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The Introvert: Not Weird, Just Normal.

by Andy Mort | 9 Comments

A while back I hit a link to an article by Carl King, I found the title intriguing, ’10 Myths About Introverts’.

I have never really given much thought to the differences between introverts and extroverts, or the space in between, but reading his post I started to recognise that perhaps there was something in my internal wiring that made me unable to exhibit the kind of character that is demanded of us in our extrovert-driven world.

I had always apparently wrongly assumed that you could choose between being an introvert or an extrovert, and that I would have to train myself out of my introverted tendencies if I really wanted. It is not a black and white binary divide, we are not talking about an aspect of personality, which can be moulded, but rather a sliding scale of underlying temperament that cannot be altered.

Reading the 10 phrases, most of them stood out as things that I had been led to believe about myself, not because my perception of what an introvert is was necessarily wrong, but rather because I hadn’t ever actively recognised myself as introverted and therefore what that meant in terms of my temperament. I felt these things about myself at different times but thought I just had lots of bad days or I was just being anti-social. I didn’t even consider it was because I was trying to unknowingly squash a square peg into a triangle hole. This was a massive discovery and one that brought about a huge amount of liberation. These are the myths, read King’s blog to find out why they are wrong.

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.

As I was growing up people always called me shy and now I’m often seen as quiet. I realise now, that I am not quiet because I am shy, I just don’t often put myself into the spotlight, and never have, especially when conversations are being dominated by others. I don’t like being put on the spot to come out with an un-thought-through response to a question or discussion, unless I am with people I know and feel comfortable with. My mind just fills up and my thoughts turn to mush, which leads me to struggle when I try to articulate what I’ve been thinking. Yet I’m happy to get up in front of hundreds of people and sing? Yes, more on that in a future post. But in a nut shell, shyness and introversion are not the same thing, shyness occurs for other reasons and happens to extroverted people too.

Get me on a subject I am passionate about and I can talk for days. It’s not that I’m bored if I don’t talk; it’s just that I probably have nothing to say/not worked out how to say what I might potentially say. This can seem strange to extroverts who often think by actively talking it out.

I have been reading the book, The Introvert Advantage, by Marti Laney, Psy.D, which King mentions and have begun to understand my introversion on a whole new level as a result. I think it is absolutely integral that the message gets to introverted people because I know from experience that because society is so extrovert dominated it can feel quite overwhelming to have such an, at times alien and counter-intuitive temperament.

But in recognising and accepting introversion, perhaps in ourselves, but more importantly in other people, we can learn to cope with/accept others and move away from the feeling of shame that I have personally felt in how I deal with situations. On a basic level we are talking about the difference in energy expenditure and mind renewal; introverts replenish our batteries by spending time alone (this does not mean we are loners), extroverts get their energy from other people, and social situations. The very source of energy to the extrovert can actually be hugely draining for an introvert but rather than labelling ourselves as anti-social party poopers, understanding that we need time alone in a comfortable environment to replenish our energy allows us to cater for this need and be more with it when we are in those social situations. I love spending time with people and consider myself a social person, but it really takes it out of me and can mean I need days to recover. A people filled weekend, while it can be enjoyable, can leave me absolutely knackered for the following week even if it was just with my close friends.

Laney says that 1 in 4 people are introverted. I don’t know how accurate this is, and wouldn’t be at all surprised if it were in fact a much larger number to some degree. This could just be in the USA. It is almost certainly higher among creative types; this is why I feel so compelled to jump on it as an issue. I have recognised that a huge amount of what defines me is tied up with my being introverted and am so glad I can address the issues now, deal with them, and transcend the implications because I have been able to accept this unchangeable part of who I am. It would be great if we learned to identify introverted kids and helped them accept who they are and that they are not wrong or weird when they want to spend time alone, that they are just wired, like billions of others, slightly differently.

