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The Misjudgment of Introverts and the True Meaning of Introversion

Hi everyone.  The Fourth of July is coming soon!  I hope you are able to enjoy Independence Day with the knowledge that you are a special highly sensitive person (HSP) and you deserve independence and freedom to be you. 😀  Because this is typically a family holiday, it can bring up and trigger memories and childhood wounds of loneliness and pain–large get-togethers with people and possibly not one of them really understanding you because you were an HSP.  And in most cases you were probably an “introvert”–70% of HSPs are!  The word introvert is highly misunderstood and it is important to me that I set the record straight on the true meaning of the word and how it’s perception and judgement can be damaging to those of us who are born-introverts.

When you hear the word introvert or introverted you probably have heard the wrong meaning with such comments as:   “He became introverted because of his fear of his abusive father”; or “I used to be an introvert but then I got some confidence and came out of my shell”.  These examples of the word are used very often in the media but these usages are incorrect!  The correct word in these examples should be the word “insecure” instead.  The real meaning of introvert is not insecure or turned inward out of fear as most people have been taught to believe.

The book Please Understand Me by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates explains about each of the temperament types in a wonderful and positive way and explains the true meaning of being an introvert. When I was 23, I was told about this book by my counselor at the time who had her PhD  in Clinical Counseling Psychology and, when I read it, it changed my life in a major way due to its wonderful explanation.  Since then I have known I am an introvert like her and am very proud to proclaim it!

The book explains it so well:  In 1920 Jung invented the psychological types and believed that people are different in fundamental ways.  In 1950 the idea of temperament types was revived when Isabel Myers and her mother Kathryn Briggs devised the Myers-Briggs type indicator–a tool for indicating 16 different patterns of action. Keirsey and Bates later came up with a book with a similar temperament sorter and a self-test to take.  Here is Keirsey and Bates’ definition of an introvert, word for word, from their book:

“…the introvert is territorial.  That is, he desires space.  Introverts seem to draw their energies from a different source than do extroverts.  Pursuing solitary activities, working quietly alone, reading, meditating, participating in activities which involve few or no other people–these seem to charge the batteries of the introvert.  Thus, if an extreme introvert goes to a party, after a “reasonable” period of time–say half an hour–he is ready to go home.  For him, the party is over.  He is not a party pooper; rather, he was pooped by the party.”

“Introverts, too, are likely to experience a sense of loneliness–when they are in a crowd!  They are most “alone” when surrounded by people, especially strangers.  When waiting in a crowded airport or trying to enjoy themselves at noisy cocktail parties, some introverts report experiencing a deep sense of isolation and disconnectedness.  This is not to say that introverts do not like to be around people.  Introverts enjoy interacting with others, but it drains their energy in a way not experienced by extroverts.  Introverts need to find quiet places and solitary activities to recharge, while these activities exhaust the extrovert.  If the latter goes to a library to do research, for example, he may have to exercise strong will power to prevent himself, after fifteen minutes or so, from taking a “short brain break” and striking up a conversation with the librarian.”

“It is quite the opposite with an introvert, who can remain only so long in interaction with people before he depletes his reserves.”

“The question always arises, “Does not an extrovert also have an introverted side and does not an introvert also have an extraverted side?  Yes, of course,  but the preferred attitude, whether it be extraversion or introversion, will have the most potency and the other will by the “suppressed minority”.  The preferred attitude will be expressed in the conscious personality.  The suppressed minority is only partly in consciousness and reflects “what happens to one.”  This less-favored side of a person’s temperament is less differentiated and is less energized, and is apt to be more primitive and undeveloped.  Jung even claims that if, through pressure on the part of the mother, the child is coerced into living out of his inferior side, this falsification of type results in the individual’s becoming disturbed in later life.”

“If a person prefers extraversion, his choice coincides with about 75 percent of the general population (Bradway, 1964).  Only 25 percent reported introversion as their preference, according to Myers (Bradway, 1964).  Indeed, Western culture seems to sanction the outgoing, sociable, and gregarious temperament.  The notion of anyone wanting or needing much solitude is viewed rather often as reflecting an unfriendly attitude.  Solitary activities frequently are seen as ways to structure time until something better comes along, and this something better by definition involves interacting with people.  As a consequence, introverts are often the ugly duckling in a society where the majority enjoy sociability.  There is the story about a mother heard to protest loudly and defensively, “My daughter is not  an introvert.  She is a lovely girl!””

