The Dark Side of the Introvert Personality

As this is a site built by introverts, written by introverts, and designed with care all for the of benefit of introverts, let’s admit that there are a lot of introvert lovey-dovey vibes going around. Since we introverts don’t really get our due in mainstream society, it’s important for us to have a safe place to validate each other.

However, nothing is all sunshine, flowers, tacos, kitty cats, well-stocked bookstores and bottomless Netflix all the time (did that list get a little too personal?). There can also be something of a dark side to the introvert personality. Yes, we have amazing and often-overlooked characteristics. We have our own deep, quiet strength. We provide unique contributions that extroverts just can’t touch. Check, check, and check. However, we need to admit that, sometimes, just sometimes…we can be a major pain in the ass.

Let’s take a moment for a good, hard look at the flip side of the coin. These characteristics are, of course, not true of every individual introvert at all times. That should go without saying. But these not-so-enlightened characteristics are some real possibilities for some of us introverts in our lower moments. Fortunately, for most of us, these are passing phenomena that are only brought out under emotional, mental, or physical stress. Or when we are super “hangry”….yep, I went there. Don’t tell me you have never said anything you regretted later when you were so hungry you got mad!

Onward to an honest look at the dark side of the introvert personality!

Emotionally Withholding…

All In All, It’s Just Another Brick in the Wall

Introverts are generally pretty sensitive folks with feelings that run strong and deep. However, if you rub an introvert the wrong way (either intentionally or unintentionally), we may throw up a brick wall, falling silent and refusing to let you in. If you have a close friend, romantic partner, or family member who is an introvert, you have probably seen this one in action once or twice. Common reasons an introvert might put up the wall include feeling rejected or criticized. We might make you play the guessing game to try to figure out what is wrong as if we are a puzzle you need to solve. At times, the introvert just wants to know that you care enough to take the time to ask what’s going on. Games aside, sometimes an introverted person just has a strong emotional response to process and puts up a wall while they figure out what’s going on internally, letting their reaction run its course. An introvert who wishes to stop building walls would be wise to heed a famous quote by fellow introvert Isaac Newton: “we build too many walls and not enough bridges”. Yes, dear introverts, allow yourself time and space for your reactions, but not to the point that you shut out your family and friends for hours, days, or weeks on end.


Don’t Mind Me; I’m Just Sitting Here Under My Own Personal Raincloud

Many introverts are deeply emotional people…and strong emotions can come with intense moods. This characteristic may be especially pronounced for an introvert who is also a highly sensitive person (HSP). We may fall into a blue funk for a bit even after something as simple as a sad movie. Alternatively, we may get in a persistent snit after a perceived slight because we are overanalyzing the other person’s motives, intentions, subconscious thoughts, as well as our own reactions. We may be touchy about emotional topics that are particular triggers to us. This can be more than a bit annoying to close friends and family members of introverts.

If we are being moody, our bad moods generally run along the lines of quiet mopey dark cloud stuff, but if we are feeling anxious or if we suffer from a full-blown anxiety disorder, we may be prone to being irritable and brittle.


My Superpower: To Jump to The Worst Conclusion in a Single Bound!

Introverts are generally very imaginative and creative people. This is wonderful when creating great works of art, music, and literature. It’s not so great when the mind, seemingly of its own volition, turns inward to ruminate on endlessly creative versions of worst-case scenarios.

Not all introverts are anxious and not all anxious people are introverts, but the two traits are often found side by side. For an introvert, anxiety can be a passing phenomena that is a bit uncomfortable but doesn’t interfere with day to day functioning. For example, it would be completely normal for an introverted person to feel anxiety in the hours leading up to giving a speech in front of a crowded room, or when going out on a first date with someone new.

On the other hand, anxiety can be a snarling beast shackled to your leg that makes it nigh-impossible to work, sleep, eat, and/or relate to other people in natural, healthy ways. There is a line between passing, garden-variety anxiety that we all experience from time to time, and more serious and diagnosable (read: treatable) anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Introverts need to know that we don’t need to live our lives in an anxiety box of our own mind’s creation. Please don’t accept daily anxiety as your lot in life, and don’t believe for a second that you are all alone. There are many introverts out there going through similar struggles…and there is strong evidence that talk therapy (specifically cognitive-behavioral therapy), exercise, meditation, medication, or a combination of any or all of the above can help alleviate anxiety.


