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You’re an introvert — and you’re normal!

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I’m writing this article for all the parents out there whose child is an introvert.

Don’t make the mistake we did. I thought our oldest daughter was shy and didn’t want to get with the program.

Whose program?

My program, of course! If she would do it my way, she could be happy and have a great life.

We pulled her through knotholes trying to form her into who we thought she could be. She had been our model child; she did everything we wanted her to do until she got into high school. She became very selective as to who she wanted to be with and who she wanted to date.

That was thirty years ago.

My daughter sent this through Facebook, writing, “YES!!! Finally someone understands me. Introverts Unite!”

I wrote back and said, “I never thought of it that way. We did you an injustice when you were growing up. We just didn’t understand. We thought you were missing out on life.”

She writes, “At almost every one of these points, I was saying — YES! I’ve been told, you don’t talk, you are shy, you are rude, you are aloof, and why aren’t you outgoing. Glad to know I’m NORMAL for an introvert.”

This definition of introverts comes via Wikipedia: “Introverts are people whose energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction. They often take pleasure in solitary activities such as reading, writing, music, drawing, tinkering, playing video games, watching movies and plays, and using computers.  The archetypal artist, writer, sculptor, engineer, composer, and inventor are all highly introverted. An introvert is likely to enjoy time spent alone and find less reward in time spent with large groups of people. They prefer to concentrate on a single activity at a time and like to observe situations before they participate. Introverts are easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings and engagement. They are more analytical before speaking.

“Introversion is not the same as being shy or being a social outcast. Introverts prefer solitary activities over social ones, whereas shy people (who may be extraverts at heart) avoid social encounters out of fear, and the social outcast has little choice in the matter of his or her solitude.”

Here’s a great list of myths about introverts, via Carl King Creative:

Myth 1 — Introverts don’t like to talk.

This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

Myth 2 — Introverts are shy.

Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

Myth 3 —  Introverts are rude.

Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

Myth 4  — Introverts don’t like people.

On the contrary, introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

Myth 5 — Introverts don’t like to go out in public.

Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public for as long. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

Myth 6 — Introverts always want to be alone.

Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with one person at a time.

Myth 7 — Introverts are weird.

Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

Myth 8 — Introverts are aloof nerds.

Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

Myth 9 — Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.

Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

Myth 10 — Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.

A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of introverts increases with IQ.

Final brushstroke: Live and learn. I count on my children to be forgiving. We just didn’t know better.

Artist’s quote

“Sometimes you don’t realize your own strength until you come face to face with your greatest weakness.” — Susan Gale

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This story was posted on September 12, 2013.