Monday, March 21, 2011

Dispelling Ten Myths About Introverts

As most SVP readers know far too well from first hand experience, the myths about introverts abound. If you get tired of being misunderstood by friends, family, and coworkers, consider printing this list out and handing it to them next time they insist you really do want to attend that company picnic or huge party.☺

1. We are not all shy.
Shyness is actually a trait that is quite separate from being an introvert, and while some introverts are shy, there are also some very confident introverts, just as there are many shy extroverts. Shy involves being nervous or timid about social situations, or having a fear of being humiliated or in the spotlight. Introvert means that we draw our emotional and psychic energy from solitude. VERY different things.

2. We are not anti-social.
Quite the contrary! We have many close, dear friends, but we also recognize that being with people just for its own sake does nothing for us and, in fact, drains our batteries right quick. We love to connect with people, but not just mingle with hordes of people for its own sake.

3. Introversion is not a mental health issue.
In spite of the American Psychiatric Association’s current inclination to view it that way, introversion is a temperament, a way of being in the world, it is most decidedly not a mental health issue. Unfortunately, as our psychiatric profession puts more and more emphasis on medication and external behavioral therapies, and total conforming behavior, that distinction is getting lost. I think the argument could very easily be made that the drawbacks they often attribute to being an introvert come from introversion being MISUNDERSTOOD, rather than introversion itself.

4. We don’t not like people.
We DO like people! In fact, we love quite a lot of them. We just like to do it on our own terms. In fact, part of our desire to recharge is so that we may connect with those we love in a more meaningful way.

5. We do contribute to society.
Puh-lease! Artists, writers, philosophers, therapists, the sciences—all these fields are dominated by introverts. There are also introverts in just about every field you can name, from the clergy to teachers to nurses to pilots and engineers. Well, maybe not salesmen, although I bet there are some introverts out there who have had very successful sales careers. The thing is, the very thing that makes us introverts—that inward focus and desire to surf the world of ideas as if it were one giant wave is what makes our contribution to society so valuable.


6.  Introversion is not a weakness that must be overcome.
It is not something we need to be cured of, or coaxed out of, or shamed from. Just FYI, many of the traits we introverts have are (or at least were) considered virtues and the signs of a contemplative mind.  

7. We do not have intimacy issues.
In fact, introverts have some of the closest, most in depth, intimately connected relationships on the planet. Mostly because they do not look for connecting for its own sake, or collect acquaintances like baseball cards, but because when they do spend the time and energy to have a relationship, it will be a deeply meaningful one.

8.  We are not broken extroverts.
Really. We’re not. Stop trying to fix us already. Remember how years ago they used to try to ‘fix’ left handed people so that they would become right handed? Yeah, that didn’t work out so well either and created LOTS of problems.

9. Introversion is not the same as social anxiety.
Introversion is simply the need to recharge in solitude, we simply get our energy from solitude. Being around people does not make us anxious, although it can make us bored, annoyed, overwhelmed, and just plain tired. And again, a lot of social anxiety can be traced to trying to force introverts to do something that does not come naturally for them. Sort of like putting an extrovert in solitary confinement. We don’t claim they have solitude phobias, do we? (Although, come to think of it, perhaps we should.)

10. Introverts are not self-absorbed.
We are self aware, which is an entirely different thing. The thing is, when we are alone, we’re not just thinking of ourselves and our feelings, we’re thinking of you and your feelings, the human condition, society, spiritual matters, in general, pondering deep thoughts. Sometimes those include our selves and many times they emphatically do not.

48 comments:

Lisa Jenn Bigelow said...

I was *just* explaining many of these things to my mom this past week -- she who is decidedly an introvert herself! I think introverts are as misled as extroverts on what these traits actually mean. Thank you for such a concise guide! I am posting this link to Facebook.

Jan Markley said...

Great list! A friend of mine is putting together an anthology on shyness which, as you point out, is different from introversion. Interesting topic.

Grandpa said...

Thank you! For all these reasons I love and enjoy being an introvert.

liz said...

I love this list -- particularly number 8! Thanks for posting it.

Tracy Loewer said...

This is awesome! Is it okay if I write out your top ten headings on my blog and link to it so people can read the rest?

R.L. LaFevers said...

I'm so glad this list is resonating with all of you!

And yes, Tracy, feel free to use an excerpt and link away!

Anastasia Suen said...

Great post!

Leah Cypess said...

"We DO like people... We just like to do it on our own terms." This is perfect! I will use it to explain to my husband why, despite being an introvert, I am such a fan of facebook.

Kimberly Lynn said...

I'm going to print this and give a copy to my mother and daughter. LOL!

Thank you so much, Robin.

Cherry Red said...

