Spotting an Introvert
A normal day. My husband and I at the store, picking up last minute items for a birthday BBQ we are heading to. I chat with the couple behind me, commenting on the fun weekend they must be about to have given obvious camping supplies in their cart. My attention then turns to the cashier, where I tease about how her coffee cup is perfect product placement and I may have to visit that establishment later. Finally, I greet the young lady who is bagging, she shares my name and I have talked to before, asking how school was going. All the while my husband plays on his phone and completes the financial part of our transaction. Later at the party, I chat with several people, working my way around the crowd easily. While my husband sticks close to a few of his friends laughing and sharing inside jokes. Upon returning home I take my favorite book and settle into my corner, pausing now and then to answer a text. My husband turns on his computer and proceeds to play video games and listen to music until it is time for us to make dinner.
So which one of us is an introvert? The answer is me, and my husband is the extrovert. If you were incorrect you shouldn’t feel bad, however, you should reflect on why you reached that conclusion. Chances are, your decision was on false assumptions about introverts. These stereotypes are often seen on social media and depict an introvert as being a nerd, a gamer, shy, quiet and even socially awkward. On the other side, an extrovert is seen as social and outgoing. So if this is not true, how do we determine who is an introvert?
So What is an Introvert Really?
Scientifically speaking, whether a person is an introvert vs extrovert is determined by how a person recharges. In other words what drains you of your energy and what builds your energy back up. This is usually depicted by an introvert at a party becoming exhausted and leaving early or declining invites to social events; while the extrovert parties away. With this as the common representation its no wonder, the introvert has been looked at as something to fix. But the truth is there is nothing wrong with being an introvert.
It all comes down to stimulation. Introverts and extroverts process the world differently. Introverts tend to be highly sensitive to the world around them and can become overstimulated because of it. Looking back on the original example. In the store, I noticed the items in the couples shopping cart, the coffee cup, and the young ladies name. If asked at the moment I would have also been aware of the music, the children in the aisle one over, and smell of the floral display. My husband, the extrovert, on the other hand, noticed little to none of this. After the party instead, he was still well-energized finding no issue continuing to stimulate himself with music, video games and continuing conversations with friends. Me, on the other hand, felt drained and needed to recharge. A book offered me a focus and allowed me to block out all the other sights and sounds of the world around me. You can not spot an introvert from the outside.
If introverts are drained by stimulation and recharged by solitude, it stands to reason that they would choose to seek that solitude when able. Obligations such as work and families can already leave an introvert on empty, making additional social interactions overwhelming. It is important to remember that introvert does not equal anti-social, socially awkward, or social anxiety. The same way Extrovert does not mean confident or outgoing. These things are independent of each other and exist on a spectrum.
Example: X=Me O=Husband
Here you see that while I am an Introvert I am also very comfortable socially. My husband on the other hand is an extrovert who is slightly more on the side of uncomfortable socially, preferring to stick with only those who knows well.
These misconceptions can have very negative consequences.
- Not understanding your own needs for proper self-care.
- Creating negative stereotypes and pushing assumptions.
- Denying individuals the self-care they need.
- Using inaccurate ideas to create a false diagnosis.
Instead, we should work to eliminate the false idea of what an introvert is by educating those around us and challenging our own beliefs. Introverts are not nerds or socially inept and there is nothing “wrong” or “different” about being an introvert…Everyone deserves to find joy in their own way.
Check out the illustration below to see what an introvert sees.