Many misconceptions abound when it comes to introverts. Here are some myth-busters that set the record straight
Despite best efforts to correct misconceptions around introversion, several myths about introverts prove to be pervasive. The old stereotypes persist: introverts are shy, whereas extroverts are confident and outgoing. Introverts would rather stay home than go to a party, whereas extroverts thrive when they are the centre of attention. Sound familiar?
So what is the truth? Introverts are people who feel energised by their own company and consider solitude to be an opportunity to recharge, whereas extroverts feel energised by interactions with other people. Clinical psychologist Ryan Cooper explains that it all stems from the realm of personality theory, and Carl Gustav Jung in particular. Then the mother-daughter team of Myers and Briggs came along. “They expanded Jung’s ideas. They looked at introverts as an attitude that is more reserved and questioning, where introverts pause to explore new environments. Their minds are more inwardly directed,” Cooper says. And yet so many myths about introverts persist…
Let’s break down five of the myths surrounding introversion.
1. Introverts don’t like people
“In no way less or more than extroverts would or wouldn’t like a person! Introverts aren’t comfortable charging into situations and making their thoughts and opinions known right away. They enter gently, whereas an extrovert might bluster in. Hence, they may seem offish or aloof when that isn’t the case,” Cooper says.
There is a difference between not liking people and not feeling energised by people. Introverts have close friendships and meaningful romances like anyone else. They just might be more tired after a day of socialising. “A group holiday would probably be nice for someone extroverted, but I would need to take a holiday after that holiday, even if I went on it with the people I like most,” says self-described introvert Chris, 31.
2. Introverts are shy
It is possible to come across as immensely confident and be exhausted by spending time with people. For Lila, 29, who works as a teacher, “the exhaustion comes from being ‘on’ for people. I am always told that I’m not a ‘real’ introvert because of how confident I seem, but the reality is I need to be alone after a day of work because of all the social elements of my job.”
Introverts can be as confident as any extrovert—it just depends on the company, and it depends on energy levels. “Shyness is a fear of negative evaluation, more of a form of social anxiety, rather than it being about introversion, which is how one spends one’s social energy,” says Cooper.
"Introverts can be as confident as any extrovert–it just depends on the company, and it depends on energy levels"
3. Introverts prefer solitude
Something that restores energy isn’t necessarily a preference. Some people really enjoy sleep—others feel frustrated by losing eight hours of potential productivity each night. Regardless of preference, humans need sleep; and introverts need solitude to truly recharge their batteries. It doesn’t mean they prefer it. It’s just necessary.
“Solitude is where they recharge and centre, ground and come back to themselves after being overstimulated in environments where there is a lot going on”, says Cooper.
4. Introverts hate parties
Your introverted friend may well be the life of the party—but what you may not see is the recovery period needed afterwards. “Introverts may feel overstimulated by a lot of people and all the things going on at a party and may need to be alone after to recharge, not from an anxiety perspective but more about managing social energy,” says Cooper.
Some introverts hate parties; others love them. The commonality is needing to recharge without people after a big event. “I’m an introvert but my friends keep asking me to MC their weddings. Like, I’ll do it, and I’ll nail it, but just don’t come looking for me the day afterwards,” says Greg, 35, who has an unwanted gift when it comes to public speaking.
5. Introverts are better followers than leaders
The ability to lead is nuanced and has more to do with your capacity to inspire the people around you than your energy levels based on social interaction. Introverts can be good leaders or bad leaders. Their jobs might cause them to interact with lots of people constantly. It won’t impact their capacity to drive a business forward, but it will impact how tired they are when they get home from work each day.
“Introverts are often ‘idea’ people,” says Cooper. “They can also be intense and passionate. Famous introverts include Jung himself, Einstein, and Lincoln, all progressive, intelligent leaders, so introversion isn’t a disadvantage.”
So there you have it. You can be introverted and enjoy a good party; you can be introverted and love being the centre of attention. The quality that makes you an introvert is your desire to get some time on your own afterwards to recharge those batteries.
"You can be introverted and love being the centre of attention"
“Introversion is just one aspect of personality, so there are other things that each individual has unique to themselves that motivates behaviour,” says Cooper.
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