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Myths About Introverts

Cathy Cassani Adams“Introvert” tends to bring up an image of a shy person in a corner, or an insecure person at home alone.  But over the years I have learned that introversion isn’t about shyness or insecurity, it’s about where and how you derive your energy.

Extroverts tend to get their energy from outside stimulation, and introverts tend to find it from within. 

I have an introverted nature, but I still love loud music in the car, dancing with my friends, social events, and presenting to huge groups of people.  Extroversion is a big part of my world.  It’s not foreign to me, nor do I always consider it difficult, it’s just not where I want to be all the time.

The reason I can participate in extroverted activities is because I have learned to balance it with my introverted needs.

I crave quiet and peace. My best ideas pop up when I’m in silence. I am easily stimulated by environments, and easily stimulated by other people’s feelings and energy.  I’m sensitive. I don’t enjoy partner work when I’m doing yoga.  Closing my eyes and breathing is fun. Down time with nothing to do is one of my favorite activities.

Instead of considering myself flawed (can you believe that introversion was almost considered a diagnosable disorder just a few years ago?), I have come to appreciate what makes me tick, what feels good, and what I need to be a content and productive person.

Myth #1: Introverts don’t like people

I don’t just like people, I love people. I love people so much that I want to give people my all; I want to be fully present and listen.  I choose to be with people when I feel able to offer them something, when I feel grounded and ready.  At the same time I make a point to minimize time with difficult or toxic people.

I can handle the occasional negative interaction or challenge, but I feel the effects later.For many years I tried to hold up people in constant chaos, but it made me sick, emotionally and physically, so I recognized my choices and made some shifts.

Sometimes I don’t like answering the door for the pizza guy and sometimes I choose to not answer the phone, even if it’s someone I know well. These are things my husband struggles to understand, but here’s the deal:

In that moment I can’t be sincere and connected; it’s not about insecurity, it’s about having the energy to authentically engage another human being.This may sound weird to some, but when you naturally “hold space” for people (meaning be present, listen intently, and really connect) it takes energy.

Sometimes I have the energy to give, and sometimes I don’t.

When I don’t I know I need to be alone, or at least quietly side by side with my nearest and dearest.This is my reenergizing, my time away, my time to myself.

Myth #2: Introverts don’t go out and have fun

I love fun.  No, I really love fun.  But I absolutely pick and choose where I have fun and for how long. 

I love spending time with friends and loved ones, or meeting people who make me laugh or inspire me.  But I’m not really interested in small talk; it’s always been somewhat painful. 

I can do it, and I used to pride myself on it, but it can be so guarded and surface-y.  If we are going to talk, let’s be real, let’s go deep.  Let’s talk about what’s really happening, what we are really feeling. Everything else feels insincere; it drains my energy rather than adds to it. 

I can do parties for awhile, socialize with new people and have new experiences, but I don’t need to go all night.  I can feel when it’s time to call it a night; sometimes it’s early, sometimes it’s late, but it’s never based on the clock.

In college I would use alcohol to keep the party going, but as I’ve grown older I’ve learned to heed that inner feeling, the part of me that knows it’s time to call it a day and reboot. 

In my 20’s this felt like a bummer, but now all I feel is gratitude.

Myth #3: Introverts wish they were extroverts

My husband is more of an extrovert.  He shakes hands and talks on the phone for a living, he loves new situations, he likes full calendars and staying out late. 

But he also struggles to be alone, quiet time is uncomfortable for him.

I appreciate and honor his experience, and I even depend on his skills (he will always answer the door for the pizza guy), but I don’t want to be like him. 

I love my quiet, I love my time away.  I love to sit and stare out the window, I love to write, I love full days by myself.

My husband gets more energy from the outside world and I get mine from within.  Through honest conversation we’ve learned to understand each other and respect each other’s needs, but we touch base about it constantly, it’s always a work in progress.

One of my greatest challenges has been balancing motherhood with my need for solitude.  It’s my desire to be fully present for my kids, but I’m not good for them when I’m depleted.

The early years were difficult; I needed help carving out 15 minutes here, an hour there, so I could reenergize and be attentive to my babies who constantly needed me. 

But now that my kids are a little older they understand me, I’ve been very clear with them about who I am and what I need.

They don’t knock on the door during my meditation, and they don’t wonder what I’m doing when I take a walk by myself.  And this respect is reciprocated; I do my best to hear their needs and recognize their ways of refueling.