“Introverts have reported that they have gone through much of their lives believing that they ought to want more sociability, and because they do not, are indeed ugly ducklings who can never be swans.  As a result, the introvert seldom provides adequately for his very legitimate desire for territoriality, for breathing room, without experiencing a vague feeling of guilt.”

“Cue Words:  The main word which differentiates an extrovert from an introvert is sociability as opposed to territoriality, but the extrovert also finds breadth appealing where the introvert finds the notion of depth more attractive.  Other notions which give a cue to this preference are the idea of external as opposed in internal; the extensive as opposed to the intensive; interaction as opposed to concentration; multiplicity of relationships as opposed to limited relationships; expenditure of energy as opposed to conservation of energy; interest in external happenings as opposed to interest in internal reactions.”

Reading this for the first time really validated who I was on a deep level and changed me for the better!  I was so excited!  Finally I had an explanation for who I was and I felt relieved of the shame and the sense of being flawed and not good enough!  I hope this information does the same for you. You may want to go out and buy the book and read the whole thing as I did–I highly recommend it as a handbook for your life and helpful in understanding yourself and in understanding all the other temperament types as well.

Fellow introverts, it is my own belief that introversion is innate in us and that we cannot change it.  I believe that it is helpful to explain it to others by using the word introspective or inner-directed.  It is an innate gift of introspection and inner-directedness that connects you to experience everything on a deeper level.  Extroverts who do not understand this might have you believe that you are LESS THAN because you are different and thoughtful before you speak.  Shyness, however, is more prone to the insecure extrovert and NOT to the introvert who can be happy alone and without fear because the confidence comes from within and not needing validation from others but only from the self.  This inner-connectedness can feel spiritual and healing to us when we learn to recharge by allowing ourselves to feel connected to God and nature and the magic of the universe.

If you are an introvert, I hope that this information has been helpful to you.  Introverts can experience painful rejection and judgement from 75% of the population who through no fault of their own have been incorrectly taught about the meaning of the word or taught to judge others who act more introspectively.  I don’t know very many extroverts who really understand introverts. Years ago,  I showed the above quotes to an extraverted friend with her Masters in Social Work, after I explained and showed her the book, kept saying to me, “are you sure you are an introvert?  You don’t seem like an introvert?” And a sensitive yet extraverted professor of psychology in college made me feel just awful about myself repeatedly for not being more outgoing and more like “him”.  ‘But there are extroverts who do get it and appreciate introverts and all others for all their differentness and uniqueness so please don’t judge extroverts now that I’ve explained how wonderful introverts are!  Nevertheless we are outnumbered by 75%!  We introverts must learn to love and appreciate ourselves exactly the way we are and start standing up for ourselves and educating the world on the true meaning of introversion. I love being an introvert!  It is a very big part of who I am and I am very proud of it and wouldn’t have it any other way!

Elaine Aron reports on the home page of her website that 30% of all HSPs are extroverts so to you extroverted HSPs who get comfort and encouragement from my site, I apologize for leaving you out of this weeks post. Please know that my intention is to educate everyone that not one type is better than any other and the whole point is for us all to see the specialness in each other as unique souls with unique talents and gifts that we bring to share with the world.  Thanks to all for reading!

With Love,

Roxanne

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20 responses

  1. Roxanne- thank you for posting this. It was very validating. I am introverted. I have always felt flawed because of it and am only just now realizing it is a part of who I am and it is good. I do get a lot of flack for being introverted – I like people, but I’m not a social butterfly. I prefer one on one conversations rather than huge groups. I absolutely hate talking on the phone for more than a few minutes, and much rather e-mail or meeting in person to have a conversation. I like to think through my answers, so I don’t often speak up until afterwards. I rather on most things, work independently.

