So you’ve discovered that you are the proud (or soon-to-be-proud, hopefully) owner of an introvert personality. If this is a newer concept to you, it might still be a little confusing. You don’t yet know all the ins and outs of introvert personality traits and how they affect your life and your interactions. The good news is, as introverts, the more we learn about introversion, the more at home we begin to feel in our own skin.
I remember when I was a kid, teenager, then young adult, in the days of yore long before I learned about the existence of introversion as a personality trait…let alone that it is completely OK and even commendable to be an introvert…times were a lot tougher. I often felt like a stranger in a strange land. Sometimes I felt like an alien being who had crash-landed on an unaccustomed planet when I observed the ease with which those around me navigated the loud, flashy world.
Depending on the day and depending on my mood, I viewed the extroverted people and society at large around with me with a mixture of curiosity, envy, and repulsion to varying degrees. I wondered if something was wrong with me for feeling different than the mainstream; for having different interaction preferences…overwhelm threshold…just a fundamentally different temperament from what I was observing around me on a daily basis.
I was drawn to other introverted people, even though we didn’t necessarily know that introversion, a key cornerstone of our temperament and personality was one of the major things drawing us together. I found I had the most to talk about with other “quiet”, “reserved”, “creative”, “observer-types”. These types of people were the most interesting to me and felt most at home with them. That being said, I’ve had my share of wonderful extroverts in my life; as the saying goes, sometimes opposites attract too!
When I was introduced to the concept of introversion and started studying and researching introvert personality traits, things started to fall into place for me. I was wired differently than those around me who were at home with small talk, sporting events, and the cult of extrovert personality worship.
This article is intended as a primer on introvert personality traits and what it means to be an introvert. We will spend most of our time deconstructing what being an introvert ISN’T so we can begin to banish negative stereotypes we may have grown up with and internalized into our self-concept or our view of the introverts around us. This information is offered in hopes of helping you get to know yourself and introverts in general a bit better, as well as to help you let go of limiting conceptions that may color your view of yourself and those around you.
The Prevalence of Introverts
The first thing you need to know is that you are far, far from alone. At least one third of all people are introverts. According to some sources, the figure actually comes up to half of all people! This might be surprising to you, but remember that old saying about the squeaky wheel getting the grease. Extroverts appear to be more prevalent than they really are because they are louder and attract more attention to themselves. They are the people who are more comfortable being out in the world, while lots of introverts like to tuck themselves away in their favorite hidey-holes a larger portion of the time.
When you go to a bar, coffee shop, mall, sporting event, concert, etcetera, you tend to see more extroverts because extroverts are drawn to these types of settings and activities. This doesn’t mean they actually run the world; it just means that a higher percentage of introverts have (surprise, surprise!) chosen to stay in for the day. So the dominance of extroverts is really an illusion
That being said, extrovert values, also known as the extrovert ideal, DO tend to dominate our society. Traits associated with extroversion tend to be valued over introvert personality traits by the culture, schools, workplaces, even in families.
What Being an Introvert DOES NOT Mean
Before we dig into introvert personality traits, let us slay some common limiting misconceptions about what introversion is all about. While SOME of these traits may apply to SOME introverts, this is NOT a given. Extroverts might sling these labels at you, other introverts might, and you might even have internalized some of these messages whether or not they are actually true about your personality and/or where you are at in your life right now.
Thing #1 that is NOT an Introvert Personality Trait: SHYNESS
Being called “shy” is a common struggle shared by many introverts. Some introverts may self-identify as shy, some may feel shy in new social situations, and others may not actually be shy but simply prefer to observe and think before they approach people or react and respond in conversations. Being shy indicates a fear, uncertainty, and avoidance of people and social situations, as well as a lack of inner self-confidence. Many introverts are self-confident and socially fluid, but hang back to observe and analyze first rather than inserting themselves front and center in every social situation.
Thing #2 that is NOT an Introvert Personality Trait: SOCIAL ANXIETY
While introversion is a fundamental personality trait, social anxiety is a mental health disorder that causes distress to the person whom it affects. Social anxiety disorder is a set of symptoms including an out-of-proportion fear response to situations in which one faces evaluation by other people. There can be many different causes of social anxiety disorder. It can be improved with counseling, medication, meditation, various relaxation techniques, a variety of self-care strategies, or a combination of any of the above. On the other hand, introversion is not inherently distressing or anxiety-provoking. An introverted person may have social anxiety, but introversion itself does not cause social anxiety disorder.
