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What Is an Introvert, and What Are the Signs You Are Introverted?

What Is an Introvert, and What Are the Signs You Are Introverted?

The first thing to understand about introversion is that it’s a good thing, not a bad thing. We’re not going to say it’s better to be an introvert than an extrovert or the other way around, because that’s entirely missing the point. 

Both introverts and extroverts have different ways of engaging with their lives, not better or worse ways, and really that’s the only difference. An introverted person is every bit as likely as an extrovert to be happily married, have close friends, have a successful and fulfilling career, and even, as we’ll see, to achieve public renown.

Just as is important with identifying and making the most of a particular skill, like musical aptitude or athletic ability, once you have self-identified as an introvert, you can make the most of your introverted personality traits (which include a tendency to be focused, thoughtful, self-aware, and reliable, among other positives) and live your best, most successful life.

One of the first steps to take in that regard is to once and for all shake off any negative associations you have with introversion. Far from anything to be ashamed of, it should be a source of pride and comfort to know you are an introverted person. 

Because no one knows themselves better than an introvert, and the deeper you look within, the more great things you will find that you can share with the rest of the world. And on your own terms.

Introvert vs. Extrovert: What you need to understand

While being an introvert is no better or worse than being an extrovert, it would be a mistake to pretend that there is no difference at all. You owe it to yourself and your friends, family, and colleagues to understand and embrace the differences between extroverts and introverts.

What introverts are not

First, let’s be clear about what introversion is not: introversion does not mean shyness, it does not mean a lack of self-confidence, and it does not mean depression. An introvert can be as charismatic as any extrovert, as self-assured and ambitious, and introverts achieve happiness and positivity just as much as extroverts do.

The word introvert means, rather, that a person does their best thinking, feels their most capable, and can even gain energy and feel enthusiastic when they are either alone, or with a small group of people. They may find that they feel most comfortable in an environment that’s calm and regulated.

Introverts and personality traits

Whereas extroverts are energized and motivated by external factors, introverts look inward for these things. So don’t ever mistake someone who tends to be on the quieter side as having less going on inside than someone more boisterous, for indeed it is quite likely the other way around.

All that said, some people who are introverted do deal with social anxiety issues and may be genuinely put off by anything from large group activities even to small talk with someone they don’t know well. Sometimes they like minimally stimulating environments. 

Again, introversion has nothing causal to do with depression or anxiety or any other mental health factor, however there may at times be correlation. Then again, an outright extrovert can also suffer from depression or PTSD or other issues – mental health concerns do not discriminate between introverts and extroverts at all.

One thing all introverts should do - whether they are at a time in which they can display a great emotion regulation ability and perfect emotional harmony, or if they are dealing with some issues - is to set and enforce clear personal boundaries. Whereas many extroverts may not mind late night calls, streams of texts, or unannounced pop-in visits, introverts feel the same way as others when they are thrown off by certain interactions (and can even develop anxiety issues as a result). 

Let people know if you have times you want to be left alone and if there are methods of contact you prefer to be used (or to not be used) and then be insistent about your boundaries. This can and should extend to your professional life as well, within reason.

3 signs that you are an introvert

Remember, for many introverts, the main defining factor of their personality types is that they are very comfortable when spending time in their own company. This a more positive way to say “alone,” which can have a negative connotation is something few introverts can understand, but so it is!

This is not to say all or even most introverts prefer to be alone. Introverts function perfectly well in certain groups. However, something that markedly differs between introverts and extroverts, the latter often uncomfortable during solitude. 

So if you are perfectly happy when alone, you may be an introvert.

1. Introverts tend to lose energy in large groups

(Tom Werner/Getty)

And again, that’s not to say you cannot also be perfectly happy when with others – most people are not purely introverted in preferred social interactions. What you may notice is that being around people other than very small groups can be quite exhausting. Whereas extroverts’ brains are stimulated and their emotional reserves are built up by social interaction, introverts can find themselves feeling depleted in energy by large groups. 

So if you feel worn out, physically or emotionally, after social events that don’t leave others feeling the same, you’re probably an introvert. 

(Does that mean you should eschew being social? Not at all! Just make sure there is some time for yourself built into your schedule after you commit to social plans.)

2. Introverts prefer smaller friendship networks

And speaking of the way you socialize, if you tend to maintain a smaller number of close social relationships rather than maintain a larger network of friends, you may well tend toward introversion. Introverts almost always have fewer friends than extroverts, but introverts tend to make much closer, more lasting friendships than extroverts.