    These are my preferences and I have learned (in the last year) that I can be flexible and act more extroverted if the situation calls for it. I have to be extroverted for my job – I have to talk on the phone all day, speak up in meetings, work in groups, and speak to a large group of people. I can do this, but like you pointed out – the more extroverted I am, the more I need my introverted activities to re-charge.

    Although people may describe me as shy at first, if we have the opportunity to interact one on one , I am able to show I’m a pretty friendly and approachable person.

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    1. Thanks for your comment OAD. I like this : “it is part of who I am and it is good.” Your description of your introvert qualities are very much like my own. I am glad you said that “the more extraverted I am, the more I need my introverted activities to recharge”. It is so good you are learning about yourself and understanding that you have legitimate needs for solitude that deserve your attention! There is much wisdom inside of us that we can access only through solitude and listening for our inner voice–the truth that we learn from our innermost feelings. Your comment will help others–thank you for sharing! With love, Roxanne

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  2. Being an introvert I’ve heard that I’m guarded, quiet, and even cold. It’s not fun to hear.

    I am outgoing in most social situations as I have learned to adapt to an extroverted world. I love parties and can make it longer than a half hour. Depending on the group at a party and how much fun I’m having, several hours is not unrealistic. I love concerts too. But I do feel depleted afterwards and long for a quiet dark cave of my own. 🙂

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    1. Cyndi, Sorry to hear you were misunderstood in such a way! You are so the opposite of cold–you exude warmth and caring! You have the right to be “guarded” against such judgmental people. Please don’t “adapt” to an extroverted world! You are the way you are for a reason–wisdom and depth can be threatening for others who don’t have it. Seeking external approval from others who judge us can be a compulsion driven by deep shame from childhood for being different. It is excruciating to us sensitive souls to be left out of the fun–we can make ourselves fit in because we are bright and enthusiastic but at what cost and for what benefit!–when we are sometimes left afterwards feeling lost and so drained we have difficulty finding ourselves again. I understand this. I am recovering from having adrenal fatigue partially from the no-win situation of the relationship with my mother but also largely from spreading myself too thin to please others and prove that I can do what others can too–perfectionism. Finally my energy depletion made me realize that my real and rare inner gifts were far greater and so much more deeply satisfying when actualized than any external validation from extraverted others could possibly give me. Forgive me for going on and on…it’s a sensitive subject for me and I see so many similarities in you and I, Cyndi, although I am more of an extreme introvert and you are more moderate. So glad to hear you are an introvert and know it! Yay! Welcome! You are doing a good job with that quiet dark cave of yours. With love, Roxanne

      To everyone out there reading this: There is a wonderful quiz in Elaine Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Person that helps determine whether a person is being too “out” in the world or too “in”–it was really eye-opening and helpful to me and I recommend it to those of you out there that struggle with this issue. It is very difficult to take care of your needs for time alone to recharge when you have small children but reading these supportive things about introversion helps with the GUILT we feel for needing time alone like water when few others feel this way. Don’t feel guilty! Your need is very real and essential to your physical, mental, and spiritual health and well being! With love, Roxanne

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  3. Hmmm…this is a good point. I’m going to a huge July 4th party this weekend and I’m going to pay close attention to my behavior. Am I really having fun or just acting outgoing? I’m not even sure. I was painfully shy as a child and made a point of acting differently because I was a target for bullies. Now I wonder if that whole outgoing part of me was actually developed and integrated or if it’s all just an act that I’ve been putting on for so long that I don’t even realize it. Boy, do you make me think! 🙂

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  4. Great post once again! Hear hear for the introverts, woohoo! I have not read that book, I will have to put it on my list of ones to check out or buy used. Definitely some great quotes that really fit me, as well. It’s a word I call myself with more acceptance lately, but I still think people don’t get it or believe me (because I can be very outgoing in certain moods). Mostly, I know that is me, because of the description of how I recharge my batteries and the amount of time and space I need, and how I find enjoyment, meaning, and truth from INNER self and worlds. It is something I have to have, and has had a huge affect on my career decisions, which are coming together and making more sense now.

    Thanks for the lovely post, have a great weekend.

