On Introversion

If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone wrongly use or define the word introversion, I would have an unspecified, but large pile of change somewhere in my room.  Just as I am guilty of properly using obscure and big words properly but mispronouncing them, many people are guilty of pronouncing words right but using them improperly.  So in this brief (at least in comparison to my last two posts) I will attempt to explain introversion.

First, I would like to clarify, introversion does not mean antisocial or not liking to spend time with people and being extroverted does not mean being social and being a people-person.  Instead, Introversion and Extroversion refer to how we recharge our social energies.  Just as people have physical energy, which largely comes from eating and sleeping, people have several types of “psychic” (not the ESP kind, the Psychology kind) energies, such as spiritual, sexual, moral.  Social also happens to be one of them.  Introverts and Extroverts both have social energy (in fact many Introverts technically have more of it than extroverts) but they differ in how the refuel when exhausted.

Introverts refuel their social energy by being alone.  The ways they recharge vary greatly, ranging from reading to TV to being outside to playing a sport to even being online.  Many (if not most) introverts like being around people, and may even act “hyper-social” for short amounts of time.  However, after an extended amount of time around other people, they need to be alone or risk “shutting down” or in extended cases even depressed.

Extroverts, on the other hand, recharge their social energy by being around other people.  They still need some alone time once in a grand while, but they thrive being around other people.  If not around others for a long period of time, they will often find themselves tired.  It’s important to note that no person is 100% introverted or extroverted.  Everyone is a mix of the two, falling somewhere along the spectrum, usually further along one end.

So, what kind of introvert am I?  On literally every MBTI (Myer-Briggs) and Neris Type Explorer I’ve taken, I have the blessing and curse of being an INFJ (on a side note if you’re curious of what your personality type is you can find out here).  One of the rarest types in the world, the INFJ has the unique privilege of being a bundle of contradictions.  You see, among other things, INFJ’s are what is known as “emotionally extroverted”.  This means that while they are really good at reading other people’s emotions, like really good, they are often clueless of their own.  This is why they need to spend alone time so they can spend time “introspecting” and subconsciously analyzing their own feelings.  INFJ’s often seem to be extroverts until they “shut-down”.  They are arguably one of the most introverted types out there, despite how much of people persons they are.  So why go into this detail about myself, in spite of the fact I dislike talking about myself?  To prove a point.  There are different types of introverts, and we become emotionally drained for different reasons.  Introversion isn’t just about emotions though.

Because of the “common-knowledge” belief that introverts are anti-social, there hasn’t been as much research into them as extroverts. However, in recent years it’s become apparent that there’s a disparity between how Psychologists and some introverts describe introversion.  Not all introverts are emotionally introverted.  Jonathan Cheek, a researcher at Wellesley College has in fact observed 4 types of introverts: Social, Thinking, Anxious, and Reserved.  As we learn more and more about introverts, it becomes more and more clear we only understand the tip of the iceberg.

So what’s the takeaway from this?  What introversion actually means.  Yes, introverts need more alone time than extroverts, and yes, some are anti-social (just as some extroverts are anti-social) but that doesn’t mean that introversion and being anti-social are mutually exclusive.  That’s it for now, enjoy the rest of your day.  Or don’t.  Your choice.

 

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