Hi. My name is Jordan, and I am an introvert.
What is an introvert anyways? Before I discovered Carl Jung’s research while I was in college, I thought an introvert was someone that was socially awkward and could not interact well with people, and I thought that an extravert was just the opposite of an introvert. I thought that I needed to go to an introvert’s equivalent of an AAA meeting so that I could suppress my introvert habits and become the extraverted person everyone wanted me to be. Unfortunately, my thoughts of what being an introvert meant were incorrect.
So what does it really mean to be an introvert? At the most basic level, an introvert is someone that is energized by being alone and loses energy when spending time with people. There are exceptions though. For example, an introvert might be energized by an intellectually stimulating conversation with other people, but being around other people will usually drain an introvert.
The words introvert and extravert, when referring to a person, were coined by Carl Jung, the father of modern personality typing, in the early 1900s. The words were meant to refer to where people get their energy from. Jung also defined introversion and extroversion as two extremes on a scale, so someone can never be fully introverted or fully extraverted. The word introvert is used to refer to someone who is more introverted than extraverted.
Sometime between now and when Carl Jung defined what extraversion and introversion mean, the word introvert took on a negative connotation. I can’t remember the first time someone called me an introvert by name, but I have been called things like recluse, distant, quiet, shy, aloof, uncaring, and loner since I can remember. People in junior high and high school always seemed to wonder why I kept to myself so much, and my extravert parents often worried about me spending too much time alone.
Unfortunately, I believed what other people said about me, and I thought that I needed to be “fixed” so that I could act like everyone else who seemed to have no problem being extraverted. I was not comfortable in my own skin because I had been told so many times that I “didn’t talk enough” and “was too quiet.” I felt guilty every time I slipped away from a group of friends to be alone or turned down friends’ requests to hang out because I was too drained. It was not until college that I discovered these were simply signs of being an introvert.
During my sophomore year in college, I took an MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) assessment for the first time and had to write a short paper about the result for an organizational behavior class. I was intrigued by the result. A light bulb finally went on.
I spent the year following my discovery of the MBTI digging into the history and theory behind the personality assessment as well as its foundations from Carl Jung. Of all the things I learned, the most important thing I discovered is that there are many different types of personalities, and there is no “best” personality. They all have their strengths and weaknesses and fit into the world in a special way.
It is natural for people to be prideful of their type and think it is better than others. For example, people who prefer making decisions rationally usually think they are smarter than their counterparts who prefer making decisions emotionally, just as people who prefer making decisions emotionally think they are wiser than those who prefer making decisions rationally. But there is no “right” way to make a decision. There is a time and a place for each approach, and recognizing this frees a person from thinking less of people just because “they do not think like me.”
Cultures put emphasis on different traits of a personality. In America, extraversion is highly valued, especially in a professional context. This results in introverts feeling like they do not belong in an extraverted society. In many Asian countries, introversion is actually the more valued trait, so extraverts in those countries feel like misfits just as introverts do in America.
I wish that someone had shared this information with me long ago. I hope people will be exposed to these ideas earlier in life rather than later. People like Susan Cain are doing a lot to help with this cause, but I think there is still work that needs to be done.
Want to learn more about introverts? Check out these links: