really important to say. That's all it is!
Being introverted does not automatically make you more intelligent. It's just that the best ideas often happen when people are in a more reflective, introverted mindset. That means introverts are more likely to come up with the brilliant ideas. And while many high profile introverts like Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin and Marcel Proust were super smart, many other introverts are your regular, ordinary friend next door. We are normal people.
A version of this post originally appeared on Lifehack.org
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