Hey, it's okay to be an introvert
Sometimes it can feel like society loves extroverts. You know, those people who stand up for themselves, are confident and take a stand. These are all seen as positive personality traits in our modern, fast-paced world. Which is quite ironic really, when you consider that at least a third of us are introverts. But what does it mean to be introverted; surely it's ok to take a quieter approach to life? It's not a bad thing at all – we'll tell you why...
Are you an introvert?
The whole idea of extroverts and introverts revolves around the work of renowned psychologist Carl Jung. He believed that extroverts were energised by other people and activities, whilst introverts were more concerned with thoughts and feelings. Yet it seems that even Jung himself didn't fully subscribe to his own idea – he was quoted as saying, “There is no such thing as a pure extrovert or pure introvert. Such a man would be in a lunatic asylum.”
If you think of yourself as an introvert, or if you're not quite sure where on the introvert-extrovert scale you fall, see if you can relate to any of the following introvert traits:
- You're sociable, but often find yourself wishing you were at home with a good book
- You listen more than you talk
- You can express yourself better in writing
- Fame and wealth don't hold much importance to you
- You dislike conflict
- You surround yourself with close friends and family rather than a large social group
- Social interaction can leave you feeling drained and in need of alone time to recharge
- You would rather go running or workout at the gym than go to a party
If you identify with any or all of these – you're an introvert, and that's okay! In contrast, you'll find that extroverts are usually dominant, confident and assertive types. These are the people who are always surrounded by crowds of others – they dislike their own company. Extroverts prefer talking to listening and sometimes speak without thinking. Most of us are a blend of introversion and extroversion but lean more towards one than the other.
We're so used to seeing someone who is the life and soul of the party as the 'ideal' that we often view shy or introverted people as socially inept – and that couldn't be further from the truth.
Embrace your inner introvert
If you're the sensitive, thoughtful type, it's time to stop beating yourself up and embrace your positive traits. Many people would consider you as a loyal friend – you'll always listen. Most of the time you'd rather listen to other people's problems than talk about your own. Great listeners are rare, so be proud you have this skill and use it to your advantage.
Did you know that introverts often make better managers and leaders? Stop for a second and imagine a leader – chances are, you'll think of someone strong, decisive and outspoken. But are these really the best qualities a leader should have? Extroverts can often be so focused on their own plans and ideas that they fail to notice the ideas or opinions of others. They can also be oblivious to how other people are feeling, which isn't ideal if you're managing a team. You don't need a big personality to run a company; insight, thoughtfulness and determination are far more important qualities.
You're in good company
Look around you at your friends and family – are they introverts or extroverts? You'll probably find they're quite similar to you. Many celebrities we see in the media may appear to be extroverts; confident, strong people. Yet the world has seen some of its greatest inventions, not to mention its most amazing art, come from the minds of introverts.
Did you know that the painter Van Gogh was an introvert? So too were George Orwell, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin! Author J.K. Rowling is an introvert; her Harry Potter novels have sold billions of copies worldwide. So you're not alone.
Just because you're an introvert, doesn't mean you're shy
Shyness and introversion don't always go hand in hand. In fact, introverts generally enjoy socialising, whilst shy people or those with social anxiety may avoid the stress of social situations altogether. In today's extrovert-obsessed society, it's true many people view being quiet as a character flaw; it's not the case. Most people who are introverted think deeply, processing things differently to extroverts; introverts can be highly sensitive.
Things that other people might miss, such as subtle shifts in mood, are usually picked up by quiet, introverted people. If you're an introvert, you may find you have a very strong conscience, or notice that you feel empathy more than other people around you do.
Don't fake it to make it
If the idea of boosting your social skills and being more extroverted scares the living daylights out of you, the good news is that you don't have to fake it. When we say it's ok to be an introvert, we mean it! It's not true that introverts don't like people. In fact, introverts tend to forge closer friendships that often last for longer than their extrovert counterparts.
Introverts need smaller doses of stimulation and they may prefer to work alone, and be happiest socialising only with familiar people such as family and close friends. If you're more of an introvert, you might need to take time out in between social events, to reconnect with yourself and unwind.
Introversion in the workplace
Introverts can often struggle in the workplace – if you've ever been faced with an important client meeting or presentation that you're dreading, you'll know what I'm talking about! This level of interaction has become the norm in most workplaces, and for those who are more introverted and quiet, it can be a daily challenge. Research shows that there are some jobs which are more suited to introverts than others. Jobs where you're likely to find yourself working with like-minded people.
A few of the more common roles which attract thoughtful, sensitive types include:
- IT roles
- Working with animals
- Care worker
- Court reporter
- Museum curator/archivist
- Social media manager
- Web designer
- Running a business from home
You'll notice that these roles all have one thing in common; most require more interaction with objects than with people, on the whole. Whilst you might find somebody with an introverted personality working happily in an advertising copywriting role, pitching daily to important clients, they're more likely to find this type of job pressured and stressful than those who are natural extroverts.
Be proud of who you are
Learning to be happy means accepting who you are. If you love surrounding yourself with a huge group of friends and attending every party you can; great! But it's equally ok to prefer spending time at home cooking or reading a good book – you should live your life the way you want in order to be happy.
There is no 'better' way to be. Both introverts and extroverts have positive (and negative) qualities to offer the world – without the third of the population that are introverts, who knows if we would have the art, literature and inventions that we have today.
So next time somebody tells you it's not normal to spend so much time alone, or can't understand why you would turn down a night out for a cosy night on the sofa I your PJ's, tell them, “Hey, I'm an introvert, and that's okay!' Because it really is. You'll be happier, healthier and more confident once you live your life the way you want to.