A Peek into the World of Introversion

I’m a teenager sitting on my bed staring into space and contemplating life, the universe, and everything (by the way, the answer is 42).  My sister barges in; looks at me, then around the room, then back at me; crosses her arms; and slowly asks, “What. Are. You. Doing?”  To which I reply, “Just thinking.”  A contorted grimace appears on her beautiful face and she walks off declaring, “You are so weird!” 

“I am NOT weird!” I want to say.  “I’m . . . .” 

But I didn’t know what to say back then.  Now, I know.  I’m an INTROVERT. 

As the Encyclopaedia Britannica explains, introvert and extravert are basic personality types theorized by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung.  “An introvert is a person whose interest is generally directed inward toward his own feelings and thoughts, in contrast to an extravert, whose attention is directed toward other people and the outside world.” 

Some people think of introverts as simply shy persons, while extraverts must be people persons.  Others think introverts are quiet, and extraverts are talkative.  Some believe introverts are anti-social, and extraverts are party people.  All of these don’t really hit on the crux of introversion. 

I am not shy.  I am talkative (just ask my non-talkative husband!).  I like people.  But I am definitely an introvert. 

Katherine Myers and Isabelle Briggs, authors of the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator personality test, explain that introversion and extraversion refer to how a person gets his or her energy.  Do you feel energized or drained after spending time with a lot of people?  Do you recharge by having long stretches of alone time or by hanging out with others?  Do you like having a long list of pals and contacts or do you prefer a close circle of friends? 

It is estimated that 75% of the world’s population are extraverts, and only 25% are introverts.  (CORRECTION: 75/25 were the percentages being taught when I was getting a master’s degree in counseling; however, recent sources have found that introverts comprise 50.8% of the population; see MBTI.)  So there is a LOT of pressure placed on introverts to come out of their shell, stop being shy, and mingle at the party!  Some of that pressure is positive since a few introverts might be content to huddle in their basement with a book and a mini-fridge and emerge every two weeks to hit the grocery store or Laundromat. 

But what is hard for extraverts to understand is that while introverts enjoy a good party and like being around people, we’re exhausted at the end of it!  We need to go home, crawl under the bed, curl up like a fetus, and recharge in the quiet recesses of our minds.  Okay, it’s not that bad.  But that precious alone time helps us gear up for our people times! 

I am thrilled to have extravert friends, and at times I envy them.  They seem to keep going and going and have oodles and oodles of friends.  But I simply am not built that way.  Maybe that’s a good thing as a writer, since I don’t easily tire of being with merely myself and my words.  Then again, I genuinely enjoy people, so I make every effort to engage with others. 

In fact, it has become a huge goal of mine in the last several years to overcome my natural reservations around people, reach out, and engage in more relationships.  I feel complimented when people think I’m not an introvert because my stomach truly is churning the first time I meet someone; not out of fear, but new territory discomfort.  I love that I can speak publicly now without problems, even though it gave me nausea for the first couple of years that I did it.  

By the way, I live with family of four, and every last one of us is an introvert.  At times, we are all spread throughout the house, doing our own thing and recharging.  It’s oddly quiet then.  But I know plenty of people who married the opposite type, and it can be interesting to negotiate your different styles. 

Are you an extravert or an introvert?  How do you know?  Do you have close family or friends who are the opposite?   How do you handle your need to either be around people (extraversion) or get time alone (introversion) to recharge your battery?

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18 thoughts on “A Peek into the World of Introversion

  1. I struggle with this. Can one change as they get older? I think when I was younger I was an extrovert, I always wanted to be out and doing something with people or with friends. It was how I felt good about myself. Now that I'm older I feel exactly how you described–I still love those things, but now I'm exhausted and need alone time to recharge. It didn't used to be that way. Hmm. Interesting, indeed.

  2. Erin – I don't think personality is necessarily static. I've also known several moms who said that they became more introverted after having children. Maybe you'll revert when they all move out! Other personality traits for me have certainly changed.

  3. I love this definition. I'm not shy and I can lead and speak in public, but I am exhausted afterwards. I love being alone. Funny thing is, I used to think I was an extravert when I was younger, because I was naturally outgoing.

