introvert

The Pros and Cons of being an Introvert

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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…

Pros:

Deep thinking:

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.

Being self-aware:

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.

Cons:

Overanalysing:

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 overshadowed:

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!

Travelling solo

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The past couple of years I’ve done a lot of travelling on my own. I moved to Hong Kong for a year for work, and while I was there did most of my travels around Hong Kong on my own, also exploring neighbouring cities unaccompanied. Last year I made the move to Brisbane, where again I travelled and explored the place solo. Whenever people ask about travelling on my own, I am always met with the same questions and comments – “aren’t you scared to travel somewhere on your own?”, “don’t you get lonely?”, “what if you get lost, or get stuck with something, don’t you get worried about dealing with that on your own?”, “I’ve sometimes thought about travelling on my own, but I’m too scared to do it!”. Honestly, none of the above comments or questions ever run through my mind when I travel alone. I’m quite an introverted person, who values freedom and am very content in my own company, so travelling solo is actually my absolute favourite thing to do in life.

Below are my top 5 reasons for travelling solo:

1. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. No compromise or negotiation is needed. You have complete and utter freedom. You can choose where you want to travel, where to stay, for how long, what sights you want to see and what activities you want to do. When I went to Singapore last year, I would wake up whenever I chose, got a nice breakfast every morning, went sightseeing, and on my way back, if I saw a shop I liked, I would just waltz right in without out having to ask anyone if they would mind. When you’re travelling alone you have more freedom to act on your urges and impulses as you don’t need to negotiate with anyone, or follow a schedule. And that really is the best feeling, going to a new place and knowing that it is your oyster.

2. Travelling alone gives you a sense of achievement and accomplishment. On all of my trips, I have encountered “travel challenges”. For instance, a few months ago I had planned to go down to the Gold Coast from Brisbane, only to find that all of the train services had stopped working that day. I then ended up catching two busses, a train and a taxi just to get there. Yes, it can be a little frustrating, but these travel challenges end up giving you a huge sense of achievement when you manage to get from point A to point B all on your own. Also, I tend to see these travel challenges as positives rather than negatives. I run my own schedule, so a little mishap isn’t actually a setback. It gives me a way to see more of a place that I hadn’t planned on seeing. It’s quite exciting, not really knowing where you are, what to expect or what you will see around every corner. I take in these unplanned experiences just as much as I would a planned experience.

3. Being alone with your thoughts. This is one of the things I love the most about travelling on my own. The constant solitude and freedom can present you with prolonged opportunities to reflect on life and the world around you. I think these moments of freedom and solitude are so important. Personally, they are the times where I can really engage in a lot of reflection, organize my thoughts, gain clarity and come up with new ideas. For instance, a few months ago I was in the Gold Coast and decided to sit on the balcony, overlooking the ocean, watching the documentary “Before the flood” on my iPhone. The sun was setting, and it was such a memorable moment, looking out into the distance and reflecting on the information I was gaining from the documentary. The setting and solitude really acted as a trigger for thought provocation. I then spent half an hour recording my thoughts and ideas (which I actually posted on this blog, several blog posts down). Such moments of peace, solitude and quiet when travelling can really help you to learn, to grow as a person and make sense of yourself and the world around you.

4. Travelling alone allows for better absorption of your travel experiences. When you travel on your own, you don’t have anyone around to distract you. Not having a distraction allows you to pay more attention. And because you are able to pay more attention, this also means that you’re senses will be heightened. You will be able to better take in your surroundings, what you smell, hear and see. I have been on several walks and nature trails where I have had a companion with me and always found that I would become distracted from everything around me. I would be engaging in conversation, and constantly having to be aware of the other person with me. Whereas when I go on walks on my own, I feel like I gain a lot more from them, especially in terms of taking in my surroundings. I believe travelling solo allows for better absorption of places and experiences, cultures and life around you.

5. Travelling alone changes you for the better. This links to all of the above points. The responsibility of organising your travels on your own, encountering travel challenges, being alone with your thoughts, and being able to absorb your experiences without distraction, all lead to personal growth. You may become more self-aware and more confident in the process, which in turn, should benefit you in the long run. Travel really does change you for the better and that sense of freedom when exploring is a feeling I really can’t put into words.

As with almost everything in this world, there are always cons that come along with the pros. Nothing is perfect. There is one major downside to travelling solo, and that is a lack of companionship in certain situations. Even though I enjoy my own company, there have always been moments during my travels where I wish I could have had someone accompanying me. Moments that would have been enriched, if they had been shared with another person. However, there are ways to make up for this to some extent. You can join meetup groups or even use social dating apps like Tinder. For instance, when I was in Singapore last year, there was one night I wanted to go out for a nice dinner in a fancy restaurant, but didn’t feel comfortable doing this on my own. I jumped on Tinder and made arrangements from there. We went to Lantern bar, an amazing rooftop bar in a really fancy hotel. The bar was beautifully decorated, with a large pool in the middle surrounded by jacuzzi’s, it overlooked the river and you could see the Marina Bay Sands in the distance. My date was great, good chat and good company. And on top of it Maria Sharapova ended up playing in a tennis court beneath us while we sipped our wine and discussed our lives. It was a moment that really added to my overall experience of the trip. A moment that definitely required company in order to be enriched.

If you are someone that doesn’t want to travel alone, and would rather travel with another person, just be careful who you choose to travel with. I would advise going with someone that you know well, someone you click with, someone whose personality you like and understand. If you go with someone that has a very different personality to you, or someone you don’t completely click with, it will most likely impact on your travels and experiences in a negative sense. I once travelled with someone briefly around Australia several years ago. We stayed in crappy accommodation and I was constantly being pushed into social situations I wasn’t comfortable with. I didn’t click with the person I was travelling with, we had different goals, and it really put a ‘downer’ on my overall experience there.  So if you are going to travel with someone, just make sure it is someone you know will enhance your experience rather than hinder it.

I can’t advise enough what an amazing experience it is to travel solo and how much you can gain from it. Yes I was alone in my travels, but I was never lonely. I don’t regret these solo explorations for a millisecond, and definitely don’t plan on stopping anytime soon! It is such a valuable experience and I could not recommend it enough.