Strange creatures, these introverts. They never talk, shut themselves off from the world, and when they dare to leave their own four walls, they are aloof and arrogant.
That sums up the reputation of introverted people in Western society quite well. But what’s the truth in the prejudices? Are introverts really such misanthropists?
In the following, I will list six typical misconceptions about introverts and reveal the truth about them.
1. Introverts are shy
People often confuse introversion with shyness. But these are two completely different animals.
Being an introvert means that we refuel our energy by spending time alone. We don’t feel a need to be with people all the time. Crowds wear us out, and we enjoy our own company.
Shy people, by contrast, would like to be more sociable but are afraid of rejection. They often made negative experiences in social situations, especially during their childhood. These pivotal moments have caused a deep inner fear. Hence, they create a defense mechanism that prevents them from further adverse occurrences. If the insecurity gets extreme, it may lead to social anxiety and panic attacks.
Admittedly, introverts are more likely to be shy, but there are pretty sociable ones as well. Apart from this, shyness and social anxiety can also affect extroverts.
2. Introverts hate people
Just because I don’t often go to the movie theater doesn’t mean that I hate films. There are plenty of other ways to enjoy them: on TV, DVD or Blu-ray, Amazon Prime or Netflix, etc.
The same is true for people. I don’t have to regularly go to parties or social gatherings to prove I’m not a misanthropist. I may meet one or two friends at home or exchange emails, texts, or snail mails. (Yes, some still enjoy correspondence the old-fashioned way. I’m one of them.) There are so many possibilities to interact with people without going to a crowded place.
Introverts crave alone time, but sometimes it’s nice to talk one-on-one with a friend or meet new people. The internet is a blessing for introverts. We’re often very active on platforms like Tumblr, Goodreads, Twitter, and blogs since we prefer the written word.
Nevertheless, most of us aren’t hermits and enjoy going to a family gathering or a concert from time to time. But afterward, we need time to restore. So, the majority of introverts like people. Just not too many at once.
3. Introverts are unhappy/depressed
If you look at introverts with an extrovert’s eyes, you may understand why this misconception still exists. Being on their own makes extroverts sad, but being surrounded by friends energizes them. Attending a party or doing a pub tour is “fun” for them. Hence, they think it must be fun for everyone. For them, there’s only one reason why someone would stay at home: being depressed.
Dear extroverts, here are the good news: we are usually not depressed; we only have another temperament. What you consider fun is not very appealing to us, and the other way round.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that introverts can’t feel lonely and depressed. Some scientists state that we are even more likely to develop mental health issues. We tend to overthink and be more self-critical than extroverts, which are risk factors to fall into depression. Besides, since we enjoy alone time and talk less, it’s harder for our friends and family to notice when we’re feeling bad.
Nonetheless, introversion by itself is not a mental illness or something we have to “fix.”
4. Introverts are rude/arrogant/bitchy
Did someone ever accuse you of “being stuck-up” or “aloof “due to your quiet nature? You’re not alone; that happens to many of us (me included).
When I was doing an apprenticeship in a library, my boss wanted me to attend a class at the adult education center. It was about telephoning. (I don’t need to mention that already the thought of it stressed me out.) This class took an entire day; a real nightmare for a shy innie like me.
At first, we had to do one of those icebreaker sessions. I was the only apprentice from the library. The other participants were trainees from the town administration and knew each other well. I had only met them once several months before and felt very awkward, being the only one who didn’t “belong “to this group. Another stress factor. Needless to say that I was super nervous.
In the morning, the instructor taught us all about telephoning in business life. I was busy taking notes while the others were asking questions. Like a sponge, I absorbed all the information but didn’t pose any question myself. That was so much new knowledge that my brain was sizzling.
Finally, noon arrived, and we were allowed to take a lunch break. Before we left the room, the teacher announced that we’d have to do role plays to deepen the new skills in the afternoon. Phew! Another stressor! I felt so drained that I went to the nearby park immediately to eat my sandwich in silence and recharge my batteries to survive the training’s remainder.
When I returned to the education center, one of the other apprentices asked me why I spent the lunch break alone. “Why didn’t you join us? We had so much fun in that diner together.” I explained that I needed the hour to restore and get energized for the afternoon class. The other trainee looked at me as if I had just offended her. She didn’t understand my behavior and thought I’m rude and arrogant.
What she didn’t know: I might really have become bitchy, if I hadn’t spent my lunch break alone. Not having this hour to myself would have caused an extreme energy drop and introvert hangover (the state socially exhausted introverts are in). Thanks to listening to my feelings, I was refueled enough to do the role plays and deal with the stress.
What do I want to say with this example? Introverts are sometimes bitchy – when they suffer from a social hangover and feel mentally and physically drained. Withdrawing from people at the right time is their way of turning upward and stay sane and healthy.
5. Introverts can become extroverts. They just need to open up.
Nope. Simply nope.
Introversion and extroversion are inborn temperaments. We may turn from a shy introvert to a self-confident introvert. But we can’t become extroverts, even though society makes us feel that that’s the only way to achieve happiness and success (which is nonsense!).
We’ll lead much more fulfilled lives if we embrace our introversion and live adapted to fit our needs, than faking being an extrovert just to be accepted by others.
I once heard this quote that hits the nail on the head: “Asking an introvert to open up is as rude as asking an extrovert to shut up.” To all of the extroverts reading this: please remember that next time you meet an introvert.
6. Introverts don’t like to talk
When I still was together with my fiancé, his mother disliked me because I was “always so quiet.” This woman loved being the center of attention and was usually talking non-stop. So, I listened to her, nodded here and there, smiled or laughed when she told a joke (even when I didn’t find it funny) – I tried to be as friendly and polite as possible to make a good impression. But I had no chance. Whenever the conversation ran dry, she made her snide remarks about me, not speaking much.
Even when my family met my fiancé’s parents, his mother complained that I wouldn’t say boo to a goose. My mom sided with me and responded that I would talk as soon as I’m comfortable enough to do so. I just wanted to cuddle my mom for taking my part.
Unfortunately, this didn’t stop my fiancé’s mother to think and speak ill of me. I suffered because I felt so helpless. I am an introvert, that’s my nature, and I can’t become a bubbly chatterbox just because this woman wanted me to. I was furious but too shy to speak up and defend myself. So every visit to my fiancé’s parents was tremendous torture. This woman thought I’m not talking because I’m rude or merely a bitch. But that wasn’t the case. I just didn’t feel comfortable enough to be chatty. Besides, my future mother-in-law wasn’t interested in my passions. So what the heck should I talk about to her?
The truth is: Many introverts are quite talkative when they feel comfortable, and the conversation is about a subject they’re interested in. Often we are quiet in groups, but when we’re talking one-on-one with a close friend or family member, our mouths can’t stop blabbering, especially when the conversation is about our biggest passions.
Maybe you’re an extrovert who now understands us quiet souls better. Or perhaps you’re an introvert who is currently struggling with getting misunderstood and stigmatized and this article resonated with you. Whoever you are, I’m glad you’re here, and I hope that this article was of any help.
Which misconception about introverts is your favorite pet peeve? Let me know in the comments below. And if you enjoyed this article or found it helpful, don’t hesitate to share it with people who may also benefit from reading it.
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