Are you an introvert? Does it affect your life in a negative way? Do you feel as though being an introvert makes your life harder?
As you probably know, being identified as an introvert is very different to being identified as an extrovert. These are personality types, not mental health conditions. Psychiatrist, Carl Jung, first coined these terms in the 1920s. There is some evidence to suggest that introverts are more prone to being diagnosed with mental health issues, especially if a) they don’t fully understand what being an introvert really means, b) they haven’t tapped into the strengths of an introvert and c) they have trouble accepting who they truly are. As you will discover; however, being an introvert is very cool! If you knew how many famous people – world changers – were introverts you’d know you are a member of a highly valued and respected global community 😊.
So, what does it mean to be an introvert?
Characteristics of an introvert
If you imagine a temperament continuum, you will find introversion in its pure form at one end and extroversion, in its pure form, at the other end, with many variations* in between. As an introvert you tend to enjoy your own company, the quieter life and doing things one-on-one with another person or two. A crowd of people or a busy shopping centre are not things that you happily seek out. In fact, these situations tend to drain your energy.
Being an introvert does not mean you are by nature shy or lonely, although introverts can be shy and can feel lonely. You are often just more comfortable focusing on your ideas and thoughts rather than what is happening in the world around you.
Broadly speaking, introverts are like self-charging batteries; to do this, they go within which is why the real purpose of spending time alone is to recharge which enables introverts to step out into the more extroverted world outside the confines of their mind and home (see The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney). Extroverts, on the other hand, tend to recharge by ‘plugging in’ to external stimuli.
(*you can have introverts with well-developed extrovert skills, and you can have extroverts comfortable with being alone, etc.)
Are you an introvert?
Many people are introverts, so you are not alone. Even though introversion is different for everyone, introverts have similar behavioural patterns, for example, you:
- Need to take time to reflect
- Make considered decisions
- Enjoy being alone
- Retreat inside yourself to recharge your energy
- Feel tired when spending time in crowds
- Avoid working in groups if you can
- Need quietness to focus and concentrate
- Prefer to write than to talk
- Only have a few friends, but these are very close
- Are self-aware
- Solve problems using your imagination to visualise different outcomes.
Differences between introverts and extroverts
If you are an introvert, you process the world differently to someone who is an extrovert:
Sensitivity to dopamine
Introverts are more sensitive to dopamine, the feel good or happiness hormone in the brain. When you become overly stimulated by dopamine, it can be like a child high on too much sugar. But when you concentrate or use your mind, you feel good because your brain releases acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that releases happiness and contentment when you turn inwards.
Prefer the parasympathetic side of the nervous system
We all have a sympathetic and parasympathetic side to the nervous system. The sympathetic side stimulates the fright, flight or fight response which prepares your body for action. On the other hand, the parasympathetic side stores your energy and you feel relaxed, and acetylcholine will increase the blood flow to the front of the brain making you more alert.
While everyone uses both sides of their nervous systems at times, introverts prefer the parasympathetic side.
Process information differently
If you are an introvert, you may be someone who overthinks everything. This is because you process information differently to extroverts. Research shows you process information more slowly. Your brain is more complex than an extrovert’s brain and it takes longer to process information. In other words, compared to an extrovert, the information travels through many different parts of the brain, such as the:
- Left and right frontal lobes. These are responsible for planning, taking action and forming ideas as well as considering expectations and possible outcomes.
- Front insular. This is the area of the brain that picks up mistakes, processes empathy and emotions, and is responsible for self-reflection.
- Left hippocampus. It is the left hippocampus that marks information as personal and is the long-term memory storage area of your brain.
- Broca’s area or motor speech area. This area triggers self-talk and plans what you are going to say.
This may explain why it takes you longer to express yourself, take action, or make a decision.
Turn being an introvert into your superpower
Introverts and extroverts both have amazing characteristics. It is just that sometimes extroverts can, without realising it, overwhelm introverts who may then withdraw into themselves. Extroverts are easy to see but introverts can often feel somewhat invisible leading to feelings of not being heard, acknowledged, valued, whether in the home or the workplace. Getting to know yourself and learning how to tap into your introvert superpowers AND work WITH your introversion to maximise your potential, can be a real game changer!
Introverts are incredibly creative
Albert Einstein said, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”
A deep connection with your inner self can spark your creativity and innovative ideas.
While extroverts could be considered the movers and shakers out in the world, introverts might be said to be the innovators, those that inspire action through their offering of creative and innovative ideas. Extroverts and introverts, when focused in the same directions and with a mutual respect and understanding of their strengths, are very complimentary!
