Being an introvert is not an illness

I’m not exactly sure why, but some people still consider someone who is an introvert as having some sort of ailment. I know this because I’m an introvert and just had that conversation two weeks ago . . . for the umpteenth time.

Having just met this person, who is a friend of a friend, we found ourselves sharing a cab on our way to dinner to join the rest of our group. They asked how I met my friend and somehow the conversation wound its way to me saying “Well, they’re kind of an extrovert and I’m kind of an introvert so it balances nicely.”
To which this person replied, “Oh, that’s too bad.”

Wait, huh? “Too bad about what?”
“Well, that you’re an introvert.”
“It’s not an illness or a defect, just a personality trait.”

I was too gobsmacked to come up with a snarkier or more expansive reply. Luckily we pulled into the restaurant moments later.

To be fair, I suppose, even the definition supports this narrow view by defining introvert as “a shy, reticent person”. I’m neither of those things, but I am an introvert.

It’s also worth noting that introvert, or introversion, is not defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; because it’s not a disorder. To be frank, it’s not a bad thing. Some of the world’s most influential people are recognized as introverts; Albert Einstein, Rosa Park, Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Warren Buffet, to name but a few. These people are world-renowned individuals whom I would hardly classify as deficient in any way shape or form.

The only way I can describe being an introvert, at least how it manifests itself in me, is that it just takes more energy (actual energy) to socialize for me. And the recovery period from doing it is longer. Put even more simply, an introvert derives energy from themselves whereas an extrovert derives energy from other people. An introvert is also more likely to look inward for answers where the opposite may be true for an extrovert (this is so very far from definitive).

For example, the story above was on New Years Eve, where I spent the night with a very dear friend and a bunch of her friends . . . going to see Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) perform with the Boston Pops. That’s a lot of doing stuff, with people I don’t know, in an environment I am not familiar with. While it was great, everyone was lovely (except that one guy) and the show was fantastic: that’s a lot of activity. While an awesome night, I was tired and eager to get a snooze by the end.

Where an extrovert may wake up the next day and want to go to brunch with either the same, or a different, group of people, that’s just about the very last thing an introvert, like myself, would want to do. After as much interaction as I had the night before, I needed some serious alone (and Rufus) time to re-charge my batteries.

Now, that’s not to say that I couldn’t have gone to an endless Mimosa style lunch with half a dozen people. I could’ve. One, I didn’t want to. Two, it wasn’t an option. And three, after a night out, with a bunch of people I didn’t know, in an unfamiliar and crowded place, that’s about the very last thing I would want to do.

Extroverts have a tendency to re-charge by social interaction and intorverts re-charge by being alone.

Now, being alone does not mean being lonely. It’s rather exhausting to have to continuously explain that to people. I, like many introverts, am okay being alone (I actually enjoy it).

Where the narrow mind may think that introverts don’t like people, that’s also just not true. I, like many introverts, like people very much . . . for the most part. Now an argument can be made that humans are nothing more than “a virus with shoes” (Bill Hicks)but most introverts (and hopefully people) don’t believe that. Yes, we’ll laugh at the joke but only a true sociopath would believe that.

Here are just a few things that introverts are NOT:

  1. Antisocial
  2. Shy
  3. Rude
  4. Angry all the time
  5. Aloof
  6. Lonely
  7. Incapable of schmoozing
  8. Incapable of leading

A far from definitive and all-encompassing list. That said, an introvert (or extrovert) can be one, some or all of those things.

For a thorough (and way more expansive) understanding of an introvert, Susan Cain takes a deep dive into the mind of an introvert in her book Quiet:The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking or you can spend 20 minutes and watch her TED Talk.

If you’re curious, you can take a quick and easy (and wildly far from anything other than quick and easy) nine question internet test. I scored 9/9.

As we seem to be goose-stepping towards further polarization, let’s not add introversion and extroversion into the things that CNN and FOX (and everyone else) need to get in a pissing match about.

Look, being an introvert is not better than being an extrovert.
Being an extrovert is not better than being an introvert.

They’re just different.
We’re all different.
That’s all.

I’m not anti-social.
I don’t hate people.
I’m not angry.
I’m listening.
I’m thinking.
I’m not insolent.
I’m not ill.

I’m an introvert.
I’m okay with that.

You should be too.