We all have our own place on the extroverted/introverted continuum, there are definitely some introverted tendencies that I cannot relate to, and some extroverted tendencies that come naturally.

It’s not so much about the label as it is a reminder to accept your nature.  Look beyond the words and stereotypes and appreciate and honor your way of being. 

Leave the party, let the phone go to voicemail, or maybe do the complete opposite.  Just be conscious of what drives you.  Make sure it’s your own needs rather than the expectations of others.

Love,

Cathy

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Cathy Cassani Adams, LCSW, CPC, is the author of The Self-Aware Parent, the host of Zen Parenting Radio, a columnist for Chicago Parent Magazine, and a blogger for Chicago Now. She’s a self-awareness teacher and yoga instructor in her community, and she teaches in the Sociology Department at Dominican University.

Find Cathy on Facebook (The Self-Aware Parent or Zen Parenting Radio) and on Twitter (@selfawareparent or @zenparenting) and on her website www.cathycadams.com.

  • Jessica

    Well said, Cathy! I can totally relate to pretty much everything you said. I, too, have struggling days being a single parent to 4 kids – 3 with special needs. I find myself giving my all to be totally drained by the time they go to bed. It’s after that that I get to refuel – however, this can lead to staying up too late because it’s so energizing. I’m a work in progress yet thankful that I realize all this about myself. Introverts have definitely gotten a bad wrap – at least by some extroverts. That’s why love is so important – we love people for who they are and who God designed them to be… not changing them into us. That would be boring :) Thanks for a great article!

    • Ellie

      I too, am a single mom with 4 youngsters. Yep, it takes energy! I have known for a while just what Cathy shared so eloquently. I love being engaged with people, but also know that I need regular periods of sustained quiet to re-energize. And I am clear about communicating that. I am also a teacher, and so being fully alive and “on stage” is a role I play. I also find that I am attracted to relationships with extroverts, because I think we balance each other. ;)

      • Cathy

        Jessica and Ellie – thank you so much for sharing your stories. Sounds like we are kindred spirits. :) It’s nice to find a community of people when I spent so many years thinking I should be different. Quiet space is a contented space. xo

  • Kelly Pietrangeli

    Cathy you have just put into such clear words exactly how I feel! People would never say I’m an introvert, yet I have those qualities you describe where I just really often prefer my own company. I love my quiet too! I struggle with small talk and much prefer a one-on-one with a friend that with a whole gaggle of girls. I like to go deep and that doesn’t happen for me in groups. One of the hardest things for me about becoming a mother was my loss of quiet and personal space – especially in the early days! Now my boys are 13 and 11, are able to amuse themselves and certainly don’t wake me up early in the mornings anymore. (It’s more likely to be ME waking THEM up now.) I am feeling much more like the old me again. (But a better version!) ;)

    • Cathy

      Kelly – I can relate to every word YOU just said! My girls are 10,8, and 5 and for the last year I have felt calmer, not so on edge (they are so much more self sufficient). Thanks for the connection!

  • Guest

    I find it interesting how an introvert mated with an extrovert. My in/ex relationship just ended after 3 years and it was always a struggle. My introverted boyfriend was in his words, painfully shy. He came across sometimes as old and a snob to some of my friends and family members. I found some of his friends and family nice but a little boring. I guess the key here is communication.

  • Eily

    I find it interesting how an introvert mated with an extrovert. My in/ex relationship just ended after 3 years and this dynamic was always a struggle. We were good alone together which was most of the time, socially there were issues and those occasions were less frequent but poignant. My introverted boyfriend was in his words, painfully shy. He came across as quiet, or old and a snob to some of my people. I found some of his people very nice but a little boring. While with him I developed my quiet nature and a love of our time alone together but he needed major recharge breaks from even that. I needed him to show up happily on not all but the rare social occasion and he seemed to dread them all. Hard not to take it personally. I guess the key here is communication.

    • Cathy

      Eily – yes, it necessitates consistent communication. We don’t agree on everything, but we really do see how we balance each other – extroverts need a little downtime, and introverts sometimes need to step out their box. We support each other rather than believe it should be any different, and that’s worked well. Thanks for your comment!

  • Mona

    Thanks for the post. I can relate to every single word and yes I love dancing to loud music too. It was a struggle for me too when my son was a baby. My son is now 4 years old and he understands already when i tell him i am doing “quiet time”. And I will email your post to my extrovert hubby too :-)

    • Cathy

      “quiet time” is a common theme in our house, too! Thanks for reading.

