Introvert Mondays: Introduction and DefinitionPosted: March 25, 2013
Today I launch a project for myself: Introvert Mondays! The last few months I have been doing research on introversion to help understand why I am the way I am. While I haven’t completely figured myself out, I have acquired a solid start in understanding introversion. However, I wasn’t quite sure what I should do with my new found knowledge. Then introversion came up in a conversation on Facebook the other day and I was reminded that not everyone has spent the last two months obsessively reading hundreds of pages about introversion–I actually had some facts to share with others!
Please keep in mind that I am not an expert on introversion. Most of the facts and definitions I will discuss come from other people’s research–I’m not claiming to have a radical new look at this trait. What I do have is an understanding of our society’s bias against introversion and time to read and write about it. And I figure the more people who talk about introversion, the more understanding our society will develop for their quieter half. Consequently, some of my goals for this project are as follows:
1. Create a better understanding of what introversion is through personal stories for people who may not be reading about introversion but do read this blog (which, admittedly, isn’t many 😉 ).
2. Discuss and review books, articles, and websites about introversion
3. Specifically discuss some of the challenges that introverted vicar’s/pastor’s wives face when interacting with their congregation (hey, I have to bring in the whole “Seminarian’s Wife” thing somehow!).
So, without further ado, here comes my first “Introvert Monday” Segment:
What is an Introvert?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific definition to describe this personality trait. From Sigmund Freud to Marti Laney (her book is on my To-Read list), there is a wide array of explanations of the introvert-extrovert personality differences. Some are flattering, referring to introverts as deep thinkers and creative, while some are belittling, referring to introverts as antisocial and cold. According to Laurie Helgoe, PhD, in her book Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength, “What constitutes an introvert is quite simple. We are a vastly diverse group of people who prefer to look at life from the inside out. We gain energy and power through inner reflection, and get more excited by ideas than by external activities. When we converse, we listen well and expect others to do the same. We think first and talk later,” (pg. 13). I like Helgoe’s definition because she immediately points out that there are many different types of introverts. There is no one characteristic that can define a person as introverted and extroverted. One of the big traits (in my humble opinion) is feeling drained after social interactions no matter how enjoyable the people were. Introverts need less stimulation to feel fulfilled and, quite frankly, people provide a lot of stimulation–socializing can be exhausting! Another common trait is that introverts spend a lot of time in thought and inner reflection about the world around them.
However, it is important to note that no one, and I mean no one, is fully introverted or fully extroverted. Susan Cain writes in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, “We can’t say that every introvert is a bookworm or every extrovert wears lampshades at parties any more than we can say that every woman is a natural consensus builder and every man loves contact sports. As Jung felicitously put it, ‘There is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert. Such a man would be in the lunatic asylum,'” (pg. 14). There are times when I, a self-proclaimed introvert, can talk with someone for long stretches and put myself in the center of a party. There are times when my extroverted friends ask for some alone time, a quiet evening in. What it really comes down to is tendencies and preferences. There are even people who fall in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum–they’re called “ambiverts.”
Finally, I would like to point out what introverts are not. Introverts are not necessarily shy. Once again, I quote Susan Cain as she writes, “Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating,” (pg. 12). Introverts and extroverts alike can have this fear of socializing. Likewise, introverts are not necessarily antisocial. Laurie Helgoe mentions in her book that a population study reported in the MBTI* Step II Manual notes that introverts make up 57% of the population (pg. xxi)–odds are that you know many friendly, caring introverts.
I hope my brief introduction to introversion has proven helpful. If you are uncertain where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, you can take an informal quiz here. If you have any thoughts on extroversion and introversion, I would certainly appreciate any feedback you may have!
*For those of you who don’t know, MBTI stands for a personality test called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. When I took the test, my preference for introversion was “very clear”–the highest preference score. 🙂