Thing #3 that is NOT an Introvert Personality Trait: BEING AWKWARD
We all feel awkward in new situations from time to time. An introvert may FEEL socially awkward more often than an extrovert in the same situations, but introverts do not necessarily BEHAVE awkwardly or lack social skills. In fact, introverts are often BETTER than extroverts at being conversational partners. Introverts tend to be more thoughtful and conscientious, thinking about what they really mean and also how it will affect others before they open their mouths to speak. Given the right circumstances, such as adequate conversational space, many introverts can be quite charming and expressive!
Thing #4 that is NOT an Introvert Personality Trait: BEING A PUSHOVER
Introverts are NOT necessarily unassertive people. Due to a variety of reasons, some introverts may be more passive and get taken advantage of by other people. Sadly, this is often due to a lack of self-confidence all-too-common among introverted people living in an extroverted culture who have internalized messages about being somehow less-than. However, know that many introverts possess a huge reserve of quiet inner strength, as well as very strong personal convictions. Some of us are quite stubborn! Even if we are not really passive people in our nature, we may be assumed to be so, because we are slower to respond or may have a longer fuse. But underestimate an introvert at your own peril! Remember that as an introvert, it may be more difficult to stand up for yourself and you may struggle to do so, but it is absolutely a skill you can develop so that you can better get your needs met.
Thing #5 that is NOT an Introvert Personality Trait: LACK OF CHARISMA
People may assume that all charismatic celebrities, politicians, and instigators of social change have been extroverts. This is simply, and emphatically, untrue. Many famous actors, musicians, athletes, politicians, and world-shaking social activists have been and continue to be introverts! Introverts can wield immense influence, have a compelling stage (or camera) presence, and be engaging public speakers. On a smaller scale, introverts can also be entertaining party guests and their presence can light up a room! Don’t assume that because you are an introvert, you lack charm and charisma. Let’s go over a very short and incomplete list of famous people who happen to be introverts. Its denizens may surprise you! For starters, consider Michael Jordan, Steve Martin, Julia Roberts, Rosa Parks, Barack Obama, Meryl Streep, and Mahatma Gandhi? No one would ever argue that any of these folks have lacked charisma or have failed to touch the lives of millions and even billions through their various contributions. Yet they are all introverts!
So Then What ARE Introvert Personality Traits??
Now that we have spent some good time banishing common misconceptions about introvert personality traits by establishing what is NOT included, you’re probably thinking, “OK, OK…so what ARE some real introvert personality traits? That’s a fair question at this point. We have many articles on the introvert personality and being an introvert that dig way deep into the details. For now, let’s keep it quite brief and lay out five traits that most sources agree are shared by most introverts to some degree.
Actual Introvert Personality Trait #1: We Require Extra Downtime to Recharge
Introverts tend to possess more sensitive nervous systems. While extroverts are energized and recharged by interacting with others, introverts won’t feel 100% ourselves without adequate downtime to rest.
Actual Introvert Personality Trait #2: We Enjoy Our Solitude
Introverts like, and indeed require, solitude. A night in is often relished rather than dreaded. Some introverts are very solitary and require lots of alone time to happy. Other introverts require more social interaction in their day-to-day life. This introvert personality trait definitely runs on a spectrum; there are several different types of introverts and many shades of grey in between. But the bottom line is that introverts need time to themselves.
Actual Introvert Personality Trait #3: We Are Self-Reflective
Introverts reflect on themselves, analyzing and learning from life experiences and emotional responses. Introverts have generally accumulated a great deal of self-knowledge and most feel that they know their inner geography pretty well. We also tend to enjoy non-linear self-exploration and value close friends who have the same orientation.
Actual Introvert Personality Trait #4: We Are “Thinkers”
Others might see us as being too much “in our heads”, but a more positive way to view this trait is that we introverts are thinkers. We turn things over and over in our heads, looking at issues from multiple angles and perspectives. We like to study, analyze, and learn new things.
Actual Introvert Personality Trait #5: We Are Creative
Introverts are great at coming up with creative and novel ideas and solutions to problems. Since we are thinkers and analyzers, and we also prefer to work out the whole picture for ourselves before presenting our projects for public scrutiny, it may take us longer to bring our ideas to light. But it will be totally worth the wait!
Introvert Personality Traits: The Bottom Line
Hopefully, this article has been a helpful starting point for laying out what an introvert is and isn’t. Introversion and extroversion run along a continuum rather than being strict dichotomous categories. Never use these two categories to stereotype or make assumptions about people because you will only succeed in making them smaller than they really are. Instead, use your knowledge of these to help you treat yourself and others with more compassion and respect. Remember that if you are introvert, it’s really a good thing and you are in great company! Embracing and exploring the different aspects of this trait will bring you far more happiness and fulfillment than trying to morph into something you are not.
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.
Introverts everywhere, get ready to shudder your way through this article. If you fall anywhere…