  • Bethany Nola

    I am finally at a point in my life of loving and appreciating my introvert nature instead of fighting it to be “normal”. You expressed everything I feel perfectly! A great read for any extrovert who needs help understanding their introvert partner too! Thank you!

    • Rachelle Guterres

      I feel the exact same way Bethany!

  • BD

    Wow! Thank you so much for this. You have no idea the reaction I’m having to your story. I’m quite emotional right now. For so long, I’ve tried to figure out who I am, have felt less than and wondered if there’s something wrong with me or assumed I’m just a boring person. I am going through a divorce after 18 years of marriage. My husband is the more active/extrovert/fun type with many friends and things to do. I have fewer, but very close friends who I love and appreciate dearly, I’m more of a home-body and enjoy my peace and quiet, but also love to have fun…just not all the time. Although divorce is the most difficult thing I’ve ever gone through and don’t wish it on anybody, it has forced me to dig deep down inside, focus on me and figure this stuff out. I’m feeling a little better each day, although I still have very difficult days. Your story just summed me up and I relate to absolutely everything. I needed to read this. Before reading this, I was already getting to a point of accepting myself and feeling comfortable being on my own, but what you wrote, hit me hard. I will keep your story to re-read every so often. Please know that you’ve made a difference for a complete stranger today more than you know. Thank you so much!

    • Rachelle Guterres

      Wonderfully answered Mona. I feel the EXACT same way. It’s difficult to find others like us and so we don’t have many friends, which can make us feel we are anti-social and boring (at least that’s what I’ve been told all my life), and consequently somewhat lonley, but reading something like this helps us see that we’re just special :) and that there are others like us. I am also saving this post to read and re-read many more times. Wishing you the best during this difficult time my dear. Remember, today you’re hurting, tomorrow you’ll be in love again!

      • Cathy

        Thanks to both of you for your kind comments – glad you can relate…nice to hear we are in the same “tribe”. :)

    • CB

      Reading the book Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Great read. You will relate to it if you relate to this article. Going througha divorce myself so I can relate to your story.

  • Rachelle Guterres

    Such a relief to know there is nothing “wrong” with us, and that I’m not the only one. Thank you so so much for putting that into words Cathy, you described every nuance of how I am and went even further as to give adivce. When we understand ourselves better it’s easier to accept and to love.

    • Cathy

      Agreed Rachelle! I used to beat myself up about not answering the door/answering the phone, but I eventually realized it was self preservation/energy preservation.

      • Rachelle Guterres

        Wow, what a great way to look at it! I never thought of it like that before… makes sense. Thanks!

  • Misty Rochelle

    100 percent just explained me to myself! Great job!

    • Cathy

      thank you Misty – glad the language resonated.

  • ShannO

    Thank you for stating these truths so succinctly!! It feels like you wrote this about ME! Although I’ve known and embraced these things about myself for quite some time, I have struggled with explaining it to others. I think your article has helped me find the wording to use to help others understand. I am a nurse so I KNOW what it’s like to “step out” and be “extroverted” when time calls for it, so I get frustrated when extroverts cannot “step in” – or at least understand.
    I read some replies by others and I agree, communication is truly the key — and I think your article might just help me communicate it better! So thank you!

    • Cathy

      ShannO – totally! my line of work forces me to step out, and truthfully, I am pretty good at it. But after stepping out it’s all about quiet time so I can do it again if necessary. Glad the words help.

  • Karina

    I feel the same exact way, omg! Thanks so much~ I’m glad i’m not the only one. I really really appreciate this post. It just made my whole day! great way to start it. is there any books you have on self help besides the self aware parent?

    • Cathy

      Hi Karina – I only have my two Self-Aware Parent books, but since you like this post, I would check out Brene Brown’s books and definitely Susan Cain’s book called Quiet.

      • karina

        Awesome! I will totally check those books out, Thanks so much Cathy. I have one more question. I’m in training to become a Yoga instructor and i just practiced taught my first class yesterday to a couple people and i felt so nervous. I enjoyed teaching but at the same time i was a bit worried… any tips or advice on how to carry a yoga class with not being nervous? i saw that you are a yoga instructor as well. :)

  • Jill_Hallgren

    GIRL! You are singing my song! Thank you for sharing!

