What Does it Mean to be an Introvert

what is an introvert

When I tell someone that I’m an introvert, I usually get inquisitive looks. Not because they’ve never heard about introversion,  but because they would never have associated me as one of ‘those’.

That definitely comes from misconceptions or plain ignorance about what introversion really means. So let’s demystify a little, shall we!

The main characteristic of introverts is that we process thoughts and feelings internally and usually need alone time to do this. External stimuli tends to drain an introverts energy. Whereas extroverts are energized by social interaction.

That being said, introverts can be very social and outgoing and in return extroverts can be totally socially awkward. Where you fall on the spectrum of introversion vs. extroversion does not qualify you as social or anti-social.

Same goes about anxiety or shyness. Introverovert doesn’t equal either one of those qualifications. Although studies show that introverts are more prone to these things.

Introverts definitely tend to be more reserved and introspective. But we don’t just spend out time reading books hidden under the stairs avoiding human interaction. Although most of us are drawn to quiet activities, we enjoy spending time with good friends and going out. You can even find us making an effort at small talk at parties if your eye is well trained!

The big difference with introverts is what happens when we decide it’s time to retreat home. It’s such a relief to exit a crowded room to the silence of our car. After social interaction, we need time to recharge and that is usually done by spending some time on our own.

There’s actually a physiological answer behind the way that our mind responds to our environment.

A little network of neurons in our brain regulates information intake from our environment. Introverts are a lot more receptive and sensitive to their environment, so those neurons are constantly aroused and overstimulated. When it gets to be all too much, that’s when our body tells us it’s time to leave the party!

Before finding out about my introverted nature, I would often force myself in social situations because my friends didn’t understand what I was feeling and I couldn’t express clearly. Going against what your body needs is one of the worst things you can do as an introvert. Just like working 80 hours/week at a high pressure job isn’t sustainable, neither is forcing yourself into environments that can be draining.

As an introvert, it’s important to learn to say ‘no’ or that it’s OK to skip out early.  It’s literally you preserving your mental health when you do. You’ll also have to come to terms that not everyone will understand. Just don’t wait to burnout before you give yourself permission to listen to your body.

Unfortunately, everyone would understand if you were making decisions based on your physical health.  We don’t live in a society where mental health is recognized to be as important, but as we educate ourselves we can spread the word to others as well.

If you aren’t sure about being an introvert, here are some signs that might help you figure it out:

1. Social gatherings drain your energy

2. Needing alone time

3. You would rather have meaningful interaction than small talk

4. You have a small group of close friends

5. Too much stimulation leaves you feeling distracted and unfocused

6. Better with writing how you feel rather than expressing it verbally

7. Zone out easily

There are so many more traits that make up introversion. And if you aren’t sure where you fall, remember that rarely are people total introverts or extroverts. Everyone is different and it’s just a matter of finding out what’s right for you.

If you are wondering if you might be an introvert or simply curious about your introverts friends, read this:

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