How Introverted Are You?

Solitude matters, for some, it’s the air they breathe.—Susan Cain

Do you feel drained sometimes after being in a large group of people? Have you ever made plans to go to a party and then back out at the last minute because the idea of socializing in a large group sounds exhausting? Do you ever crave being alone and curling up with a book or writing in your journal? If so, you may be more introverted.

Introversion is a personality style characterized by preferring the inner life of the mind over the outer world of other people. An idea originally popularized by Carl Jung, some form of the introversion/extroversion concept shows up in many personality models. Studies show that 30%– 50% of the population is more introverted. Research has shown that more introverted people have increased sensitivity to feeling overstimulated and that more extroverted people crave that stimulation. Many introverted people feel overstimulated or flooded when they’re in large groups or noisy environments.

Many people who are more introverted identify with at least some, if not many of the following characteristics. They tend to

  • Seek less stimulation
  • Recharge and reflect in quiet environments
  • Think before speaking
  • Value one-on-one interactions with friends
  • Favor independence
  • Avoid being the center of attention
  • Value deep experiences

More extroverted people will tend to

  • Seek greater stimulation
  • Get energy from being around people
  • Think out loud
  • Prefer larger social network
  • Thrive in teams or crowds
  • Enjoy being the center of attention
  • Value broad experiences

In her book Quiet, Susan Cain explores how our culture that embraces and encourages extroversion, which often makes more introverted people feel isolated or like something is wrong with them. Many believe this problem dates back to the early 1900s when people started moving away from farms and into cities. According to historian Warren Sussman, we moved from a “culture of character” toward a “culture of personality.” This shift was strengthened by trends in advertising, the attention put on celebrities, and even psychological thinking at that time.

This culture shift toward extroversion has negatively impacted people who are more introverted in many ways, particularly children and teens, whose parents are often told by teachers, “If only they would raise their hand more.” Adolescents are surrounded by a culture that communicates that being popular is all about how many friends you have. Social media has only increased this issue, with friend counts, numbers of likes on posts, and influencers all playing a role in our child’s assessment of what matters.

Being more introverted can also impact relationships, parenting styles, and workplace relationships. If you and your partner have opposite personality styles, this can cause conflicts and disagreements. It is difficult to understand and meet each other’s needs when your partner‘s needs are different from your own. Your partner may need to go to a party to relax and let go of stress, while that is the exact reason you want to stay home and read! As a parent, if your child has a style opposite yours, you may find it hard to relate to and understand their needs. And at work, more introverted people are likely to struggle with group projects, being expected to sit in an open office environment with no privacy or chance to reflect, or feeling pressure to meet up for happy hour after work.

Being in a culture that celebrates and rewards extroversion can sometimes cause introverted persons to think there’s something wrong with them. More introverted people sometimes

  • Assume they are unusual
  • Have a hard time honoring their needs
  • Apologetically confess they are “anti-social”
  • Feel they are boring
  • Beat themselves up about not joining in
  • Feel like they are missing out, even when they didn’t want to go
  • Feel like something is wrong with them

If you can relate to some of these thoughts and feelings, it may be extremely helpful to get counseling and guidance on how to reduce your feelings of embarrassment or even shame about your introversion.

If you are an introverted person, what is the best strategy to help yourself recuperate from overstimulating situations and reduce feelings of shame?

Here are some strategies for finding comfort or “restorative niches”:

  • Music
  • Quiet places
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Creating something on your own
  • Taking a walk
  • Finding your “sweet spot” with regard to stimulation and socializing

One of the best things you can do for yourself is learn how much stimulation is OK and how much is too much, that is, finding your sweet spot. It’s also critical to learn ways to help yourself recuperate when overstimulated to assist in refueling your power source. People who are introverted can sometimes alienate themselves from their own power source due to feelings of shame or embarrassment, instead of embracing it as part of who they are.  The bottom line: understand and accept that you may need time to recover and regain your energy.

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