    • Cathy

      yay! so glad.

  • Karina

    Oh my god!!!! FINALLY!!!! Thank you so much for clearing this up. I’m the introvert of my family of 4 other extroverts and they do not get it. They always make me feel awful (more my brothers than my parents) and like I’m a jerk for choosing to be alone more often than I’m with others. They make me feel so bad sometimes that I actually started believing that something was wrong with me. It still happens sometimes, but then I stop and realize that deep down in my heart, I like who and how I am. I like spending time with just one person for the day rather than a group, staying in reading instead of going to the mall to window shop, and going home early from a party once my energy runs out. Small talk is a nightmare for me, so embarrassing and awkward. I mean, I get why extroverts love to be out there and how they get their energy – I just like smaller doses of that extroverted world. But then extroverts look at introverts and are like, “What the hell is wrong with you?” It’s not fair – they instantly think we need medication or something. Anyway, thank you so much for this. I can ease up on myself a lot more now and be a little bit more hopeful that someone will come along that completely gets it, or at least respects it. xoxo

    • Cathy

      “smaller doses” – great description! I also think that even extroverts need time away from people, and sometimes they are envious of our ability to speak our needs. This isn’t true for all, but for some. :)

  • Ky

    Thank you! I’m an introvert. It’s who I am. Whenever I tried to be extroverted, I ended up tripping over my own feet. Lol

    And why? Because it wasn’t natural :-)

    I retreat sometimes, I love to watch sometimes and ‘take it all in’, and while I may not be saying anything ~ I am indeed screaming with joy. Some don’t understand, but finally I’ve reached a point in my life where I realized that I don’t owe anyone an explanation for being me.

    Loved your article!

  • RosieS

    You just described me perfectly! I never used to think of myself as an introvert, because I do enjoy people, parties, and am quite good at making connections. However, I am realizing more and more that it is a description of what I need to feel centered and recharged! My family doesn’t understand the not answering the phone or the door thing. I am so glad to read that someone else “gets it!” Now on the verge of having a baby, I fully understand the feeling of worrying that I won’t get enough time to replenish myself once the kiddo arrives. Here’s hoping that I can form the same kind of honest connection so that my child understands that I am a better person after I have some “me” time. Thanks so much for this article!!

  • Doc_Gee

    You are right on about us. It felt as if you interviewed me just for this article. I fell in love with me back in the late 90’s while studying the Myers Brigg Type Indicator in order to interpret results for clients. What a joy, what a peace you find when you are able to live your authentic self.
    Thanks!

  • Dävid La Rosa

    Much like every other experience of contrast in the universe, we introverts are the experience of contrast to extroverts! Not the drop in the ocean but the ocean in the drop.Thank you and namaskar.

  • Laurence Alan Brown

    Bravo!

  • LJ

    Thank You. Funny how things manifest in your life at the perfect time. I had a fight with my very extrovert partner last night that left me feeling very “less than”. After reading your article I have a little deeper understanding of us.

  • hagl

    THANK YOU!!! :-)

  • JimW

    Your exactly right Cathy. People are amazed when I tell them I’m an introvert because when I’m talking with people I know fairly well I’m comfortable with them and am able to open up and it’s exactly because “small talk” can be more intimate with familiar people than with strangers and has meaning. I need to have my quiet time and sometimes there are days where I force myself to go out rather than sit at home because I know I need to interact with people and am usually glad I did. I’ve always been able to easily spend lengthy periods of time doing things alone whether out-and-about or at home and not feeling the need to be spending this time with someone else. I like people, I go to parties and have fun but I don’t need to be or want to be the center of attention…I’m just happy being me…ZEN!

  • Jen

    Love how this was written. Often thought I felt a misfit as I too struggle with small talk. I too love time to myself to feel centred and also to get back to my love affair with Mother Nature. By being quiet you can apreciate all the wonderful things and energy going on around you. Often extroverts are too busy being busy to notice I find.

  • JenB

    …you have spoken my heart. It’s a blessing now… understanding how I’m really okay.. this is just me. Thank you for sharing this perfectly explained soulfulness.

