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Understanding Introverts

When you think of introverts do the labels shy, stuck-up, aloof, boring and antisocial come to mind? If you are an introvert does hearing these descriptions make you feel misjudged and misunderstood? As an introvert who has struggled greatly with these societal stigmas over the years, I felt compelled to write this article to bring some understanding and awareness to this personality type.

On a mainstream level, introversion is usually linked with a lack of social skills or social enjoyment. All of the above notions are completely false and misguided and can feel completely unfair to an Introvert!

What does being an Introvert really mean?

Introverts are just wired differently than extroverts and have different traits and needs. That’s all. Yes, there are other characteristics such as shyness, social anxiety and high sensitivity which can also be experienced by an introverted person, however, that is a much lengthier and separate topic!

I love the straightforward definition by Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D., in her book “Introvert Power”.

She states:

“Introversion is an inward orientation to life, and extroversion is an outward orientation. Introverts prefer introversion; we tend to gain energy by reflecting and expend energy when interacting. Extroverts have the opposite preference; they tend to gain energy by interacting and expend energy while reflecting”.

How does that definition translate into everyday life for an introvert?

Well, solitude is a big deal for us introverts. Inner reflection is our energy source. Introverts look within for answers, we are primarily oriented towards our inner world.

Introverts are energized and excited by ideas and love meaningful conversations with a few close people or those whom we feel a deep connection.

Introversion also involves a preference for environments that are not overly stimulating. Jenn Granneman, the author of the bestselling book The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World, notes “This is largely because introverts’ brains respond to dopamine differently than extroverts’ brains.” We need time to be by ourselves – to recharge our internal batteries and regain our sense of center. This can be seriously difficult and draining at times for so many reasons (family and friends who just don’t get us, a widespread culture that favours extroversion, the everyday demands of work and family life). Facing these misconceptions from those who don’t understand the introvert personality type can be depleting and exhausting for our sensitive souls and over time they may wear us down.

It’s not about other people. It’s about the solitude we need to replenish our sensitive souls so we can show up as our best selves for ourselves, our families, our work and the community.

With some insight and education over the years, below are the lessons I have found most helpful:

Tips for Introverts:

Schedule your life around your nature, not the other way around!

Be intentional with your time. Plan ahead. Organize your life around your temperament and personality. Learn to say no with kindness, grace and respect to events that drain your energy supply and leave you frazzled and depleted. Prioritize your need for space and solitude and love yourself enough to give this to yourself. Be mindful of doing things that work with your personality, not against it. When you need to be present for events or circumstances that may deplete your energy, give yourself time to replenish afterward.

State your case for solitude!

Solitude is your fuel so let your loved ones know how crucial it is for you.

Be unapologetic about your need for solitude. Those who love and respect you will understand. Communicate openly with your spouse, children and close relationships and compromise! Drive to events separately, plan ahead, be open and discuss options – there are always so many available when we open ourselves up!

Honor your Introversion!

It is who you are. When we honour our true nature, that is when we shine the most and bring the best of ourselves to our loved ones.

As Anais Nin so eloquently stated “Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again”.

Tips for Non-Introverts who want to better understand the Introverts in their lives:

Don’t make it about you!

Do not take it personally when an introvert declines an invitation or bows out of an event earlier than everyone else. Respect that an introvert’s need for space is about them not you. They have reached their internal limit and have mentally shut down. It is time for them to go! There is nothing more to the story so don’t create one.

Lose the judgments already!

Be openminded and understanding.

We are all wired differently. Instead of perceiving an introvert’s decisions with judgment and criticism be open to the fact that we all have different levels of energy and different internal compasses. Do not scold or embarrass your introvert in public.

Give your introvert space!

The more space you give your dearly loved introvert the closer and deepen your relationship will be. Giving your introvert the space to be themselves and respecting their inward-oriented nature can bring incredible depth and fulfillment to our most cherished relationships. You will be amazed at how much your relationship can flourish and grow the more you honor your introvert and respe