Introvert Confronts Stereotypes

February 22, 2010

This summer, I diagnosed myself with a condition I knew had been plaguing me since birth. This condition has affected my relationships with other people, my moods, my thought processes and even my sleeping habits. It is a condition few people will admit they have; some aren’t even aware that they have it. But this summer I finally had to accept it: I am an introvert.

I am not alone. An estimated one in four people are introverted by nature. Signs and symptoms of introversion include being re-energized by spending time alone; listening more than speaking but able to talk for long periods on a topic of interest; being overstimulated easily; and needing more down time and rest than most.

Introvert is not usually a term of endearment, which is why it took me 21 years to finally accept this fact about my personality type. Attempts to define introversion usually end up sounding as if introverts are solely consumed with themselves or dislike people in general. Merriam-Webster defines introversion as “the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life.” It sounds like a psychological disorder or at best narcissistic.

This is far from true. There have been many distinguished introverts known for their kindness and their contributions to society: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Michael Jordan, Warren Buffett and Steven Spielberg, just to name a few.

While introversion may have a negative stigma, extraversion has become synonymous with having good social skills and a charismatic personality. The belief that the difference between introverts and extroverts is their ability to carry a conversation is another misconception. The main difference between the two personality types is introverts get their energy from solitude while extroverts get their energy from being around people. This does not mean all introverts are antisocial. Johnny Carson, Dave Letterman, Steve Martin and Jerry Seinfeld, all famous entertainers and comedians, are also famous introverts.

Learning that introversion, rather than an affliction, is actually a personality trait shared by many successful and influential people certainly changed my thinking on the subject. Desiring to be something you are not is an incredible waste of time. It is amazing the difference in my outlook when I learned something I once thought of as a weakness is actually a source of strength. So now I can say I am cured not of being introverted but of thinking being introverted needs to be cured.


One Response to “Introvert Confronts Stereotypes”

  1. Brent Says:

    Glad you wrote this. I think the two biggest misconceptions about introverts are that they (a) don’t like people and (b) are the same thing as “shy.” Introverts may love being with people and have very close relationships—but they need time alone to process and rest. And introverts definitely aren’t shy—you gave a few good examples of some famous introverts.

    I know how you feel!

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