I have always held the view that one’s level of natural or inherent introversion or extroversion is part of their core personality. I believe that one’s level of introversion/extroversion can be altered or improved to an extent, however, I do not believe that it is possible to ‘fully’ transform traits that are part of your innate personality, especially to the opposite end of the spectrum. I have always been an introvert, although my level of introversion/extroversion changes depending on the social context with which I am in. For the most part, I would say that 10% of the time I am an extrovert (usually at drinks or clubs), 20% of time I am an ambivert (usually when I am hanging out with friends, going to cafes, for walks, and so forth), and 70% of the time I am an introvert (almost always during formal settings – such as school, university or work). While I feel content being an introvert and believe there are various benefits of being introverted, there are also a wide array of challenges to this personality trait. Let’s begin with the positives…
Introverted people tend to spend a lot of time observing and analysing situations, thinking logically and analytically. Introverts generally enjoy deep and intellectual conversation over small talk. They are seemingly curious about the world around them, how things and people work.
Talk is meaningful:
Because introverts are usually deep thinkers, when they do vocalise their thoughts and opinions, they tend to be well thought out and meaningful. Introverts usually don’t talk, just for the sake of talking.
Introverts tend to engage in a lot of introspection, analysing themselves, trying to figure out why they are the way they are, or how certain personality traits developed. For this reason, introverts are generally quite self-aware and have a good idea of who they are as a person.
Enjoying your own company:
Introverts feel content being on their own and tend to enjoy their own company. One of my favourite feelings in the world, is to wander around somewhere on my own in my free time, being alone with my thoughts, not having to compromise with anyone. That feeling of being completely and utterly free is a state which I highly value, as they are the times I am able to organise my thoughts and gain clarity.
Scarcely feeling alone:
Because introverts tend to enjoy their own company, this means they seldom feel lonely. One thing I have learned over the past few years is that there is a notable difference between being alone and being lonely. Even though I spend a considerable amount of time on my own, this does not mean that I feel lonely. As long as I have at least one or two ‘constant’ friends i.e. someone that I feel comfortable talking to and confiding in on a regular basis, then I’m happy.
Being accepting and empathetic:
Because introverts are prone to being misjudged as ‘weird’, this tends to make them more empathetic and non-judgemental of others, because they understand what it is like to be misjudged themselves. I have found that I usually connect more with people that are most likely to be perceived as being socially awkward or shy because I feel an instant sense of empathy for them.
Being comfortable with silence:
Because introverts tend to enjoy being on their own, this means they are usually quite accustom to silence and quiet environments. Introverts are therefore more likely to feel comfortable during silent moments compared to their extroverted counterparts.
Always being prepared:
Introverts like to be well-prepared – in regards to attending events, appointments, lectures, exams and so forth. I find that I check my belongings several times before I’ve left the house to ensure I haven’t forgotten anything, and usually turn up to lectures or appointments at least half an hour early. I struggle to recall the last time I was actually late for something. I have added this point to the list of pros, as being well-prepared also demonstrates that introverts tend to possess a sense of reliability.
While I would consider deep thinking to be a positive attribute, on the other hand, introverts may think too much. For as long as I can remember, it has always taken me at least three hours to fall asleep every night, because I cannot switch my mind off. I tend to spend absurd amounts of time pondering over some of the bigger questions in life “what is the meaning of life? How was the universe created? How do blackholes, spacetime and relativity work? Will we ever be able to manage climate change? How long until humanity develops self-aware AI?”. Thinking about these topics on frequent basis can make you feel like your brain is in overdrive a lot of the time.
Being pre-judged and misjudged:
Because introverts are usually quite independent and withdrawn, this can sometimes make them difficult to read. I have found that the biggest con to being an introvert is the fact that I am constantly being pre and misjudged. There have been several occasions where I’ve been told I come across as “cold”, “distant”, “reserved”, “conservative”, even “snobby!”. While I am fully aware that I can come across this way when I first meet someone or when I don’t feel completely comfortable around them, once I do feel comfortable enough to come out of my shell, then a totally different side of my personality arises (one which not many people have seen). Unfortunately, it can be difficult trying not to internalise the criticisms of others, especially when you hear the same insults over and over. What I have found, is that extroverts are usually more likely misjudge and perceive introverts in a negative sense because they don’t understand them, whereas introverts tend to ‘get’ other introverts and their quirky personality traits – so even though some people won’t get you, there will always be others who do.
Dating is difficult:
Being misjudged, and taking a considerable amount of time to ‘be myself’ around another person makes dating very difficult. We now live in a world that seeks instant gratification, if someone doesn’t feel that sense of gratification on a first date then they will most likely give up and move onto the next. No-one really seems to give each other a chance anymore.
Needing to be alone to recharge:
While I do not think that needing to be alone to recharge is a negative attribute, I have only added it to the list of cons due to the negative perception other people may have of this behaviour. While extroverts require social interaction to recharge, introverts prefer quiet and solitude. During my lunch breaks, while most people sit, chat and eat lunch with their peers or colleagues, all I want is space. Sometimes I get paranoid that people will judge me for being rather anti-social, but with age, I care less and less about the perceptions of others. I’m at a stage now where I just don’t really care what others think – if someone chooses to prejudge me on my introversion, I figure that is their problem, not mine.
Feeling like you don’t fit in:
Introversion can sometimes be self-detrimental due to the tendency of excluding yourself in certain situations. For instance, if I am in a room with a group of people I am unfamiliar with, I automatically go into quiet mode while the other people happily and so naturally converse, chat and joke with each other. This can sometimes make me feel like I am the odd one out and that I must be a bit ‘socially weird’. In these situations I just try to remind myself – sure, some people can be themselves from the get go, that’s great! But there are plenty of other people out there who take time to open up, and that’s perfectly fine too, so try not to be so hard on yourself!
Not standing up for yourself:
When encountering socially confrontational situations, introverts tend to go into flight mode instead of fight mode. Unfortunately, this means that introverts can sometimes be walked all over because they don’t bite back or stand up for themselves. Sadly, many introverts may also be mistaken for being weak, which may place an even greater target on their back. One of my ultimate pet peeves in life, is when someone unnecessarily speaks to another person aggressively, with an attitude or with tone in their voice. No matter how stressed out you are in your own life, I don’t believe this gives anyone any legitimacy or right to take it out on those around them. There have been several occasions in the past few years when someone has spoken to me aggressively or with an attitude, and instead of standing up for myself, I bottle up all my emotions, wait until I get home and then have an angry gym work out as an outlet. While I am comfortable standing up for myself with people I feel comfortable around, I sometimes wish that I could also do this with people I am not so comfortable with.
Being an introvert means that sometimes your work, effort and accomplishments go unrecognised. I remember in the last school I was working at in Australia, one of my colleagues was incredibly vocal, and frankly quite eager to brag about the work she had done, and in turn, got recognised and praised for this. Yet, much of the work and effort I had put in went completely unrecognised because I never vocalised what it was I had done, I just kept it to myself.
Overall, even though there are a fair few more cons to this list than pros, I would still never change being an introvert. All that I wish, is that we lived in a world that was a little more accepting and understanding of differing personality traits, a world where there wasn’t such a negative stigma attached to being introverted. Remember, just because you are introverted, doesn’t mean that you are weird – studies have found that 16-50% of the population are introverts, so if it is any reassurance, you are not alone, there are actually many of us in the same boat!