Each individual is born with a unique set of personality traits that are unlike anyone else’s. It’s impossible for anyone to have emotions, opinions, and thoughts that are 100% identical to someone else’s. But most people seem to fall underneath two different categories despite that: Introvert or Extrovert.
Neuroscientists even found that those with an extrovert brain have a reward process that differs from those who are introverted- meaning the two types experience a rush of “feel-good chemicals” in different settings, making their preferences for the setting stronger.
Not everyone can be outgoing, personable, or a smooth conversationalist. Some people are born social butterflies and some people are born wallflowers. And while that’s true, sometimes introverts are misunderstood in society. We’re automatically labeled unfairly as “anti-social,” “shy,” or as “loners.” I feel like those words misrepresent us, as though we have an incurable aversion to people or that we lack a certain amount of confidence. The truth is that we just simply experience and tolerate social interactions differently than extroverts do and that sometimes taking a step back from all the commotion is necessary for our mental health. I wanted to put together a short list to debunk some of the myths or misconceptions that people may have about introverts so that maybe we can all be a step closer to better understanding each other.
1. We Are Not Shy
No, really, we aren’t bashful or too scared to interact. The honest truth is that we enjoy listening and observing more than we like to talk. I can’t speak for others but when I’m in any kind of social setting, I find it easiest to listen and quietly process whatever I’m being told. I like to analyze it and picture it in my mind as others tell their stories so I can see their words as vividly as possible, kind of like I’m reading a book or watching a movie. I’m not quiet because I’m too shy to say anything or because I’m uninterested in the conversation, it’s just that I would prefer to listen instead. I find comfort in listening to the stories or opinions my friends and family have.
2. We’re Not Anti-Social
As much of a contradiction as this may seem, we really aren’t all that anti-social. I genuinely enjoy being around my friends or large groups of people when I’m in the mood for it. Sometimes, I even like being in the presence of others! Sometimes I crave it and need it. Like Jamie Tworkowski said, people need other people. It’s just the truth. While I love solitude and being in my own company, it’s also beneficial for me to have human interaction. Just because we’re not all about being around people 100% of the time, it certainly doesn’t mean we’re entirely against it either. We just have to be to be recharged and in the right mood for it. Asking us to be social when we aren’t up for it can be damaging to our mood and mental health. It’s really just all about the timing and we all find it at our own pace.
3. We Aren’t Trying To Be Flakey
Sometimes we make plans when we’re feeling more social and we make those plans with good intentions. At the time, we really do want to commit and we want to be there. But as hours or days pass our tolerance for social interaction has inevitably decreased. And we’re exhausted. There’s been too much noise, too many people, too many questions, and probably too much going on all at once. Our system just feels fried. And then it comes down to trying to figure out if it’s worth sacrificing our mental stability to go out one more time, and that’s just as equally tiring. If your introverted friend cancels on you, chances are that they desperately need time alone. As hard or inconvenient as it may be, an introvert would never back out unless they really needed to for their own well-being. Try not to be too hard on them for it.
4. We Aren’t Selfish
Please understand that introverts are not selfish. Even though we prefer to spend the majority of our time alone, it does not mean that we are self-absorbed. In all honesty, I can wear myself out doing favors for friends and family. I love to help whenever I can. I think generosity and lending a helping hand is extremely important for strengthening bonds and establishing a foundation of trust between two people. I may be a little stingy with my “me time,” but I’m also able to recognize when things are bigger or more important than me. And while it can be tough for introverts to find a balance between maintaining our mental health and maintaining our relationships, we always will find a way to be there for our loved ones.
5. We Don’t Live In Our Own Little World
As an introvert, this is an assumption that is very often made about me and it’s honestly the one that bothers me the most. Introverts are very self-aware and very in tune with what’s going on around them. I may even argue that maybe it’s a contributing factor as to why I get drained so easily in social settings. I’m constantly observing others and paying attention to whatever little habits or ticks they may have. I understand that people might think this just because I do prefer to spend so much time on my own, but I don’t live in a fantasy daydream land and it’s very unfair to assume so. The truth is that being on my own and being left with my thoughts is relaxing to me, just like going out and socializing at a party or club after a long day at work is relaxing to others.
Each person is different and we all handle social interactions in our own way. At the end of the day, introverts are just trying to do what’s best for them. Social situations and expectations can be overwhelming. But that’s not to say that we don’t enjoy being around extroverts or having extroverted friends. Just make sure that if you’re friends with someone who is less outgoing than you are, you understand that we need consistent solitude just as much you need consistent socialization.
Be patient with us, we’ll come to the party eventually.