  • Ashley Vegan-YogaGeek

    i love this, thank you. i feel the same way. and now im comfortable with being an introvert…. yet others are uncomfortable with it. lol. xo

  • Carie Bean

    Thank you dear lady for this message! I too feel the same way you have described yourself. And I’ve always felt guilty about it or that something must be wrong with me. I just need that silent connection reboot so I can be the best when I’m with others. There is a point where I just need my own space. Not b/c I don’t like people or care. I think this goes well with Mastin’s blog about saying yes to things just because you are not good at saying no.
    Knowing yourself is the only way to be real. Wonderful stuff!!!!! Keep writing! Keep loving people! Keep being you! You’re very good at it! Sending you a great big delicious THANK YOU! happily, Carie

  • Haeshu

    Great article. I can see myself in many of the things you said. I would add that I don’t like labels and I don’t apply them to myself or others as I believe every person is unique. I am neither an introvert or an extrovert, even though I crave alone time, but can shake hands and carry on a conversation with anyone. I go to church but am not religious by any means. I fear most black people, but am not a racist. I don’t like the police, but have no criminal record. I guess I see it as most people just doing their best to get by in a world filled with possibilities and pitfalls.

  • Lisa

    This is so spot on, me. Thank you for writing this. We always put ourselves in a box instead of the fact we are all unique; the way God made us.

  • Josie

    I can totally relate to your article. For many, many years, I’ve felt that there was something wrong with me because I enjoy spending time alone or with one friend at a time. My extroverted friends, while they mean well, try to draw me out for happy hours, girls’ weekends away, shopping, etc. When I participate, I can’t wait to withdraw from the extended activity, even finding peace in a restroom. I have a much better time reading, writing, being in nature, than I ever have with a loud group event. It’s good to know that there are like-minded spirits who feel the same as I do!

  • IntrovertedLove

    Thanks for this post. Beautifully articulated!

    I see many of us having light bulb moments :). After living for almost 37 years I finally understand why and how I’m wired differently. I grew up around a lot of extroverts and when I wasn’t around my parents I spent time with a grandmother who took me everywhere with her. We are still very close ’til this very day but she’s never understood my personality. She didn’t understand why I never immediately warmed up to her groups of friends that were merely strangers to me and why I chose to stay in the house watching television with her and my grandfather instead of shopping or visiting her friends all day. My mom was more reserved while my dad was the social butterfly so naturally family would simply say I’m “just like my mother” and roll their eyes. My mom used to force me to play outside with friends when all I really wanted was to be in my room playing with my toys :). I’m sure she didn’t want me to be like her.

    I met my future husband in college and even then I was known as hot and cold. People would wait to confront me while we were are drunk and tell me how they always thought I was a mean until they talked and got to know me. Apparently anyone who doesn’t engage with others 24/7 when they don’t want to is mean, anti-social, or weird. Even now, my husband will ask me why I choose to leave a party early and go up to my room to read or listen to my soundscapes radio :) Him and his family don’t get it and think I’m purposely antisocial.

    It’s also hard to be a mom as an introvert with introvert/ambivert kids. My daughter more introverted than my son who is more like me and highly sensitive. It’s difficult for them to understand why I get so irritated with noise in the house and why I’ll frequently retire to my room to read or lay down to unwind after a day of hanging out with them all day. I threw my husband for a loop when I asked for some time away and hopped on a plane to FL and spent 3 nights/4 days alone off the coast of Sarasota. He allowed me my space but was understandably upset and concerned about why I needed to go so far away by myself. I just needed time and honestly just spent my days walking around the different keys, visiting marine museums, shopping and sitting on the beach watching the sun rise and set. It was so relaxing and enlightening. I came home completely rejuvenated and renewed.

    I get why I am the way I am now and I’m okay with it. I’m thankful for finding others like me.

    • IntrovertedLove

      I meant to say, it’s hard to be a mom to extrovert/ambivert kids. My daughter is more extroverted than my son.

      • Cathy

        all I can say is I understand. thanks for sharing. xo

  • Zekia Brunson

    Wow! This has been a topic that I have been analyzing about myself for the past month. I prefer to be alone. I prefer peace and quiet. I just prefer not doing anything with others sometimes. On the other hand, I love spending time with my family and friends, and I like having fun…sometimes. Over the years, my preference for being alone has made me feel alien to my family, and recently, anti-social. This article has given me a whole new outlook on me. I’ve been called an introvert before, but I don’t think that I fully grasped the meaning and characteristics. However, I felt like I was reading about myself as I read this article (minus the husband and children ;-)) I recently turned 31 and have felt that God is revealing me to myself, slowly but surely, and this article is a perfect example of how He is doing that.
    Thank you for this Cathy!