Coming back to being an introvert:
Contrary to some prevailing myths that introverts are anti-social, the truth is that introverts find people quite interesting; however, they do not have such a great need for social interaction for the purpose of socialising, thus allowing time to develop and hone your creative and innovative side. You usually do your best work when working alone. When you get in the ‘zone’ – your internal world – you can perceive and receive the world around you with greater curiosity and focus, clarity and less overwhelm. Many of the world’s greatest artists and innovators were and are introverts. You’d be surprised about how many seemingly extroverted performers are in fact, introverts. Famous introverts include:
- JK Rowling
- Dr Suess
- Bob Dylan
Introverts, because of the way they process information, can come up with very exciting ideas, sometimes ahead of their time, given the time and space to do so. True to temperament, quite often these ideas do not see the light of day, either because you have not yet fully developed the idea, so not ready to reveal, and/or because you have shared them and you have received push back and/or because you do not feel comfortable sharing them with those around you for other reasons. Sharing your ideas and creativity and innovation with others can be a very rewarding experience, when shared with the right people and at the right time. This is something introverts often seek guidance on as they can experience a lot of overwhelm about ‘putting themselves out there’ and can be overly concerned about how they will be received and feel shadowed by those more extroverted.
Introverts make powerful interpersonal connections
Introverts are often quietly discerning when it comes to forming friendships and relationships; while healthy discernment is a positive trait, this can transform into judgment and mistrust and a healthy reservedness can mutate into anxiety and, at times, paranoia. At its best, you tend to avoid meaningless chit chat and gossip in favour of cultivating relationships with more depth. At its worst you might avoid leaving the home and may, indeed, develop a dislike of people, generally. This is often an area someone with a introvert personality type would seek out therapy – to assist them with regaining healthy discernment and reservedness and regain confidence in, and permission for, their preference for deep connections rather than superficial, sporadic connections with people.
While you often prefer working and experiencing the world in solitude, people matter too. You may merely come to realise that connecting deeply with a select few is your preference and usually these connections materialise around a common interest, set of values, etc. Your friendships are not built on trivialities. For introverts, connecting with someone is an investment – an emotional and psychological investment. Your connections are powerful, based on shared beliefs, trust and mutual understanding of each other. You want friendships with people you can have deep, meaningful discussions with, as well as someone you can simply be your true self around, which can include being together without the need to talk or do things – just be at ease with each other and yourselves.
Introverts often develop very deep bonds that traverse time and space, even if you rarely see these individuals due to different life commitments; with these individuals you have a sense that you can trust them completely – you and they know that the relationship is fundamentally one of love and wellbeing.
Introverts take time to make decisions
Introverts do not usually make rash decisions; you take your time to analyse all possible solutions or outcomes before deciding what is/feels right for you. This means you carefully think everything through whether it is planning a holiday, changing jobs, dealing with finances and most other decision in life. At its best, you end up with the most preferred outcome; at its worst, you allow doubt and overthinking to run interference and might either ‘sit on the fence’, want others to make the decision, give up the desire/idea, decide against it or make a decision that someone else feels is best for you while instinctively knowing it isn’t. This is often why introverts seek out therapy – to assist them with decision making or rather, to assist them with knowing how their mind works, developing greater personal insight and building more confidence in their own decision making ability.
Some may become impatient with an introvert’s preference to take time to decide; however, it is good to know that, where confidence in self prevails, once you decide you back it no matter what. And this makes you an unstoppable force when working towards achieving your desires in life. The ability to then focus and commit is what then allows you to persevere with what you believe in, even while others may doubt you or give up. The ability of introverts to persevere and focus is why they often get results others thought were impossible. Focus is the key strength of those who advance society and challenge limiting beliefs about what we, as a human race, are capable of. You are part of a great global community of innovators.
Introverts excel academically
Introverts can excel academically. You are a deep thinker and love learning and your preference is often to completely devote your time to reading and studying alone. You are not as likely to let social activities distract you from your academic goals; however, at times you might feel it would be good to make friends, socialise, and network. Many smart, intelligent introverts recognise this in themselves and will often reach out for some therapeutic intervention to address this often difficult aspect of being an introvert student.
Most introverts prefer to have a deep understanding of what they are learning – in some ways they have no choice as the way they process information will take them this way. Learning to focus when under pressure of deadlines and external commitments is another reason introverts, at times, reach for therapy.
As an introvert you often prefer to create a spacious area to study in a quiet space that is neat and tidy. You can often lose yourself in study, reading, creating and so many introverts learn to set up a schedule for organised breaks, so they can sustain their focus without draining themselves. Many introverts reach for psychological strategies and skills to facilitate better focus.
Introverts are innovative leaders
As an introvert you are generally more aware when you are in tune with yourself, so you tend to be more sensitive to the effect of others upon you. As a leader, this can give you the upper hand as, when you learn to hone this skill in a way that doesn’t upset your internal equilibrium/connection with yourself, you can use this to gauge your team’s comfort or discomfort levels, be more detail oriented, inspire people to voice their ideas and be open to creative solutions offered by and within a team. Primarily, this is because of your innate capacity to inspire and your inspired preference toward forming positive, solution focused and proactive connections and so encouraging such in others. You are more likely to seek out the opinion and input of the quiet team members, understanding wisely that, while they may not speak up, they are often full of creative ideas and solutions.
