Very few people are completely extroverted or introverted, but for those who are closer to the introverted end of the spectrum, please read on. Extroversion has been seen as the ideal personality type. What we are now recognizing is that introversion is also a normal variation of personality. Research shows that the brains of introverts are more active than those of extroverts. This explains why introverts limit how much comes in, while extroverts go where the action is. In brief, these mostly biologically determined traits can be defined as:
Introverts if given the choice, devote their social energy to small groups, preferring coffee with a close friend to a party full of strangers. They prefer to think before they speak, have a more deliberate approach to risk, and enjoy solitude. They feel energized when focusing deeply on a subject or activity that interests them. When they are in overly stimulating environments (too loud, too crowded, etc.) they tend to feel overwhelmed. They seek out environments of peace and sanctuary; have an active inner life and are at their best when they tap into its riches. They need privacy and time to be alone. They can be socially engaging and funny but being with a large group of people for too long is emotionally draining for them. Introverts draw their energy from quiet and looking within.
Some of the most successful introverts in history include, Einstein, Bill Gates, Spielberg, Newton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Zuckerberg, Abraham Lincoln, JK Rowling, Gandhi, Michael Jordan, Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Dr. Seuss, Chopin, and Barack Obama.
Extroverts on the other hand tend to relish social life and are energized by interacting with friends and strangers alike. They’re typically assertive, go-getting, and able to seize the day. Extroverts are great at thinking on their feet; they’re relatively comfortable with conflict. Given the choice, extroverts usually prefer more stimulating environments that give them frequent opportunities to see and speak with others. When they’re in quiet environments, they’re prone to feeling bored and restless. They are actively engaged in the world around them and at their best when tapping into its energy. Extroverts draw energy from others.
One could ask, Why does it matter what you are?
It matters because introversion and extroversion lie at the heart of human nature. They are the “north and south of temperament.” When you make life choices that are congruent with your temperament-and allow others to do the same-you unleash vast stores of energy. Conversely, when you spend too much time battling your own nature, the opposite happens: you deplete yourself.
There is pressure in North America to live up to extroverted standards. Thus, introverts may attempt to mold themselves into individuals who possess these characteristics because that’s what they have been told will help them achieve success, happiness, wealth, and popularity. Thus, individuals who should truly feel at ease to embrace their introversion, are made to feel as if they are flawed in comparison to their more extroverted peers. And who can blame them? If society emphasizes grades based on class participation and employers favour those that can deliver a stellar presentation, it seems as though the only way to “win” is to take on traits that feel foreign and unfamiliar to half of the population.
Being told for most of their life, by their parents, the school system, friends, co-workers or partners that they need to be “bolder, socialize more, talk louder, talk quicker, think on your feet, do team sports, etc.” can create a sense of shame that they are flawed and inadequate. The realization that a natural trait such as introversion has been perpetuated for over a century as a sign of pathology or disappointment is an epiphany to people who possess these “quiet” and “inward” traits. The fact is, few people until recently seemed to know or understand how important introversion is to our society.
Many individuals who have presented with symptoms such as low self-esteem, depression, or anxiety may struggle because they are introverts who have spent too much time and energy comparing themselves to those who are extroverted. They end up concluding they are flawed. If it is seen as the norm to be extroverted, individual’s may not understand why those characteristics do not come naturally to them or why they feel so uncomfortable in certain situations. Attempting to be someone that they are not can result in internal conflict and difficulties in relationships with peers, parents, partners and work.
When they can stop looking at extroversion as the ideal to be achieved and realize that extroverted traits are as natural to some people just as introverted traits are natural for themselves an inner acceptance can be achieved. There should not be the internal critical dialogue of which one of the two styles is inferior or superior. Each has its own powerful and rewarding merits and it is as important for introverts to see the value in the extroverted nature just as it is for the extrovert to see the same in the introvert.
What is needed is for those who have the gift of introversion is to recognize and embrace their qualities, while at the same time gaining a greater understanding of how to peacefully navigate a world designed for extroverts.