Introvert and proud! Accept your great qualities

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Even though some find it hard to understand, I love being an introvert. Because being an introvert has many advantages. For example, we’re self-reliant, rather than dependent on others for company. We can think deeply and pursue creative interests, without needing others’ input. And we don’t need to seek out seek out noise and excitement to feel engaged and alive. If you’re nodding quietly to yourself, be proud of your inner introvert.

Me, an introvert?

When I was a young teacher, I didn’t realise I was an introvert. I assumed it was normal to be emotionally exhausted after each day. Now I realise I felt wrung out because of the strain of constantly being “on” socially.

In my free time, the last thing I felt like doing was seeing others. But everyone else seemed to crave the thrill of endless group activities. I assumed I was strange; out of step with the rest of humanity.

Mind you, when forced to socialise, I generally enjoyed myself. At the end, I’d say, “We must do this more often.“

But did I organise another outing?

Rarely.

Pretending to be extrovert

When I did organise a social event, duty drove me rather than wanting to meet again. I didn’t want to offend people who expected contact within a certain time. In fact, they were baffled that I did anything else apart from socialise.

That made me aware of not being seen as a party pooper. So I made colossal efforts to see friends, acquaintances and work colleagues.

In other words, to pretend to be an extrovert.

And these efforts paid off. I could talk to anyone, anywhere, and could stand up for myself or others when needed.

But I still found time by myself more rewarding than with others, except for my inner circle. Needless to say, I felt even more of an outsider as time went on.

Little did I realise just how other many people were covering up their true selves in the same way.

Proud to be introvert

Now after many years, I’ve accepted that this is the way I am. I’m comfortable and proud to be an introvert. Others can socialise all they like, but I don’t need to conform to their expectations.

I don’t need to turn myself inside out to be a social butterfly. After all, it’s hardly authentic going to such lengths to pretend to be something you’re not.

However, some people automatically assume that lots of social contact is good for everyone, all the time. But that’s looking at it from the extrovert perspective.

It’s not always true from the introvert perspective.

Introvert or extrovert?

So how do you know if you’re an introvert or an extrovert? If you’re an introvert, you probably:

1 Need peace and solitude to recharge your batteries after socialising.

2 Prefer to be on your own to recover from, and/or solve difficult situations.

3 Don’t need extra stimulation to feel engaged in activities.

On the other hand, if you’re extrovert you probably:

1 Feel more energised after being with others, but bored and restless on your own.

2 Seek input and support from others to deal with difficult situations.

3 Prefer greater levels of stimulation to be able to engage with an activity.

Interestingly, the numbers of introverts and extroverts in various populations are about equal (see the article referenced below). Most studies mentioned in this article dealt with introversion and extroversion as if they were separate categories.

In reality, there’s a sliding scale from introversion through to extroversion. And many people have some characteristics of both.

However at work, introverts often find the noise and social contact harder to deal with.

Unrecognised issues at work

So lots of unrecognised issues in the workplace may lower the productivity of introverts.

Introverts function best in quiet, peaceful conditions. They often loathe the modern trend of open-plan work spaces.

Working at home during the pandemic has been great for many introverts (if they don’t have children to care for).

They’re able to think more deeply, and produce work of higher quality than in a noisy office.

So extrovert bosses take note!

The focus of introverts is shattered by other workers yelling into their phones. In addition, the endless small talk drains our energy and reduces productivity.

If you want the best our of more introverted workers, give them peace and quiet. 

Unhelpful pressure to perform

Group exercises can also be a strain for introverts. They like to process information from all angles before speaking up. They’re more creative when they can immerse themselves in the details of a situation. That means they may not perform their best in group environments.

Unfortunately, extroverted people tend to be the ones steering group agendas. They’re often more vocal in putting forward their ideas.

So introverts may not agree with the sometimes superficial approach presented. But they also may not want to disagree in front of the group. Instead they’d rather state their opinions more privately.

However, introverts are pressured to come up with instant solutions in crises. This can often produce knee-jerk decisions, that in turn lead to further problems.

The solution?

Allow a little more time for everyone to reflect on the pros and cons of various options. Then allow people to report privately if they wish. Team leaders can summarise these ideas when gathering more responses in group sessions.  

Nurture introverts and extroverts

So workplaces would benefit from nurturing both introverts and extroverts. This would take advantage of the strengths of both. Introverts be proud of your great qualities!

Of course, extroverts excel in connecting with and inspiring others. They may initiate creative associations between individuals, that may not have occurred otherwise.

Extroverts may see also more of the “big picture”, and so enjoy initiating new projects. However, they may be less likely to foresee problems, or to follow a project to the end.

On the other hand, these are skills that introverts tend to do well.

So the strengths of introverts and extroverts can be complementary. At present, however, workplaces are set up to suit only half the population. And that seems counterproductive.

Rich inner world of introverts

There are other benefits to being an introvert.

Like many introverts, my inner world is rich and exciting. It’s peopled with characters, fictional and historical, from all eras. And these characters happily share their knowledge, and are endlessly wise and tolerant.

In fact, they’re often more fascinating than the people around me. Their thoughts and beliefs illuminate and make sense of the world. And just reading about different families and cultures fosters empathy with others.

Introverts, be proud of your awareness and sensitivity to others. 

Introverts value their circle deeply

Most introverts are happy with a few trusted people around them. They may also have a range of acquaintances, whose company they enjoy occasionally. But they don’t feel the need to impress others, or to chat superficially with “friends” on social media.

Introverts value the close friends and family they do have.

Over the years I’ve developed a group of friends with similar characteristics and values. We’re all independent, and immersed in our own projects and plans.

None of us is offended if time passes without much contact. When we do meet, we pick up where we left off and have a great time. But that social contact sustains us for weeks or even months.

Less need for stimulation

So introverts don’t need to meet new people all the time, or to spice up their lives with drugs and alcohol. Instead they gain pleasure from the inner workings of their minds. They enjoy thoughtful conversations, and quiet time to reflect and pursue their interests.

Introverts are more energised and engaged in their own space. They often have a clear vision of their aspirations, and protect their time and energy to pursue them.

How would they achieve this if their main focus was socialising? Even meeting new people often leads to repetitive small talk. And that’s time that could be spent fulfilling your goals.

Ultimately what introverts do has meaning for them, if not for others, and vice versa. 

But that’s OK. We’re all different, with different needs.

So if this has touched a nerve with you, don’t hide yourself any more.

Accept and be proud of your inner introvert. 

(Reference for article mentioned above: Introvert vs Extrovert: A look at the spectrum and psychology.)

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