Dispelling Ten Myths About Introverts

As most SVP readers know far too well from first hand experience, the myths about introverts abound.  If you get tired of being misunderstood by friends, family, and coworkers, consider printing this list out and handing it to them next time they insist you really do want to attend that company picnic or huge party.

1. We are not all shy.

Shyness is actually a trait that is quite separate from being an introvert, and while some introverts are shy, there are also some very confident introverts, just as there are many shy extroverts.  Shy involves being nervous or timid about social situations, or having a fear of being humiliated or in the spotlight.  Introvert means that we draw our emotional and psychic energy from solitude.  VERY different things.

2. We are not anti-social.

Quite the contrary!  We have many close, dear friends, but we also recognize that being with people just for its own sake does nothing for us and, in fact, drains our batteries right quick.  We love to connect with people, but not just mingle with hordes of people for its own sake.

3. Introversion is not a mental health issue.

In spite of the American Psychiatric Association’s current inclination to view it that way, introversion is a temperament, a way of being in the world, it is most decidedly not a mental health issue.  Unfortunately, as our psychiatric profession puts more and more emphasis on medication and external behavioral therapies, and total conforming behavior, that distinction is getting lost.  I think the argument could very easily be made that the drawbacks they often attribute to being an introvert come from introversion being MISUNDERSTOOD, rather than introversion itself.

4. We don’t not like people.

We DO like people!  In fact, we love quite a lot of them.  We just like to do it on our own terms.  In fact, part of our desire to recharge is so that we may connect with those we love in a more meaningful way.

5. We do contribute to society.

Puh-lease!  Artists, writers, philosophers, therapists, the sciences—all these fields are dominated by introverts.  There are also introverts in just about every field you can name, from the clergy to teachers to nurses to pilots and engineers.  Well, maybe not salesmen, although I bet there are some introverts out there who have had very successful sales careers.  The thing is, the very thing that makes us introverts—that inward focus and desire to surf the world of ideas as if it were one giant wave is what makes our contribution to society so valuable.

6.  Introversion is not a weakness that must be overcome.

It is not something we need to be cured of, or coaxed out of, or shamed from.  Just FYI, many of the traits we introverts have are (or at least were) considered virtues and the signs of a contemplative mind.

7. We do not have intimacy issues.

In fact, introverts have some of the closest, most in depth, intimately connected relationships on the planet.  Mostly because they do not look for connecting for its own sake, or collect acquaintances like baseball cards, but because when they do spend the time and energy to have a relationship, it will be a deeply meaningful one.

8.  We are not broken extroverts.

Really.   We’re not.  Stop trying to fix us already.  Remember how years ago they used to try to ‘fix’ left handed people so that they would become right handed?  Yeah, that didn’t work out so well either and created LOTS of problems.

9. Introversion is not the same as social anxiety.

Introversion is simply the need to recharge in solitude, we simply get our energy from solitude.  Being around people does not make us anxious, although it can make us bored, annoyed, overwhelmed, and just plain tired.  And again, a lot of social anxiety can be traced to trying to force introverts to do something that does not come naturally for them.  Sort of like putting an extrovert in solitary confinement.  We don’t claim they have solitude phobias, do we? (Although, come to think of it, perhaps we should.)

10. Introverts are not self-absorbed.

We are self aware, which is an entirely different thing.  The thing is, when we are alone, we’re not just thinking of ourselves and our feelings, we’re thinking of you and your feelings, the human condition, society, spiritual matters, in general, pondering deep thoughts.  Sometimes those include our selves and many times they emphatically do not.

R.L. LaFevers is a writer and student of human nature, as well as co-proprietor of Shrinking Violet Promotions.

Dispelling Ten Myths About Introverts appears here by permission.

[image via Flickr/Creative Commons]

on 04/4/11 in featured, Society | 1 Comment | Read More

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