It’s hip to be an introvert these days.
Who would have known 10 years ago that being an introvert in 2013 would be cutting edge?
For those of us who lived through the painful report cards comments such as “Does not play well with others,” “Does not participate in class discussions,” this golden era of introversion celebration is a vindication of sorts. At the very least, it is a much-needed conversational thread in the social fabric.
A quick scan of the headlines and blogs of the day will evidence that the world is taking notice that one-third of the population lives, plays and accomplishes without fanfare. “23 Signs you’re Secretly an Introvert,” has exploded all over Facebook this week and generated over 2,000 comments at the Huffington Post where it first appeared. The Post also published “6 Reasons Why You Should Appreciate Introverts,” in their teen section, and the Facebook page, Introverts Are Awesome, is nearing the 40,000 follower mark.
We can thank Susan Cain who brought introversion front and center in her bestselling book, “Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.” Since its debut in January 2012, America can’t stop talking about introverts: who they are, how they function, how they contribute. “The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World,” by Sophia Dembling, and “Quiet Influence: the Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference,“ by Jennifer Kahnweiler, PhD, are also fueling the “quiet” revolution.
I lived through an awkward adolescence and young adulthood as a fake extrovert to avoid the geek, nerdy, anti-social label in school. I am thankful now that I can breathe and just be.
The classic definition of introvert/ extrovert is circulating, but to sum it up: extroverts are outward focus and derive energy from social interactions and settings, while introverts are inner-focused and are energized by introspection and solitude. As with any classification, these are dominant traits and tendencies, not iron-clad. Don’t send me hate mail.
While it’s great that all this attention is being focused on people who don’t crave attention, it has also resurrected some myths. Jumping into the fray here, I look at five misconceptions about introverts. There are others, but these five are insidious and just really annoy me.
Introverts need to be cured and come out of their shell.
Why? This view reflects a faulty and arrogant assumption that extraversion is superior and more desirable. Generally speaking, introverts are reflective thinkers who provide the big vision while extroverts are the dynamos and networkers that bring it to life. The world needs both. In fact, some stats note that in groups of gifted people, as high as 60 percent are introverts. If these people were “cured” the world would be deprived of many a musician, writer, artist, philosopher, mathematician, inventor, etc.
If one more person tells me that I am a dweeb for not being at the football game on Friday night, or tells my creative, graphic designer daughter that she just needs to come out of her shell, I will write them in my novel in an unflattering light, and she will Photoshop their picture into a freak of nature.
Introverts can’t function in an extroverted world
If that were true then every introvert you know would be dead or raptured. While education and work environments favor extroverts, today’s world has empowered introverts in ways that are tailored to their strengths. Social media has been a boom for introverts, a great equalizer providing platforms and venues for introverts who traditionally have been out-talked by extroverts. It allows introverts to be part of a conversation where they can think and reflect without the pressure to answer right away, a classic introvert trait. But even before modern technologies, introverts have not only functioned in an extroverted world, they have flourished, all the way from Abraham Lincoln to Bill Gates.
If I told you I function extremely well as an introvert AND a reporter would your jaw drop a foot because, well, you know how can an introvert interview people because everyone knows they don’t talk?
You can close your mouth now.
Introverts are unbalanced because they are inner-focused
Actually, introverts are generally more balanced than extroverts precisely because they live in an extroverted world. Introverts navigate outward focused activities daily: work presentations, happy hour with the group, family gatherings, and collaborative team projects. It takes intentionality and discipline to set boundaries and seek solitude and silence. Introverts naturally do that, so they tend to have more of both external and internal influences in their life, while an extrovert would have less of the internal.
Introverts don’t make good friends because they are loners
Introverts don’t make good acquaintances because they aren’t comfortable with small talk or networking, which can make them seem like a loner or aloof. But they make fantastic friends because they are good internal processors and listeners who take time formulating answers. An introvert will truly hear a friend’s problem, think upon the why and wherefores instead of the offering the first piece of advice that comes into their heads.
Introverts are shy and lack confidence
Dembling points out that shyness can come from anxiety or discomfort whereas introversion has to do with choice: the decision to withdraw for a time to recharge. Shyness can also come from low self-esteem or lack of confidence, neither which are synonymous with introversion. It takes a confident person to be comfortable with just their own company. A confident person doesn’t always need to be the center of attention. Because introverts spend time ruminating, they often develop their ideas more fully and deeply, creating greater confidence in their vision or project when it’s time to present them publicly.
Whenever I have come up with any half-baked ideas, it’s probably because I was shutting down my inner-introvert and speeding through the creative process. I am sure there was an extrovert with a deadline to blame.
What do you think of the increased focus on introverts? Share in the comments.