  4. I don't mind socializing online. I think that's because I can walk away at any moment. In person…I'd rather just be alone. And I mean alone. I only go out to crowded places when it's absolutely necessary. I do enjoy traveling and seeing new places, but if there's a big crowd, I'll go find an uncrowded place to absorb. Being in a crowd makes me very tired. I have a hard time focusing….yeah, I think I'm probably an introvert. Good example: We went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science a couple of weeks ago. We'd not eaten so we decided to eat at the McDonalds inside the museum before we saw the exhibit. We chose to go outside and sit (in the 100 degree heat) instead of sitting family style at a table with people we didn't know.

  5. I'm much more outgoing online than I am in person. I enjoy my alone time and doing things my way, on my time. I do wish my friends lived closer, but at the same time, I like not having to deal with a lot of people all the time. I suppose I'd be an introvert, but if I'm in the right mood, I do enjoy going out and doing something with a lot of people. I don't think you can always put someone into one category.Very interesting post, Julie!

  6. I'm an introvert and have been from young, I think. I'm usually the one who will be found squirrelled away with a book because all the other kids are too noisy and tiring (that could also have been me being anti-social).On the other hand I find that I'm really talkative – if I'm with a bunch of people I'm comfortable with. And I don't have a problem with public speaking and/or being on stage, though it's very, very draining.

  7. Like you, Julie, I need to recharge my internal batteries by going back to my comfort zone or anywhere else I can be alone for awhile in order to have renewed energy for being with people again. I would call myself an extrovert when I'm with others but I HAVE to have time to myself both before and after that. I'm not all "quiet" when I'm with other people I know, but in a crowd of strangers I tend to keep silent until talked to.Patti

  8. Love this post. I'm an introvert, married to an extrovert. And you're right, it gets interesting around here. When we get home from an outing, he's pumped and I'm exhausted. 🙂

  9. I'm an introvert, married to an extrovert. Our children are both introverts.I always wondered why I felt "icky" (for lack of a better word) after hosting a party or being in a large group of people for an extended period of time. It's so exhausting! In my dayjob I play an extrovert, which may be why I adore the solitude of writing each evening and weekend.Great post. 🙂

  10. I heard this "introvert drawing energy from being alone and extrovet drawing energy from being around people" idea a few years ago, and have conducted my own very UN-scientific study since then and all research supports this theory and I am a believer. I am also an introvert with a very active work-related social life so my husband and I have declared Sundays a day of rest and we hibernate at home and hardly even talk to each other! I did not know we were such a minority, though. Very interesting post and even more interesting comments!

  11. I've always said I'm an outgoing introvert. 🙂 It's just that I'm exhausted once I'm through mingling. In fact, I finally realized why I can't combine teaching (classroom of children) with other activities. I'd come home spent and it'd take the weekend to re-charge. Not good.I do think that we lean one way or another from birth. I just think that the different seasons of our lives draws out more activity than we would normally choose. For instance, my children are introverts at their core, but once they hit puberty they crave more social activities and friends. I believe this will be their lifestyle until their early twenties and then they'll slowly return to their "natural" introverted preferences.Even now, I can tell they aren't "recharging" when they are with their friends although they are social butterflies. (They'd never admit it either. LOL.)

  12. @woshushi – Amber, I'm an INFP as well! Happily, writer is listed as a great occupation for our personality type. :)I feel like I should add that introverts can also recharge with a few friends. They tend toward small circles, not crowds. But completely aloneness is not the only way to get energy. My one-on-one lunches with a close friend are definitely introversion-battery recharges.And I do think that personality fluctuates over time, but you likely don't shift too much on the continuum. Great comments, y'all! Thanks for coming by.

  13. I took a character workshop with Bob Mayer and one of the lessons explained the Myers Briggs test. According to the BMT, I am an Introvert because I tend to think before I act and I'm very internally motiviated. Another thing, groups drain me. I've always preferred to avoid group work as much as possible. I just thought that was because I'm a control freak.Don't mistake this for me being a bore – I have a very outgoing personality…weird, huh?

  14. Just thought you should correct an error in fact you made. According to Myers-Briggs, the percentage of introverts is actually about 50%. the 25% number is an outdated theory perpetuated by myth.

  15. Thank you, Ty. The 75/25 percentages were explicitly taught when I was getting my master's degree in counseling. (However, I should have rechecked my data before spouting off like nothing could have changed)! I did find resources to back up the 50% you stated. Thanks for the catch!

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