When I was a kid, I was frequently described as “shy” and “too quiet.” This was great for my self-esteem. Not until my first year of college did I come to understand a more positive descriptor: introvert. I’d heard the word before but thought that it, too, was bad. Then I had a book recommended to me: Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. This was, for real, great for my self-esteem.
I’m in my last year of university now and fully accept the label. “Introvert” has become a bit of a buzzword, but some misconceptions still exist. So, here is my list of myths that I will dispel. I hope it will help both introverts who could use a boost and extroverts who don’t understand these strange people.
#1: Introverts are just shy loners who need to get over themselves.
A few problems exist in this statement (including that it is mean). “Shy” and “introvert” are not synonyms, though some dictionaries claim otherwise (and currently some bloggers are trying to fix this). I’ll admit that I was shy as a kid and teenager—getting over this was beneficial. But I know now I don’t have to “fix” the part of me that likes spending time alone.
Introversion is, most importantly, about where you get your energy from. Introverts need time on their own to refuel. Extroverts need time with other human-types. Introverts also often need to think before they speak (though it depends on the topic) and don’t like small talk. Extroverts sometimes don’t think first… which is okay too!
So, introverts are not necessarily shy, though they can seem like it. And since they’re not all shy, they’re also not all loners! Introverts like spending time with others—just not as often and not in as loud of a fashion as extroverts do.
#2: Introverts are boring and they know it.
Both introverts and extroverts may believe this. When I started college, I thought having a great social life would have to include doing “exciting” things with lots of people often. Now, I’ve accepted that my “exciting” is getting coffee with a friend.
We live in a culture in which fast is fun and slow is sad (alliteration: totally necessary). This can be hard for post-secondary students and others just starting off their adult lives to deal with, if they’re the type who want to stay in on Friday night. (Of course, many introverts enjoy going out.) I’ve had to face the wrath of a couple of people who have picked at me for not being into the party scene; it ain’t fun.
Two pieces of advice for everyone:
a) Don’t be a jerk to people because they like different things than you do. Boring to you is fun for others.
b) Don’t get down on yourself because you would rather stay home than sit on a couch, alone, at a party where you know no one. (Just don’t reject every social invitation—everyone needs friends. Your cat doesn’t count.)
#3: All introverts are geniuses with sensitive souls, who judge Lesser Beings.
Now that’s an annoying statement. It’s negative because it hurts everyone who doesn’t fit where they “should.” Some introverts are intellectuals; some aren’t. This is where other parts of the personality comes in, as explained in personality theories like Myers-Briggs (which I can’t explain here, but here’s a handy link).
As for introverts judging Lesser Beings, introverts can seem judgmental if they’re quiet when others think they shouldn’t be. Sadly, snooty introverts and extroverts alike roam free in the world. We should all just get along and eat nachos.
Join me as I share tips for introverted life in post-secondary, work, travel, and more! And tell me: what other introvert myths have you encountered?