It is estimated that in the USA introverts make up around 35-50% of the population.
Characterized by focusing on internal feelings over external stimuli, at a simplistic level introverts are the opposite of extroverts.
It is worth mentioning, however, that very few people are truly simply introverts or extroverts.
Many of us float between the two. And cannot be so easily labeled. Even though we often have a bias towards either one classification or the other.
I myself have been termed by friends as the ‘most extroverted introvert’: for short periods I can be the life and soul of the party, before retreating back to the sidelines.
All this got me thinking about what is truly like to be an introvert compared to what people think introversion is.
So in this article I’ve decided to explore and address once and for all the big misconceptions people have about what it means to be an introvert.
11 BIG MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT BEING AN INTROVERT
Misconception #1: Introverts are Anti-Social
This couldn’t be further from the truth!
Introverts simply gain their energy from time alone and periods of introspection.
Extroverts, in contrast, gain their energy from social settings and interactions with others.
This means that, for introverts, being at social occasions can sometimes be a drain upon energy reserves.
It is important to mention that this doesn’t mean that introverts don’t enjoy events and socializing, simply that there may be a shorter time span as to how long this enjoyment lasts before peace and quiet are needed.
I for sure have experienced this myself!
I find I’m excitable at first at events and enjoy having a dance or a chat, but as the night goes on, I find myself drawn to the quieter spots with a nice drink.
I’m still content to watch the revelry, but no longer wish to be front and center.
Sometimes after a little time to catch my breath I find I am able to rejoin the fray, whereas other times I’m done for the day.
When this happens introverts tend to need time to recharge by spending time alone or in a quieter space.
Misconception #2: Introverts don’t go to Events
Introverts love to party too!
We just have a slightly different way of doing things that can make predominant extroverts view us as unwilling or a party pooper.
Remember, unlike extroverts, introverts don’t gain energy from social situations.
Therefore a day or an evening of interaction and a barrage of stimuli can have us itching for the exit to recharge.
However, this doesn’t mean that introverts don’t like to let their hair down!
They just might not stay until the early hours of the morning, or may need to retreat to the sidelines occasionally to recoup their energy reserves.
Because of this, it is also true that introverts typically prefer social gatherings with a small group of close friends.
However don’t think this doesn’t mean you won’t occasionally see us throwing cringe-worthy shapes on the dance floor at a wedding!
Misconception #3: Introverts are Loners
It’s no lie that for many introverts the perfect time is an afternoon alone with a good book, or a solo hobby of their choice.
This time to just ‘be’ is when introverts can recharge and get energized for future social interactions and events.
This time is also often used for personal growth, as by reflecting on previous events introverts can often gain valuable insights, which they can use to improve themselves.
This doesn’t mean that introverts prefer being constantly alone, in fact, quite the contrary.
I find I get quite low if I’m overly starved of others company, as do many other introverts.
The only difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that after this period of company we may need to be alone a while to decompress and review the day’s events and interactions.
Put simply, we struggle to be ‘go-go-go’ all the time, and sometimes just need to sit back and watch the show.
Misconception #4: Introverts are just shy
Shyness and introversion are terms that are often wrongly used interchangeably. Though there are many introverts who are also shy, it is not a prerequisite.
Instead, introverts tend to be more reserved and play things closer to their chests, which means getting to know an introvert can take some time and patience (but is totally worth it in the end!).
Introverts also commonly prefer to choose their words with more care, as opposed to some extroverts, who can become human Gatling guns of conversation.
This is partly the reason why introverts are much more likely to thrive in small close-knit groups, as their conversational input is much more likely to be heard and validated, unlike in crowded social events where an individual may need to repeat themselves several times to be noticed.
In busy social gatherings, introverts may simply prefer to hold their tongue to preserve their energy reserves until they are able to interact with one or two individuals instead of six or seven.
Misconception #5: Introverts have their Head in the Clouds
To an outside perspective, it may seem as though introverts are always daydreaming or lost in a world of their own.
This may also be more noticeable when in a crowded or foreign environment.
This isn’t because introverts are daydreamers, but because introverts absorb stimuli differently.
Introverts can be very detail-oriented, and when faced with a plethora of different stimuli, sights, sounds, smells, and so on, can become distracted or overwhelmed.
This can result in introverts becoming difficult to talk with in big groups.
This is another reason why most introverts prefer much more intimate social gatherings, as it means that they can give you their full attention and have much more meaningful interactions with you, instead of fraught snippets within a large group.
Misconception #6: Introverts Avoid getting ‘Stuck-in’
When faced with a challenge or activity, extroverts love to get stuck-in with little prior thought or planning.
On the other hand, introverts tend to prefer to survey the scene, assess their options, and learn by observing.
This can at times make introverts seem hesitant when it comes to accepting a challenge or undertaking an activity, but it is simply a different approach to the same task.
Introverts are also much more at risk of slipping into habits of perfectionism.
This because where an extrovert will jump straight in and laugh off their mistakes, introverts can be much more concerned with their outward perception.
