What comes to mind when you hear the term introvert? Do you picture a shy and quiet person who is awkward in social situations? Most people do. And most people are wrong. That is why, today, we are demystifying introversion.
In this article, we answer the questions: Who Is an Introvert? And Are All Introverts the Same?
Introversion Vs. Extroversion
The terms introvert and extrovert (initially spelled ‘extravert’) were first used in the 1920s by psychologist Carl Jung. According to Jung, the two personalities could be distinguished by how they get and spend their energy.
However, neither introversion nor extroversion is absolute. Introverts can possess some traits common to extroverts, and vice versa. For instance, an introverted actor or musician is not a farfetched idea.
So, Who Is an Introvert?
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines an introvert as a person who tends toward their inner thoughts, self, and feelings. They are often quiet, reserved, thoughtful, and prefer working alone. They also seldom seek out social engagements and, in fact, feel drained after social interactions.
Introverts are different from extroverts in how they process the world around them. While extroverts refuel by seeking out other people, introverts turn to their inner self to recharge.
Signs of Introversion
All introverts are not the same. However, they do possess many similar behavioral patterns and traits. Generally, introverts:
- Are self-aware
- Are reflective
- Feel comfortable in solitude
- Take time to make decisions
- Need quiet to concentrate
- Feel drained after social interactions
- Don’t like group work
- Maintain few friendships, but are very close with the friends they have
- Rest or recharge by retreating into their mind
- Use imagination to work out problems
- Prefer writing to talking
Remember, you don’t have to identify with all these traits to be an introvert. A typical introvert will exhibit most of these patterns, coupled with some extroverted characteristics.
Further reading: 14 Signs That Show You Are an Introvert.
Introversion Is a Spectrum
Although most people identify as either introvert or extrovert, it is nearly unheard of to be purely introverted or extroverted. It will help to think of personality as a sort of introvert-extrovert spectrum. In most cases, people possess characteristics of both, but with one side being stronger than the other.
You can slide along this spectrum throughout your life. For example, working in the marketing department can cause you to change how you interact with others, so you become more extrovert-like.
You should note, however, that this does not amount to altering your personality. You can’t change from introvert to extrovert on a whim.
But, you could become more introverted or less introverted depending on your environment or current situation.
The Science of Introversion
Science has no exact explanation as to why some people are introverts, and others are not. However, research shows that your genes play a significant role in determining your personality.
Dopamine is the chemical that turns on the reward and pleasure circuitry in your brain. The main difference between introverts and extroverts is how they respond to dopamine release after a social interaction. While extroverts get a jolt of energy or satisfaction, introverts just feel overstimulated.
- Frontal Lobe
According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, introverts display increased activity in frontal lobe regions. This is the part of the brain responsible for memory, planning, and solving problems.
Types of Introverts
According to one study, introverts can be classified into four subtypes. (More on this later). These include:
- Social introvert – This introvert enjoys small social groups and prefers quiet settings to crowds.
- Thinking introvert – This introvert is a daydreamer. Tends to think a lot and can have creative imaginations.
- Anxious introvert – Prefers solitude and seeks it out because he/she might feel shy or awkward around people.
- Restrained or inhibited introvert – Might require longer to ponder a decision before acting on it. Not likely to act on a whim.
Introverted or Shy?
One of the biggest misconceptions I’ve faced as an introvert is that I am shy. (Which I am not. I have won many staring contests, haha) Jokes aside, despite my quiet nature, I have held several leadership positions throughout my school life. A good example is when I was high school president for two years.
I do not blame people who confuse the two. But to clear things up, being an introvert is not the same as being shy. Introversion is a personality type, while shyness is an emotion.
Shy people tend to feel uncomfortable and antsy in social situations. They are likely to get nervous and sweaty. They might even develop a stomach ache or heart palpitations when faced with strangers.
Generally speaking, shy people avoid social events because they have to. They’d rather not face the negative feelings that arise from such situations.
Introverts, on the other hand, skip social events because they are more comfortable in smaller groups. They don’t experience the negative reactions that shy people do. They just feel drained after too much interaction.
As such, they prefer to limit their exposure to one or two people at a time.
No Superior Personality
When you live in a world that praises boldness and charisma, you can begin to feel like something is wrong with you. This is especially true if, as a child, you grow up around comments like ‘why is she so quiet’ ‘is that normal’ and ‘aww aren’t you a shy one.’
However, there is no right or wrong personality. Our personalities are who we are. They are our strengths and weaknesses. And while we can’t change our introversion or extroversion, we can work on our weaknesses and become our best selves.
(Do you know the 7 Things Introverts and Extroverts Can Learn from Each Other?)
Introversion or extroversion is not an excuse to be mean, overbearing, rude, or dismissive of other people. How we treat people is a choice.
There is so much to introversion. I couldn’t cram it all in one post. I do hope, however, that you now have a better sense of who an introvert is.
Want to know who an introvert is NOT? Check out these 7 Common Misconceptions About Introverts.