I too love this list. (Especialy #10. Yes!) I was nodding as I read it. I'm an introvert and It's perfectly normal. In fact, I believe I've read that introverts are 25% of the population. That's too a huge number for it to be considered some kind of disorder.

Kim

Gerri L said...

* Thanks so much for this post, Robin. Made me feel so much better about myself.

Carin Bramsen said...

I think you've dispelled another myth with this list: introverts are not milquetoasts. We can stand up for ourselves with great trenchancy and eclat. Thank you especially for #3, which touches on current trends I find disturbing.

L.E. Falcone said...

I'm astounded at #3. I never knew APA looked at introversion as a mental health issue. Weird.

Thanks for this. I had to blog about it as well.

Ann Jacobus said...

Beautifully and clearly presented. It's an uphill battle, but thanks for your efforts to get the rest of the world to understand us!
PS Like left-handers, aren't we also only about 10% of the population?

Jordyn said...

Frig. I feel like my family & many of the people I know should have to read this. I AM NOT BROKEN seems to be the gist of this list and... THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES FOR THAT. I'm so tired of being made to feel like my parents and peers think there's something "wrong" with me because I don't have a very active social life and have few friends. The friends I do have are incredibly close and wonderful relationships and I hate getting into a friendship or going out with people just to be "normal." It's so tiring.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I think sometimes people don't know what to make of the silence and solitary habits of the introvert, and their interpretations form this mythology.

But yes, though introverted, I do love my fellow human beings! :-)

Melanie said...

OMG!!!!!! This is so very SPOT ON! Robin, thank you for putting all these points out there in such clear understandable terms. ***I'm doing a little dance right now, a little hip shake in my chair.***
Love it!

Jay said...

I'm surprised no one has linked this yet: How to Care For Your Introvert

Alina said...

I loved this post and I wrote one in response: An Introverted Mama (I tried to use the "link to this post" button, but couldn't get it to work, sorry.)

Saad Aldousari said...

I loved what you wrote. Information-wise and style-wise you are awesome! Thanks a lot.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

So true! Thank you for a valuable post!

aquafortis said...

Another great post! :) There are so many underlying assumptions in our culture that essentially amount to equating extroversion with normalcy, and assuming that introverts want to be extroverts but just need a little help in the form of badgering and prodding. Sigh...

kellyrfineman said...

Yes. This. The funny thing is, I used to think I was an extrovert, but I realize now just how very much solitude I require in order to be able to stomach the social stuff - and it turns out I'm an introvert. One that does well when in public, but who needs A LOT of alone time to counterbalance it!

Suzanne said...

Excellent, excellent, excellent! And ditto to all the comments above! Thanks for putting this into such a clear, understandable form--somehow you have gathered everything together in a way I could not. I hope lots and lots of extro's will have a chance to read this!!

Lauren said...

But... I am shy, socially anxious, mentally unstable, and a bit of a misanthrope in addition to being introverted!

You're still right - just like not every introvert fulfills the stereotype, some of us do.

Kevin Baker said...

Even as someone who pretty much fell off the "E" end of the E-I continuum, I really appreciated this - thank you. It's truth that our "be extroverted or else!" society needs to learn.

One tiny question - where did you get the data to support the claim that the clergy is more largely I than E? The study I've seen has actually said the opposite - we're majority E (largely ENFJ, ESFJ, and ENFP). Not trying to quibble; just curious if there's more information on the matter out there!

stitchwitchone said...

Thank goodness someone finally put all this down in a list - now if I could just get people to pay attention and LEAVE ME ALONE.

R.L. LaFevers said...

Wow, I'm so glad (yet also a bit astonished) that this post resonated with so many! Introverts Unite (Quietly!)

Jay, we linked to that most excellent post a couple of years ago. It is definitely a favorite of ours!

Alina, thanks for sharing the post with your blog readers!

Kelly, that's the distinction that so few people get--and why it's so important to keep chipping away at the preconceptions.

Lauren, you may be a misanthrope, but your comment made me laugh out loud. :-)

Kevin, I guess that did sound like a 'claim' although I didn't mean for it to. I was remembering reading about what sorts of careers various Meyers Briggs temperaments excelled at and both INFJs and INFPs were noted as being excellent clergy. AND, the majority of pastors and ministers I have known well(ish) have been introverts. I now see that is a completely self-fulfilling preference though, and not a universal predisposition. Sorry if I confused you. I'm really SO not an expert on clergy. :-)

Andrea Starn said...

"...that inward focus and desire to surf the world of ideas as if it were one giant wave is what makes our contribution to society so valuable."
LOVE this image and this quote~ Thank you for this wonderful blog and post!!

Claire Dawn said...

I was reading up on MBTI type theory recently and while I'm not an introvert, I feel the same way about the iNtuitives, ie the creatives. Like people are happy for the work creatives produce, but they expect them to function like the non-creatives on top of that. Not fair, because noone's asking accountants to write novels.