Those with an introverted personality type tend to prefer projects that can be handled on their own or working with very small groups, as they don’t mind keeping the counsel of their own internal thoughts and may even be overwhelmed by too much input. 

This is not to say they are stubborn or close-minded, merely that the introvert knows how he or she can best achieve success, be it at work, in a hobby, and so on.

If you prefer to work alone or with a small group of others, you tend toward introversion.

3. Introverts are often self-reflective

One more trait that tends to be more common with introverts when you compare introversion and extroversion is regular self-reflection, such as thinking about where they are on the emotional wheel at a given moment. 

This is not to say over analyzing and it’s certainly not anything like being self-centered, because an introvert's self-reflection often involves considering how they interact with others and how best to make doing so a positive life experience for all.

So if you spend a decent amount of time reflecting on things rather than just busying your mind with more and more new input, you are likely an introvert.

A few of history’s most successful and notable introverts

It might sound funny on the face of it: a famous introvert – what a contradiction of terms, right? 

Not at all, in fact. There is nothing about introversion that precludes a person from being famous, ambitious, successful, or even quite regularly in the public eye. While many of history’s most famous introverts did indeed keep to themselves for most of their lives – look to Emily Dickinson or Albert Nobel as examples – many others were quite often every bit as social and in the public eye as extroverts.

Albert Einstein is routinely considered to have been an introvert yet he liaised with the leading minds and politicians of his day, taught classes, gave speeches, and on it went.

(Bettmann / Contributor / Getty)

Rosa Parks was a quiet, calm, and introverted person in her private life who nonetheless dedicated herself quite publicly to the civil right movement, so much so that she became an icon of her era. 

And despite being one of the most successful and celebrated directors of modern times (a career that requires constant interaction with scores of people while a movie is being made), Steven Spielberg has self-identified as an introvert who, when life permits, takes time alone to get lost in movies, according to Business Insider.

Can you stop being an introvert?

Not only are you predisposed to introversion or extroversion and thus unable to change your very nature, but you should not want to. There is nothing wrong with either tendency, and once you know your own personality traits, you can make them work for you, not against you.

Why even think about trying to suppress your introverted tendencies when they can be what best enables you to achieve success? That said, there will be many times in life when your preference for quiet or even for solitude just won’t be an option, such as when you find yourself in a large group setting or must go on a trip packed with meetings for work, attend a busy holiday event, go to a wedding (even your own!), and so on.

Because you will of course remain yourself even when you go into these types of situations outside your comfort zone – you can’t just will yourself to feel and react differently to stimuli – you need to plan ahead how to make them the most successful.

Some tips for introverts in groups

If you are going to be in and out of meetings, make sure you schedule in a few blocks of alone time between the sessions, and be direct about your needs with a boss or coworkers. You can keep getting work done and being productive even while taking a break from interactions and noise. 

If you will be attending a large, long event, plan ahead for when and where you can step outside of the venue a few times to be alone with your own thoughts or to focus deeply. It’s OK to pretend you “just have to take this call” even if you had planned ahead and asked someone to call you or even set an alarm that sounds like your ringtone.

And finally, you can plan a large block of quality alone time to look forward to and draw solace and calm when in the busier moments by knowing some enjoyable solitude is in the future. Spending time alone can be great! 

But just as some people may be able to better get through a busy week of work, school, or parenting knowing they have a great weekend getaway planned, introverts can often manage busier and more socially involved days when they know they have plenty of private time blocked out in the near future.

Introversion and happiness

To someone who is not an introvert, the happiness of an introverted person may seem to be missing, whereas in fact it just looks different. Usually less visibly excited and aroused than the extrovert in response to some external stimuli – say the unwrapping of a gift or announcement of a birth in a social gathering – the introvert feels the same emotions of happiness (and sadness, of course) as anyone else, simply without as much outward show.

Just the same, the things that make a person with introverted personality traits will usually seek different sources of happiness. Something that may frankly sound uninteresting to an extrovert, such as gardening or doing a puzzle, may be a source of great joy for an introverted person.

introvert vs extrovert
(Ivan Nadaski / Getty)

But guess what can be another great source of joy for an introvert? An extrovert. 

Just because someone tends toward introversion themselves does not mean that many introverts don’t love the company of extroverts. In fact, these seemingly opposite ways of engaging with life are in no way opposed to one another, and often introverts enjoy the company of extroverts. They even make great couples, and can enjoy long and highly successful relationships. 

And there’s no secret to it, though you can find introvert dating tips. But really, as long as each person understands the needs and preferences of the other, a friendship or romantic relationship between an introvert and extrovert can be one of wonderful balance, and that can lead to the most happiness of all. 

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