How to accept being an introvert comes with its challenges. I love psychology and self-help books, so I had previously come across the terms introversion and extraversion.
The constructs were popularized by Carl Jung in his exploration of personality, which has become a central dimension in some human personality theories and has been a hot topic in psychology ever since.
According to Jung, extroversion is “an outward turning of libido”, whereas introversion is “an inward turning of libido”.
Consequently, the principal distinction between these two personality traits is that introverts usually prefer lower-stimulation environments, which is where they feel most alive and at peace, extroverts on the other hand strongly crave stimulation in order to feel their best.
I recently finished reading Susan Cain’s celebrated work ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’. The book explores at length the strengths and weaknesses of introversion. As I explore ways on how to accept being an introvert, as an introvert myself, many parts of the books made me feel validated, with affirmations that have helped me embrace my introverted nature and understand how I can leverage my personality more effectively.
How to accept being an introvert
Cain defends the case for introversion, challenging the notion that being an introvert is wrong. She reassured me that there is power in being an introvert as she advises the reader to abstain from thinking of introversion as something that needs to be cured.
She mentions that a third to a half of all individuals are introverts; though many have learned how to masquerade successfully as extroverts.
“Introverts living under the Extrovert ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are.”
The author surveys the ways in which introverted personalities manifest themselves in personal relationships and in the workplace, contending that society dramatically undervalues introverts. She makes suggestions on how to redress the balance and make the world more introvert-friendly.
“Whoever you are, bear in mind that appearance is not reality. Some people act like extroverts, but the effort costs them in energy, authenticity, and even physical health”.
Judged for being an introvert
When us introverts attempt to imitate extroverts, most egregiously, the stress of not being true to ourselves can deteriorate our mental and physical health. While most introverts might not fit the American model of a charismatic leader, i.e. someone who is poised, confident and talkative, this does not necessarily mean introverts make unsuccessful leaders.
Introverts too can be extremely successful under the right circumstances when given a chance to shine.
The author discusses a concept which I found particularly fascinating; that of high reactivity and low reactivity, which seem to begin at birth. In introverts, the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that controls emotions, appears more reactive than in extroverts, causing babies to become overstimulated by new things. Consequently, this aversion to novelty leads them ‘to spend time inside the familiar — and intellectually fertile — environment of their own heads’. This is probably why most artists, writers, and thinkers are high-reactive.
“The highly sensitive [introverted] tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions — sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments — both physical and emotional — unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss — another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.”
A sensitive temperament can result in stronger academics, heightened creativity, and a unique kind of leadership and empathy.
How to own being an introvert
The introverts of our world are creative thinkers, they are over analyzers, they prefer deep thought and escaping to their inner worlds. They’d rather think than talk, and this ability to think deeply is their greatest weapon.
Susan articulates what many introverts know intuitively; strength does not have to be loud or forceful, as introverts we can communicate our strength and conviction quietly.
The Quiet Manifesto Summarized by Cain
- There is a word for “people who are in their heads too much” — thinkers.
- Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
- The next generation of quiet kids can and must be raised to know their own strengths.
- Sometimes it helps to be a pretend-extrovert. There is always time to be quiet later.
- But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is the key to finding work you love and work that matters.
- One genuine relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.
- It’s okay to cross the street to avoid making small talk.
- “Quiet leadership” is not an oxymoron.
- Love is essential; gregariousness is optional.
- “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi