Introvert vs. Extrovert
Created by Carl Jung in 1921, these terms became common descriptors for personality traits. Simply put, introverts recharge their mental “batteries” by spending time alone while extroverts recharge by being around others. The term ambivert is used to describe people who do not fit easily into the category of introvert or extrovert. These labels are helpful to self-reflect and know the best way to express yourself. But they can also be harmful by putting people into stereotypical boxes. For example, the bookworm introvert or the extroverted cheerleader.
Neither introversion nor extroversion is better than the other. It shows how people process, recharge, and interact with their environment. Looking at the world through the lens of introverts and extroverts reveals the heavy stigma against introversion. Introversion is seen as something to grow out of or overcome. “Get out of your shell” is something every introvert is sick of hearing. People never tell extroverts to “go into their shells” and quietly observe the world as introverts do.
This article is not to pose one side against the other. It is to highlight both labels as valid in self-expression. Introverts should not be demonized for their natural behavior, nor should extroverts.
From school to the workplace
In schools, children are not only graded on their verbal participation but achieve social status by how popular and outgoing they are. As adults, this mentality carries over to the workplace. Jobs and employers encourage workplace socialization, which is not inherently negative, but normally quiet or shy people become bothered and isolated in these environments.
Introverts are seen as odd or atypical. Plans to stay home instead of going out with large groups often get ridiculed in friend groups. Others view introverts as sad and lonely. Mental health is a factor that can cause people to withdraw from society but is not necessarily connected with introversion. Sometimes a person just wants to sit at home and watch their favorite film, and there is nothing bad about that. It does not make them depressed, anti-social, or anti-fun.
Personal story: childhood
Growing up, everyone told me to speak up. Adults and peers badgered me with questions like, “Why don’t you speak?” “You’re so quiet!” “Are you okay? You look sad.” As an introverted child and teen, I enjoyed listening to conversations and observing, rather than contributing. I processed the environments around me by taking in my surroundings. The best way I communicated was through my thoughts through writing, not verbally. I felt like something was wrong with me, that I had to change, become louder, and more outgoing to fit in with others.
No one embraced the quiet moments. Others thought I disliked them, that I was rude, or a b*tch because of my introverted nature. After people got to know me at smaller gatherings or one-on-one, those who had those negative first impressions usually became dear friends.
Who I am now
Now as an adult introvert, I use my outgoing social persona, and people are often shocked when I say I am an introvert. My social camouflage became so convincing that I began to remind my significant other when my social battery was low because I hid it so well. Part of the problem of people being shocked that I am an introvert comes from the stereotypes. I initiate conversations, I ask a lot of questions and carry conversations well. I initiate social gatherings and I enjoy hosting and going to parties.
All of these do not sound like a textbook introvert, but I still am one because of what goes on inside my head, not what I show on the outside. On the outside, I had to adapt to get jobs, make connections, and do well in classes at college. This is my survival mechanism in this loud world. I still need to recharge, I still need to spend time alone after I get home from work. I still process internally and love being in my own company. That is something that I will never change, it is my natural self, and I will no longer be ashamed of it.
Call to action
So let’s normalize introverts. Introverts are not sad or alone, and we do not need to grow out of who we are. It is up to the introvert to decide if “getting out of their shell” is helpful or harmful. Neurodiversity makes humanity special and allows for individuals to be creative and unique. There is nothing wrong with being your authentic self. So, your call to action is to normalize your authentic self by embracing the things that make you different.