Being called an “introvert” used to send me into a major existential crisis. I made it my mission in life to prove to everyone around me that I was NOT (I repeat NOT) an introvert. I equated introversion with shyness, brokenness, and being unlikeable. It wasn’t until I discovered the true definition of introversion that I realized that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert. In fact, I’d say it’s one of my greatest assets. I’m never bored because I have such a strong inner life. I don’t rely on others to make me happy. And I have the ability to turn inward when there’s chaos raging on around me. Those are just a few of the reasons I feel fortunate to be an introvert.
One of my greatest strengths was once twisted into something I was ashamed of; simply because myself and others didn’t understand it. Now that I realize the power of introversion, I want to put an end to all of the harmful misconceptions that are floating around. I want every introvert in the world to see their introversion as beautiful; not something that needs to be changed. And I want every extrovert in the world to stop assuming that extroversion is preferable to introversion.
6 Harmful Misconceptions About Introversion That Everyone Should Know
1. All introverts are shy and all shy people are introverts.
The most common misconception about introverts is that we’re all shy. Shyness is often confused for introversion and vise versa. In fact, the words are used so interchangeably that people automatically think that just because someone is introverted, they’re shy. And that just because someone is shy, they’re introverted. While some people, like myself, are shy and introverted, that’s not the case for everyone and the two traits are not connected.
Shyness is a fear-based trait that stems from anxiety and worrying about what other people think. Introversion is an inborn trait that has to do with how you recharge. Extroverts recharge by spending time with people, while introverts recharge by spending time alone. Neither is wrong or right. They’re just different. And both introverts and extroverts can be shy, quiet, anxious, or reserved.
An introvert may feel more comfortable watching from the sidelines when their energy has been drained by socialization (or when they’re in a people watching mood) and therefore may come off as shy. But that doesn’t mean they are shy. In fact, they might even be “loud,” around certain people or when they’re fully recharged.
2. Introverts don’t have/want friends.
While extroverts may be more concerned with meeting a lot of people, introverts are often more concerned with strengthening the relationships they already have. Introverts believe in quality over quantity because they don’t want to waste any of their precious recharging time on people they aren’t comfortable or happy around. There are all sorts of introverts (just think of how many variations there are on the MBTI scale). The value they place on their friendships has more to do with their individual personalities than on being an introvert.
Some introverts, like myself, have a hard time keeping up with friendships even though they really value them. They might forget that they need to put in an effort to keep their relationships strong (especially if they could go months without talking to someone but still feel close to them). But there are other introverts that are great at keeping their relationships healthy. Just like an extrovert may neglect a certain friendship because they’re off making other friends, an introvert might neglect a relationship because they’re spending time alone. Introversion has nothing to do with how great of a friend a person is.
3. Introverts don’t make good leaders.
Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts made a powerful point when she said, “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” Just because someone is quiet doesn’t mean they aren’t a great leader. In fact, someone being less commanding in a group setting can actually make for a great leader. Many introverts I know are able to state their ideas and move a project along well without being too aggressive, which makes other members of the group feel more comfortable with expressing their ideas. If extroverts give introverts the chance to speak up, they’ll be surprised by how much introverts have to say.
Introverts also spend a lot of time in their heads and tend to remain quiet unless they have something to say that they’ve thought through thoroughly. That means that when they make a decision or share an idea, it’s usually a pretty well-thought-out beneficial one. I’m not saying it always is, but often times that’s the case. There are several leaders (ahem, Donald Trump) who would benefit from implementing this “think before you talk” method.
4. Introverts want to be extroverts.
For me personally, this one is the farthest from the truth! As a child, I was happiest when I was spending time by myself. And honestly, that hasn’t really changed (although I do love spending time with my husband and family, of course). My idea of “fun” is staying home, writing in my journal, watching a movie, reading a book, or planning out my week. An extrovert might hear my “fun” plans for the evening and think it’s totally boring. Our ideas of fun are probably very different- but that doesn’t mean one is right and one is wrong. And it definitely doesn’t mean that either of us is having less of a good time.
That’s why telling an introvert that they should socialize more in order to be happy would be the same as an introvert telling an extrovert to calm the heck down and stay home so they can have a good time. When extroverts tell introverts that socializing more will make them happy, they’re assuming that extraversion is preferable to introversion. If you ask me, that’s pretty disrespectful. They may be trying to help, but it can come off as a little insensitive and egotistical.
Most introverts are absolutely 100% happy with being introverts. The only thing that might make them unhappy about being an introvert is that this world caters to extroverts and there are a whole lot of extroverts trying to change them. If you’re an introvert feeling pressured to socialize more, just remember Susan Cain’s powerful quote, “Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.”
5. Introverts are cocky and self-absorbed.
My husband is one of the sweetest, most humble people I’ve ever met, yet because he doesn’t act extremely outgoing in social situations, he’s been labeled as “cocky” more than a few times. This assumption is totally off-base. Introverts may not always talk a lot or act overly enthused to be somewhere but that doesn’t mean they’re prideful or unfriendly. The truth is that as introverts, we internalize a lot of our emotions, so we aren’t always expressing things outwardly. It also requires a lot of energy for us to socialize. If we’re being quiet, there’s a good chance we’re internalizing our own emotions or are energy is completely drained.
I haven’t been labeled cocky yet (at least not to my face) but I have been labeled “self-absorbed” for wanting alone time. That’s like telling someone they’re selfish for wanting to eat. Introverts need alone time in order to be happy. Ever since my mom realized this about me a couple of years into high school, she’s texted me every once in awhile to make sure I’m getting the proper amount of alone time that I need in order to be happy. I’m fortunate enough to have parents who respect my introversion, but a lot of people aren’t. It’s hurtful that these negative labels are thrown on introverts just because they’re different and don’t fit the “norm.”
6. Introverts don’t like people.
I recently saw a quote that said something along the lines of, “I’m both an introvert and an extrovert. I love people but I also like my alone time.” The quote irked me a bit, simply because it gave into the misconception that all extroverts love people and all introverts hate them. The truth is that someone can be a full, 100% introvert and still love being around people. Introversion has nothing to do with how much someone likes other people. It’s simply a measure of how someone recharges. Extroverts get their energy from being around people, but that doesn’t mean they love people more.
I know plenty of extroverts who seem to hate just about everyone on the face of the earth… but because they don’t like being alone (and because they recharge from being around people), they continue to hang out with them. I know plenty of introverts who love being around people. But they need that time to recharge in order to spend quality time with the people they love. Introverts might give off the impression that they hate people because they spend a lot of time alone, but that’s not necessarily true. It’s important to remember that the definition of introversion has nothing to do with loving or hating people. And that every introvert is different; just like every extrovert is different.