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    1. Hi purplebath! Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm for introverts! woohoo! Ha Ha! Great! Hope you like the book. I really find it to be supportive and eye-opening. I agree about people not getting it because I also can be very outgoing in certain moods. Your description sounds a lot like my own. SO glad to hear your career decisions are coming together so well. I did have a great weekend, thank you very much! I hope yours was the same! Lovely to hear from you! With love, Roxanne

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  5. I am most definitely an introvert – It is so validating to know that not only are introverts about 25% of the population, but to also read about energy depletion after being around people. When I’m comfortable, I do get more outgoing, but I can only remain that way for so long. But I may even come across as an extravert in those situations, so when I need time to myself, it’s looked at like such an odd thing!

    Also, on what you quoted about the woman denying her daughter was an introvert – I was talking with someone a few days ago, and it’s amazing to hear the automatic negativity that so many people associate with introversion. It’s unfortunate, but I guess it comes with the territory of being part of a minority. 🙂

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    1. Hi Kristen, Thanks for your comment. I agree with you–I found it so helpful to know that so MANY of us are introverts! Millions! And the energy depletion explained SO MUCH and I found it to be so validating and such a relief to learn! Yes, we all come across as extraverts at times and so people do not understand when we later need time alone. Sometimes extraverted friends are even offended by this–but our needs to recharge are vital to our health. And I agree about how much negativity is associated with introversion–it really drives me nuts when I hear it! You make a good point about it being because we are a minority–we must be strong and persevere! Thank you for sharing your feelings on this issue. 🙂 With love, Roxanne

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  6. Roxanne- This is a really important topic, I found that introverted traits were heavily devalued in my family – hence the development of my false self to be loved. The truth is, I recharge my batteries in solitude – and for a long time, I think I tried to deny to myself that I was introverted. I can play the extrovert – probably some of my own narcissistic traits that I developed in my family to survive – but I am working now to accept my true nature and live according to it. Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned about this topic, as always, your writing speaks right to my heart.

    Thanks also for your comment about the Today Show segment – I love our little community and it means the world to me to hear from others who are going through the same – and who have similar reactions to the supreme BS of what happened in that segment! It’s the most visible news story that touches on our struggle, and I’ll be damned if I let the mothers like Debby frame the discussion! We’re like freedom fighters 🙂

    hugs,
    upsi

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    1. Hi Upsi. Thank you so much for validating my post on introversion in such an eloquent and insightful way. I like how you talk about the development of your false self being a direct result of your introvert traits being devalued. Yes! I understand about denying the introvert part and playing the extrovert part. For a long time, I forgot what I learned about needing time to recharge and “got lost” in the role of parenting and was trying to keep up with all the other mom’s and all the activities–it was very harmful to my health not to mention unfulfilling and empty. We fall back on the old survival traits when we are under stress but we have to forgive ourselves. It’s always 2 steps forward and one step back in recovery–but we are learning and growing in our ability to know, feel, and give real love unlike our FOOs. You are doing so well! So glad you are aware that your true nature is an introvert and how to honor these needs of your true self. Yay! Thanks for letting me know that my writing touches your heart. I am so happy to know this! Your encouragement is so valuable to me. Thank you with all my heart.:)

      I want to thank you for the Dr Suess quote on your blog comments. It is now my favorite quote and I have always loved Dr. Suess. It is: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind”. I truly love it! So true and supportive!

      So glad you wrote about the Today Show segment or I would have missed all the talk and connection to such a big visible news story. So exciting how the daughter (PeaceBstill) left comments on your blog and saw all our messages of support. We are freedom fighters! (and Dr. Suess is our mascot ha ha:)). So great to hear from you. And thanks for subscribing to my blog.

      With love, Roxanne

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  7. Hello everyone, i’m an INTJ and i find alot of energy from solitude and private moments, even from groups if the discussion is meaningful and not mere chit chat, but mostly smaller groups.