As I continue to work out the implications of this realisation I will begin to share some of my experiences as a musician and the struggles I have found, in many different aspects of what I do, which on reflection could be put down to my introversion. I am sure many of you will be able to identify with these things and I hope that you would share some of your own experiences and ways in which you deal, either with your own introversion or the introversion you see in others.

How do you re-energise? And have you ever worked out whether you are more introverted or extroverted? I’m really interested to hear from people who have explored this.

  • Isn’t it great to find out that you are completely normal? I loved Laney’s book; I had many “a ha!” moments when reading it.

    You’re right about the inaccuracy of introversion in the population; Laney was using a statistic that was based on a very small study. In fact, the introversion/extroversion mix in the US is about 50/50. I wrote a post about it here:

    Loved your post — I always like connecting with other introverts!

    • Hi Susan, yeah it’s a great thing. I love how, with a little bit of googling there are so many similar voices trying to get this message through. It’s so refreshing. I kind of wish I had understood a little more about myself at an earlier age. I have added your blog feed to my RSS importer. Have enjoyed reading your posts this evening.

      That’s interesting that you picked up on the inaccuracy. A part of me thought it probably just seemed that way cos introverts wouldn’t be shouting about it anyway so results were probably skewed. I can imagine there are generally differences country to country too.

      Thanks for getting in touch!

  • Great post, Andy.

    Working out whether I’m naturally introverted or extroverted has always been difficult for me. I always end up as ENTJ on Myers-Briggs tests.

    I get energy from socializing and feel much better when I go out and meet people. But I also highly value my alone time. I absolutely need a good amount of time alone to recharge and reflect.

    I’m still trying to find my sweet spot between the two types. There are times where it feels right to be an extrovert, and there are times it feels better to embrace my introverted self.

  • Sue Burch

    I have had to work hard over the years to get to a point where I am reasonably happy being with lots of people and/or new people.

    While I am perfectly OK with a class of 30 5 year olds or 45 Anchor Boys, doing a Bible reading in front of an adult congregation leaves me hot and self-conscious (giving my testimonial at my Baptism was probably one of the most scary things I have ever done).

    I don’t mind going to a party, so long as people leave me alone to watch quietly and listen to the music …. I am not a party-pooper by any means, and the fact that I may have sat at the back for the evening rather than being “the life and soul” does not mean that I have not enjoyed the occasion. If I am with lots of people I know reasonably well I can be persuaded to dance!

    I need my own space, and sometimes find that even my family get a bit too much for me. My way of winding down is to spend time on my own – a peaceful coffee and read of the paper is something I do regularly, or plugging into my ipod and going for a walk on my own. A long soak in a hot bath, an early night with a good book …. and woe betide anyone who disturbs me.

    If that classes me as introverted, then so be it – to me it is just perfectly normal.

  • Kathryn

    I’m what’s called an HSP HSS- Highly Sensitive Person who’s also a High Sensation Seeker. Best described as feeling as if one foot is on the gas, and one on the brakes (and can be a gigantic pain in the ass at times). I love socializing once in a while very much, (prefer the phone, email, etc) but need tons of downtime. I like not planning things (hate scheduling) My idea of hell is a group tour vacation on a bus/cruise ship anywhere. No place to escape to. An example of what I do like is a recent night out. On my birthday, one of my best friends and I just walked from place to place in the city until we found one that felt “just right”. Seriously. He’s exactly like me in sensitivity temperament so it was very, very funny. And then we just walked around taking goofy, artsy photos of ourselves off and on throughout the night. Ended up at a little fountain park area in the middle of the city. Talked for a few hours about everything and nothing, like acting- both of us are actors, and perfume (one of our current learning obsessions). Others call us weird. For me it’s just right and I had the perfect spontaneous night with a long-time friend who gets it. Thank god for fellow sensitives- I’d go barmy without all of you. And I wouldn’t choose to be any other way. I’d miss so much!

    • Amazing. Thanks for sharing, Kathryn! Sounds like a great night 🙂 I love those sorts of happenings. I find coming out of a night with something productive, like silly photos actually energises me, it’s the spontaneous creativity that really sets me off!

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