I’m Not Stubborn; My Way is Just Better

Although we may not be as vocal about it, we introverts can have a stubborn streak a mile wide. All that introverted, quiet strength can sometimes translate to the stubbornness of a mule in the mud! We may think that our way is the best, and refuse to take other people’s perspectives into serious consideration. This can come about due to the introvert’s tendency to face inward to process information rather than opening up to others during the brainstorming and development phases of thinking about a new idea.

We prefer to do most of our processing internally and only open up to discussion once we have developed a more polished point of view. Inside of our own minds, we tend to be great at teasing apart multiple aspects of complicated issues. We may also be prone to overthinking things and getting caught up in our own heads. While part of this is simply natural to an introvert’s style of thinking, it shouldn’t be allowed to go to extremes. A word to the wise yet stubborn introvert: if you don’t invite in outside perspectives from time to time, all that wonderful headspace is bound to get stale. So. my introverted friends, keep your own counsel if you must, but don’t forget to keep an open mind!

The Link Between Introversion and Covert Narcissism. You may be surprised to learn that introverts can be prone to covert narcissistic tendencies. When we think of narcissistic people, we tend to think of stuffed-shirt extroverted types who are grandiose, full of themselves, and sorely lacking in empathy for others. We don’t tend to associate narcissism  with us generally more empathic, sensitive, reflective introverts. Some of us may even associate with being particularly self-sacrificing or even enter the realm of “martyrdom”.This is where the trouble starts.

However, there are two types of narcissists: overt and covert. Think of the stereotypical extroverted narcissist as the overt type. These folks are the squeaky wheels who want all the grease and aren’t afraid to proclaim it. The covert narcissists, on the other hand, tend to fly under the radar, at least in the public eye, though their self-centeredness may create problems in their close family and friends relationships or their work life (to be clear here, we’re talking narcissism in a less formal sense than the DSM-diagnosable narcissistic personality disorder. There is no formal personality disorder diagnosis that is specific to covert versus overt narcissistic personality disorder.)

According to psychologist Paul Wink, extroverted narcissists usually embody the “Grandiosity-Exhibitionism” side of the narcissist coin, while introverted narcissists are more often associated with the “Vulnerability-Sensitivity” side. Features of covert narcissism, or “Vulnerable-Sensitive” narcissism, include hypersensitivity, overplaying the victim card, constantly feeling neglected or belittled, feeling persecuted, and holding the illusion that everyone is paying much more attention to your foibles than they actually are (for this last one, think of the feeling of entering a room and squirming under the illusion that all eyes are on you, silently judging).

Both types of narcissists hold in common a tendency to overfocus on the self to the exclusion of the real feelings and needs of other people. A covert narcissist will be especially loath to admit aspects of their own narcissism, because they are very much identified with the illusion of being empathic, victimized, and misunderstood.

In relationships, you may see an overt narcissist paired up with a covert narcissist. Both types tend to feed and complement each other, like a snake eating its own tail. Or two of the same type may band together, often creating a 24/7 pity party of two in the case of covert narcissists. Watch out for signs of narcissism in people you are considering letting into your life… and as introverts, be on the watch for covert narcissistic tendencies in yourself!

Everyone is a little self-centered from time to time, but if you find it difficult to really relate to the emotions of others without bringing your focus constantly back to yourself, that’s a warning sign that help is needed. This is a complex issue that we have just skimmed here. There are a lot of great resources online that explore narcissistic interpersonal dynamics.

The Bottom Line On The Dark Side of the Introvert Personality

Be honest: did you see yourself or anyone you know in these descriptions of the not so light-and-lovely possible facets of the introvert personality? Or did we miss anything that drives you especially crazy about yourself as an introvert? No shame! Just let us know your experience in the comments below.

About The Author

craig hill

Craig is the founder of LifeGuider, he is dedicated to improving not only himself but also others in being more physically fit and mentally capable of handling life’s challenges. He is not your regular life coach, no fancy clothes or fast cars, just a regular “Ole Joe” who has experienced the ups and downs of life like everyone else.

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