Put simply, introverts like to make sure they can perform any task successfully before they air their talents (or lack of) to the world.
This means that introverts can also be victims of stage fright, and can therefore display reluctance at being dragged up to do something impromptu in front of a crowd.
Misconception #7: Introverts are Dull
Because of the way that introverts approach social interactions, the more extroverted among us can perceive introverts as dull.
Introvert’s interests are also often far more sedate than those of an extrovert.
Introverts usually preferring reading, binge-watching a TV series, walks in the countryside or a wide range of other introspective activities, to big nights out, fair grounds, or shopping trips in a new city.
Oftentimes this results in introverts being viewed as being old before their time.
As introverts tend to be less openly forthcoming with strangers or acquaintances, they can also often create a bad first impression, appearing disinterested, aloof, or just dull.
I have experienced this first hand with some of my friends, often having been privy to statements such as ‘I never thought you’d be interested in that!’ or ‘to be honest I thought at first that you didn’t like me!’
Of course, from my perspective, this wasn’t the case at all.
I, like many introverts, just need to build up some trust and rapport with a person BEFORE I start opening up about the things that really matter to me, which are, of course, the things that really lead to worthwhile friendships.
Because introverts spend so much time in reflection and introspection, we are also very in tune with our sense of self and our emotions.
We aren’t afraid to talk about our feelings either, and socially often love nothing more than an in-depth one-on-one conversation about life or other deep topics.
However, one area in which we can often lack is emotional expression, which again can suggest we are detached or aloof until you get to know us, leading to some awkward situations!
Misconception #8: Introverts are the Weak Link in Group Work
Due to how introverts like to play their cards close to their chest and survey a situation before making a move, many people think that introverts are the weak link or dead weight when it comes to group work such as a school or workplace project.
This definitely is NOT the case, you just need to take a step back from charging forward to the next step and ask the introvert in your group for their input.
Nine times out of ten, they’ll have a thought or feedback the rest of the group haven’t thought of, due to time spent observing instead of acting first.
This can mean that having an introvert in your group is actually a superpower, you just need to know how to tap into it!
Misconception #9: Introverts and Extroverts Don’t Get Along
This couldn’t be more false!
Introverts and extroverts aren’t two separate forces, but instead two sides of the same coin – like yin and yang if you will.
This means that in the right setting introverts and extroverts can actually be perfect for each other, as they form one complete whole.
Take myself and my best friend for example.
He is a highly extroverted career man, who organizes and attends several busy events a month.
I, on the other hand, work from home and attend an event maybe three to five times a year.
My best friend pushes me to step outside of my comfort zone, get more involved in activities and encourages me to speak out more when in groups.
I, on the other hand, have been able to show my best friend my point of view, and have helped him to step back from time to time, and rest and recuperate from the stresses of day-to-day life.
We all need time to ourselves sometimes and being friends with an introvert can help even the most outgoing extroverts to practice this.
Introverts and extroverts can also be compatible romantically.
I know many couples that on the surface seem complete opposites; but when you sit back and observe a while (as all good introverts do), you start to notice how perfectly they bounce off one another, building one another up to form a confident and loving whole.
Misconception #10: Introverts are Pushovers
I can personally, with 100% certainty, attest to the fact that this isn’t true.
While some may view introverts as stoic or emotionally reserved, we’re not going to stay quiet if someone is upsetting us or treating us unfairly.
While it is true that introverts do prefer to take the perpetrator to one side to discreetly air their grievances, or wait until a suitable time afterward, this does not mean that we’re pushovers.
Introverts just prefer to deal with things privately, as we see the problem as between us and the other person, and not the rest of the group.
Introverts aren’t passive saints either, and we can display flares of temper, oftentimes as a result of overdoing it socially and desperately needing to recharge!
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Misconception #11: Being introverted is a Bad Thing
I cannot express this enough: being introverted is nothing to be ashamed of!
It takes all kinds of folks to make the world the wonderfully vibrant place it is and you’re just one fantastic part of it.
Your introverted nature doesn’t need to be fixed or remedied, and any friend pushing hard for you to change your ways may not be a friend at all!
If you’re an extrovert reading this article to try to understand your friend or loved one, then it is essential you don’t try to FORCE them to change.
Yes, at times we introverts might need a nudge when it comes to engaging socially or stepping out of our shell; I for one am a firm believer that it is good to push your boundaries every once in a while, but you cannot magically transform us into extroverts.
Constantly feeling pressure to change from a family member, loved one, or close friend, is frankly Kryptonite to an introvert.
It will make them draw back into their shell and revoke all the candidness and trust they’d bestowed upon you previously.
When an introvert opens up to you and starts to reveal their personality to you it means they trust you and feel relaxed around you.
Constantly reminding them of what you perceive to be their weaknesses will slam this proverbial door right back in your face.
Instead, learn to love introverts for who they are, and embrace all of their good traits.
And if you’re an introvert reading this, learn to love yourself. Introverts are observant, perceptive, and philosophical people, who are content with their own company, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!