I wish the day would come when everyone understood that people are different. Until then, good luck.

Gracie said...

This post is awesome... people need to get better at understanding people who aren't like them, methinks.

D.G. Hudson said...

What a great post, the defense of being introverted. Loved it.

Tolerance is what we need, we're not all alike in our interactions with other people. Introverts just want to assess the situation first and we don't need a gaggle of other people to tell us what we SHOULD do or feel.

Introverts can be heavy, deep thinkers too. We need time away from the hubbub to do our thinking.

Kudos to you!

Pam said...

Am linking, too, from an LJ journal. Love this list!

May said...

How nice! I should copy this and keep it in my car! I have no social phobias, I'm just a thinker, an observer, and my circle of friends are very precious. While the door is open to just about everyone, we pick and choose carefully who comes into our lives. We just sorta run under the radar. We are very much IN life.

I like it that way. I'm probably a bit eccentric, but wouldn't life be dull without us?

I'm a writer and a photographer.

Thank you for this entertaining and true post.

M. M. Justus said...

I would give my eyeteeth for a book or article or website that tells how to do the things that come easily for extroverts without trying to turn us into pseudo-extroverts. Things like networking and promotion and so forth. I know you guys try to do that, but it still feels to someone like me who is on the extreme introverted end that any attempt to figure out ways for introverts to do things that come easily to extroverts tries to turn us into pseudo-extroverts.

Or maybe it's just not possible...

Devena said...

Wow, I'm shocked at what you mention at no.3. A mental health issue? Really? Very disturbing, and ridiculously discriminating of us solitude-loving folks. Loved your descriptions. Spot on. Though I'm shy as well, my introverted side is definitely the bit of me that needs time away to recharge, rethink, and reimagine everything before I burst in the so-called 'real' world:) Hence the perfection of blog posts and comments,I suppose - they're so wonderfully introverted and extroverted as and when you need them to be.

Thanks for the post, and may the American Psychiatric Association encounter some apparently much-needed solitude to intelligently rethink its policies.

Anonymous said...

I'm a stand on the table, demand attention extrovert. however, for every onr day of being around people, I need two by myself to rejuvenate and then I'm back on the table. I recharge best in solitude.

Stace said...

How interesting that the self descrinbed extrovert leaves an anonymous comment.

Thanks for the post. Spot on. I wish more teachers would read this before writing school reports about kids who work well alone but 'fail' at participating in large groups, and who only have something to say when asked. Introverts must be some of the easiest group to teach, yet it sometimes takes an introverted teacher to recognise this.

corine said...

Being alone always felt so delicious, but it i still feel guilty about it. People see it as an issue of fear, a failing, and maybe it is. I am an introvert and I don't want to change but the pressure is great to be 'cured' of it.

Tena Russ said...

This is the best description of introversion I have ever seen. Takes one to know one.

Sandra said...

I don't think that the APA views introversion as a mental health issue--do you have a citation o a resource for this? It is not in the DSM.

R.L. LaFevers said...

So glad to hear from so many introverts on this post! Thanks for taking the time (and psychic energy!) to comment.

Sandra, it is not in the current DSM but it is under consideration for being classified as such in the one they are updating.

Here is one link, but I have seen many, many discussions of this online.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/self-promotion-introverts/201008/giant-step-backward-introverts

Indu Nair said...

Such a lovely article. I especially loved point 6 - "Introversion is not a weakness that must be overcome.
It is not something we need to be cured of, or coaxed out of, or shamed from."

I feel so rejuvenated after reading this - a lot of good karma is coming your way for this piece of inspiration for introverts :-)

Anonymous said...

Too Good and tooo True....made my day :)

Jerry said...

Great guidelines and encouraging words for the introvert. Being an introvert myself, I can see where different methods need to be employed in order to achieve the same results as the extrovert. But, it is possible to succeed, in spite of the common stereotype given to the introvert. We definitely have our strong points. We just need to know how to recognize them and learn how to use them. Social skills will become more natural if you are persistent at practicing them. I also found some other great tips for introverts at: http://relationshipcapital.co/op/?utm_src=bl

Jerry said...

Very encouraging words for the introvert. I guess it is a matter of understanding our strengths and utilizing them in the business scenario. We don't need to be the "life of the party" or the ''center of attention" in order to get what we need from the networking or business experience. We just need to know how to use the tools we already have. I found some other good tips for the introvert your readers also might benefit from at:

http://relationshipcapital.co/op/?utm_src=bl

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I'm sick of people trying to imply that i am in need of help and teachers treating me like i have a mental disability. And people assuming that i has no life just because i don't act the way people want me to act and become a slave to society.

Clarissa said...

As an introvert myself, i think im very much like a cat in the sense that i hate being ivnored, but cant stand being smothered.