What does it really mean to be an introvert?
A lot of people think they know, but they seldom do. Unless someone is an introvert themselves, it can be really hard to understand the truth behind introversion and why it’s important to so many people. Especially with COVID-19 and all of the time we’ve spent quarantined, society has provided us with a lot of misconceptions about introverts — like the fact that this pandemic and social distancing has been easier for them. Society, in reality, has been pushing false notions about introverts for years.
I’m a self-identified introvert, and here are 4 of the biggest misconceptions that I see people making about introversion on the daily.
1. Introverts are antisocial.
Introverts (or, at least, most of them) aren’t antisocial. Of course, I suppose there are some introverts out there who might be, but being antisocial isn’t a side effect of being an introvert, it’s just another personal characteristic that really has nothing to do with introversion at all. A lot of people believe that introverts are antisocial just because they cherish their alone time, but this is a very narrow perspective. Introverts enjoy time alone — and some may even prefer it — but we are in no way antisocial. As an introvert, I love going out and being with friends. I really enjoy the time that I spend with other people. I like parties, barbecues, going to festivals and concerts and fairs. I rarely get overwhelmed by crowds. But at the end of the day, what truly brings me energy is being alone. I just need to have a balance between the two in order to maintain a healthy relationship with myself.
2. Introverts enjoy time alone more than they enjoy time with people.
This is a tricky one, because it’s certainly possible that some introverts out there do enjoy alone time more than they enjoy social time. However, in my experience (and in the experience of other introverts that I know), this is a lot less common than it may seem. Being an introvert doesn’t equal being solitary all the time and preferring to minimize interaction. Being an introvert doesn’t equal a hatred for social settings. In fact, it’s quite the contrary — a lot of introverts (including myself) enjoy and really look forward to social outings and time with friends and being in public. We enjoy that as much as anyone else. But the difference between us and extroverts is that we don’t get our energy from that. A lot of extroverts enjoy their time with others and feel energized by it, whereas introverts, as much as we love to be social, do not feel energized by social time. Sometimes it can even make us feel mentally depleted, even if it was 100% enjoyable. But we can’t help it. That’s why we need our alone time to cherish and recharge.
3. Introverts are shy and even awkward.
In a lot of movies and books, introverts are depicted as shy, demure, awkward people. In conversation, they have trouble coming up with things to talk about. They are seldom tactful in social situations and tend to say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing around other people. But keep in mind — introversion isn’t the same as social difficulties or social anxiety. Being an introvert, to reiterate, just means that we get energy from being alone and we need time alone to recharge. Introverts — just like their extrovert counterparts — can be intelligent, polite, interesting, exciting, and fantastic at making conversation. They can be very social people with lots of friends who excel at interacting with others. Just because time with others isn’t a source of their energy doesn’t take away an introvert’s ability to have positive interpersonal intelligence.
4. Introverts are selfish.
This is my favorite one. I’ve heard this myth a lot in my lifetime. When I was younger, friends would call me selfish for not wanting to hang out with them when I needed alone time. When I was having a depressive episode and needed alone time to help myself heal, lots of people around me would proclaim that I was selfish, and give me unsolicited advice. “Social time would help you a lot, and it can go a long way,” they’d say. “You need to be considerate of others. It’s just not nice to turn people down just because you feel like being alone.” But I disagree. Why can’t we turn people down to be alone? It shouldn’t be an issue unless it’s happening all the time. In reality, we are just taking care of ourselves and our mental health, the same way that extroverts do when they seek social interaction to help them cope with what’s going on in their lives. No one should be shamed for doing what’s right for them. And before people judge, it’s necessary to pursue some education about what introversion means and how to support introversion in friendships.
So there it is: the 4 biggest myths (that I’ve known in my life) about introverts. Every single one of them is a fallacy. There may be some introverts that fit that mold, but if they do, it’s because their personality characteristics align with those principles and not just because they are an introvert. There are lots of myths circling around out there that can be exemplified by a handful of people, but that doesn’t mean it’s fair to generalize about a whole population — especially if we aren’t educated or aren’t a part of it — based on that tiny sample size.
Both introverts and extroverts have the same goals: to take care of their mental health, recharge and energize, and foster meaningful relationships with others.
So let’s start treating each other like people and respecting boundaries — rather than hyper-analyzing the habits and motives that make us different.