What is an introvert?

There are many misconceptions about what it means to be an introvert, including that we don’t like socialising, we’re quiet because we don’t have anything interesting to say, and we’re generally boring to be around.

In this article I aim to debunk some of these myths and give an introvert’s answer to the question:

“What is an introvert?”

The terms ‘Introvert’ and ‘Extrovert’ were coined originally by Carl Jung in 1921. Jung said introverts are drawn to the inner world of thoughts and feelings, and recharge their batteries by being alone. Extroverts recharge by being with people.

It’s taken me a long time to be able to stand up and proudly call myself an introvert. For most of my adult life I’ve felt ashamed and in denial about being labelled an introvert – as if it was somehow a dirty word.

I know that I find some things very challenging that other people find easy, such as …

  • thinking on their feet/answering questions ‘off the top of their head’,
  • being witty and engaging with a group of complete strangers, or
  • being able to thrive with lots of daytime socialising (not to mention thoroughly enjoying and being really effective at networking events).

All of these things I’ve labelled in my head as lacking and somehow not quite ‘measuring up’ to the ideal.

Is that you too?

Yet, now I come to think about it – the things that we find easy, extroverts often struggle with, such as…

  • being able to concentrate deeply on a problem, until we come up with a novel solution.
  • spotting discrepancies in data (in words, pictures or numbers) – because we see the minute detail that others miss.
  • being able to notice when someone’s struggling or in pain, and empathising with how they’re really feeling.

The truth is, there is nothing inherently wrong with being an introvert. No matter what messages we might hear from other people or ‘society’ at large, the world needs all of us, with all of our complementary strengths and qualities.

I’ve heard it said “Stop being such an introvert, speak up, put yourself forward more” (as if it was something you could just switch on, and that you ought to be “like everyone else”)

But do you really want to be like everyone else?

It’s taken me a very long time to be able to accept myself the way I am, and now I can proudly say I don’t want to be like ‘everyone else’.

I don’t want to be the person who speaks over others, just to get their message out and to be the centre of attention.

I don’t want to be the person who feels their voice is the only one that deserves to be listened to, and tries above all else to make sure they’re not ignored (even if that means metaphorically ‘trampling’ on other people).

I don’t want to be the person who doesn’t listen.

The truth is, I can’t change my inherent qualities, and I wouldn’t want to!

It’s a tragedy that because these messages and types of people are so common, we introverts have begun to believe that this is the way we’re “supposed” to be. We believe that because we’re not like that, then there must be something wrong with us.

I’m standing for the truth that as introverts we don’t dislike socialising, and we are not empty headed ‘saddos’ who have nothing interesting to say!

We are interesting people, we are deep thinkers, and prefer to think through what we’re going to say before we say it – to make sure that the words that come out of our mouths are actually the ones we meant to say, and accurately reflect the meaning we want to convey.

Being understood is deeply important to us, so we choose our words carefully, preferring to think before we speak.

It’s unfortunate that in many group situations that means that the ‘topic’ has moved on before we get the chance to contribute.

So why is all this important when you’re building your business as an introvert?

I want to state the message loud and clear that, whatever type of introvert you are, your ideas are hugely valuable. It’s important that you find a way to step aside from the stereotypes that have been drummed into you, and choose your own answer to the question, “What is an introvert?”

That might take you some time, I know, because you have to think about it before you can get it clear in your head. Yet…

…if you identify as an introvert, and find it difficult to put yourself ‘out there’ for your business… 

then it’s important to associate that label with positive qualities, so that you can feel confident in who you are, and what you have to offer the world.

No matter what our particular ‘flavour’ of introversion, I believe it’s important that we proudly accept ourselves as we are, so that we can be rightly AWESOME in the role we are carving out for ourselves in business!

We CAN stand tall and be proud of who we are and take back the power that has been stolen from us. We CAN build our confidence in ourselves and what we can offer, so that we can make the difference in the world that we really want to make.

Only then can we answer the question, ‘What is an introvert?’, and have a positive, empowering answer that is unique to us!

Over to you:

What ‘myths’ have you heard about being an introvert? Any stories to share about the introvert/extrovert divide?  Please leave a comment in the box below, and remember you might just help someone else.

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