    Anyway, i identified most with the energy part of the debate because i have slowly come to appreciate how important it is to achieving our goals and moving forward in a manner that suits us. As a INTJ with somewhat rebel’sh traits who absorbs a lot of knowledge to shape my vision for the future, i always find resistance to my opinions about even my own life, despite the fact that i have taken a great investment in trying to find the truth, or rather my truth.

    Anyway, i’ve realized that it doesn’t matter if we win small battles with “little” people who want to belittle us and demean us as they seek to win little victories.
    Don’t fight, don’t be angry, it will drain your energy and you will lose focus. You can be a bit angry, but never at yourself.

    With this realizations i want to read more about meditation and mindfulness, and more ways to ensure i remain centred, because being centred will help me work toward my goals with fear of failure or doubts created by others. Being centred will remind me who i am and why i’m doing all this in first place.

    Thank you all, and be well.

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    1. Hi Joe, Thank you so much for your comment. I am so glad that as an INTJ you felt supported by this post and what it says about our (introverts) energy being recharged with solitude. You sound like a true visionary and seeker of the truth which is wonderful. I also appreciate your wisdom and advice about letting the small battles with “little people” go, little people who seek to demean us to win little victories. Such good advice to stay focused on our goals and who we are by staying “centered”–in other words, looking inward and loving ourselves and saying positive affirmations to over-ride our inner critic (those pesky “doubts created by others” who also gave us the “fear of failure”). To all of you out there reading this, this is also called “rising above it” (I wrote a song about that–see Rise Above It lyrics in the sidebar 🙂 ). I am creating a new PAGE called Portrait of an INTJ for you, Joe and all other INTJs who are interested in finding out more about their temperament type. Thank you again, Joe, for sharing your words of wisdom and appreciation. With Love and Light, Roxanne

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  8. I am also an introvert & fighting to survive as the working conditions i am in demands extroverts. I feel energetic when left alone for some time. I do enjoy company of friends but only few friends.. But i am totally confused what is the best career path for me. I m in search of the same but not able to find one. Can someone plz suggest.

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    1. Piyush, Thank you for your comment. Without knowing more about you than that you are an introvert, it is difficult to suggest a career path. But knowing your are an introvert is a good start. Taking care of your very real needs for time alone to recharge can do wonders in any career that you are in. I suggest you take the MBTI (Myers Briggs temperament indicator) test online somewhere. Then get the Please Understand Me Book by Keirsey and Bates as a helpful handbook at better understanding yourself. Journaling will help you get in touch with what you truly desire to do as you follow your heart–you then may discover your passion which when tapped into will give you the energy to make some changes or adapt your current job to fit your new-found needs. Good Luck to you.

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  9. […] June 30, 2010 The Misjudgment of Introverts and the True Meaning of Introversion (hopehealing.wordpress.com) […]

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  10. I have just found a wonderful new book called “Introvert Power” by Laurie Helgoe. I am still reading it but was blown away by some of the ways our culture has denied the introvert. Extroverts deal with their problems outwardly so they are of course easy to sell “solutions” to. Introverts solve their problems internally and of course are quickly judged to be snobs, standoffish, or sulking !!!! This is wonderful reading….

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    1. Hi Aisling, Thank you for your comment and for letting us know about this wonderful book. Yes, those of us introverts are lower in number but rare and special in our gifts that we have to offer the planet. It’s so wonderful we are seeing more books like this being published to empower us to feel good about ourselves! The planet needs us! 😀

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      1. The interesting thing is Roxanne is that Helgoe found that the introvert statistics show there is almost an even amount of intro’s to extro’s. What is significant is that often intro’s are pretending to be extro for the sake of acceptance and giving themself a hard time with a false front. This of course is causing alienation and depressive symptoms. May we understand more how much more powerful it is to be an inwardly referential being.

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        1. Thanks for this additional information, Aisling! I had heard from Susan Cain (Quiet– The Power of Introverts) that the figure was more like 1/3– up from 1/4 that I’d learned from Keirsey and Bates Book “Please Understand Me”. So I am pleasantly surprised to hear that the figure is more like half! Makes sense to me that many introverts are pretending to be extraverts to fit in to our American society so it is hard to measure–I am definitely going to look into this book! Warmest wishes, Roxanne

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