Being a reserved and reflective leader has its advantages compared to an extroverted leader. You focus more on getting good results than on your ambitions. Introverts have a different measure of success than extroverts. Because you think differently, different stimuli trigger your reward system. Instead of being focused on professional recognition or advancement, although you may receive these, you care more about the productivity & satisfaction of your team and the quality of the work.
When you enjoy your work, your environment does not easily distract you. This is not because you disconnect from people or your surroundings. It is because you can better tune out what is going on around you because of your super ability to focus and disengage from distractions (sometimes to the frustration of others caught up in the flurry).
You will rarely be happy with the status quo – with mediocracy – and this inspires you to assess and reassess, to streamline the efficiency of the team so that they may achieve their goals. If, however, you have not taken time for yourself and find yourself overly stressed, emotionally depleted and psychologically inflexible, this approach can degenerate into perfectionism and dissatisfaction and your team will receive you as too intense and intolerant. This is one of the reasons introverts seek therapeutic support, so that they can get gain greater self-awareness around physical, emotional, and psychological ‘signs’ that they are in overload and need to take some time out.
When you are balanced and fully connected to the process, taking care of yourself, using healthy reflection and personal accountability, you work with your team in a way that allows them to feel they can help you with ideas and take ownership of the changes you then implement, because it builds a positive, growth oriented team economy, makes sense and, ultimately, gets good results. When the team runs this way, outsiders would be hard pressed to identify the introvert team leader as they quietly inspire others and often lead ‘from behind’.
Introverts are brilliant problem solvers
Introverts are brilliant problem solvers. You ask question after question to get to the heart of the matter, and to get the perspective and input of others. Puzzles intrigue many of you. It is your preference not to rely on someone else to come up with solutions, although you truly value input, creative expression, and solution oriented discourses.
You are self-reliant and depend on yourself to find the best solution to a problem. Often your attention to detail means you find brilliant solutions compared to your more extroverted counterparts, because you take the time to consider all the options and possible outcomes.
At its worst, you can become mind-locked or stuck, due to your preference to not seek advice, guidance, input or advise possibly due to finding it difficult to express yourself. This is one of the reasons many introverts seek out a psychologist as they wish to learn strategies and upskill their communication style.
While extroverts are often more comfortable revelling in the spotlight, it is easy to forget that many public speakers, inspirational guides, actors, artists, performers, etc., are introverts. Keanu Reeves, for example, has a lot to say about being a healthy, positive, and self-accepting introvert.
When in conflict with your introverted nature, you may be more prone to developing anxiety and depression. This really applies to anyone – extrovert or introvert – who has not yet accepted themselves/compares themselves to others, etc. Many introverts and extroverts seek out a therapist to develop a better relationship with themselves and sometimes the first goal of therapy is to actually get to know your Self. The willingness to set upon the path of self-knowledge and self-empowerment is the key to accessing your introvert superpowers. It really is quite wonderful, once you begin to believe in your Introvert Self and come to realise there is a lot of untapped potential deep within.
By nature, you are incredibly creative and make deep connections with others. You are less comfortable with gossip or chat for the sake of socialising, preferring deep conversations with the people you connect with.
You have a strong preference to slow down the decision-making process in your life – being pushed for a decision often sends you into retreat. You take a lot of factors and scenarios into consideration – the introvert brain processes information differently – before deciding or finding the best solution to a problem. At times you can appear to be making an impulsive decision, but usually by the time your decision pops out, you have spent a lot of time quietly processing in the background so for you it is not an impulsive decision.
When studying or training you usually excel. You like creating the time to study in quiet solitude so you can focus and immerse yourself in your topic of interest. Also, you have the makings of an innovative, reflective, human centred leader because you tend to focus on team cohesion, quality work and productivity rather than your ambitions to further yourself in life. When you do succeed, you often prefer to revel in an quiet personal pride.
If you are struggling with understanding and accepting your introverted personality, we hope that reading this will give you some idea of how much value introverts bring to our world. You will never be an extrovert, but you can develop extroverted skills and probably already have them. Embrace who you are because you are worth embracing!
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For those women who accept being an introvert and want more, we also have a Dynamic Woman’s Life Coach who can help you tap further into your introvert superpowers.
Why not browse our website and Contact us today to discover how we can help you begin to learn how to tap into your introvert superpowers to improve your life and your future!
Some Interesting Resources:
The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People can Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney
The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child by Marti Olsen Laney
The Highly Sensitive Person by Dr Elaine Aaron (www.hsp.com)