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Introverted: an adjective that we use to describe people, often without knowing what it actually means. Introverts, to many people, are quiet, mysterious and somewhat hard to understand. However, there is way more to introversion than that.

First of all, what does being introverted signify? According to the Cambridge Dictionary definition, an introvert is ‘someone who is shy, quiet, and prefers to spend time alone rather than often being with other people’. Let me contest this definition slightly.

The main aspect of being introverted is getting your energy from being alone, rather than being with other people. Thus, introverts need more time alone to recharge. Most introverts feel mentally drained when spending too much time with other people, without any time in between to themselves. Often, society portrays introverts as quiet, reserved and somewhat boring people. As an introvert, I have sometimes been described as the latter three words, even though I don’t think I’m like that. In other words, I think the term ‘introverted’ is often misunderstood. Therefore I would like to clarify a few things:

 

Introverted doesn’t necessarily mean shy

Often, people use the terms ‘introverted’ and ‘shy’ almost as synonyms. To them, introverts are obviously socially awkward and unable to speak to strangers. However, this just isn’t true. Just because you value time alone doesn’t mean that you’re shy and that you struggle to engage in conversations. You can be extremely sociable, but fundamentally be an introvert. Also, introversion isn’t always visible: some global stars, who you see on red carpets or on your Instagram feed, are introverts. World-famous actress Marilyn Monroe once said: “I restore myself when I’m alone”.

For instance, I would consider myself an introvert but not a shy person. I am usually always the first person to ask a stranger for directions or to give them a compliment. I genuinely love meeting and speaking to new people. I find it eye-opening, interesting and inspiring. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t value my ‘alone time’. Susan Cain describes it perfectly in a TED interview: “introversion is much more about the preference for environments where there’s just a little less going on. It’s more mellow. It’s more chill. And that’s where you feel that you’re most alive”. [1]

 

I think it’s incredibly important that people understand that being introverted doesn’t mean being quiet and in the shadows. It may look similar. But it isn’t.

 

Introversion is a spectrum

It is quite a common thing to perceive things in an all or nothing manner: either you’re totally introverted or you’re totally extroverted.

However, this is also not entirely correct; most people are somewhere in between. Some people might feel extroverted one day and more introverted another. Or some people simply change over time and become more introverted or extroverted over the years. In other words, being introverted is by no means a label that is indelibly engraved on your skin for a lifetime.

 

Introverts have equally valuable skills as extroverts

It seems to be a common misconception that introverts have less valuable skills than extroverts, particularly in the working world. This is probably because, in the media, successful people are always portrayed as loud, confident, fearless, and always in the limelight. However, introverts should not be underestimated. Introverts can also have very good leadership and management skills. Introverts can, for instance, have better listening skills, which is extremely beneficial when coordinating a team. And, once again, since introversion doesn’t necessarily mean being shy, introverts can be excellent public speakers and networkers.

In a Q&A, Bill Gates famously said, “I think introverts can do quite well”. [2] He then explained that introverted people are deep thinkers, which is something every successful company needs.

 

I hope that I clarified a few misconceptions about introverted people and that you might view them slightly differently from now on. And if you are introverted yourself, I hope you feel a little empowered by this article.  For many years, I sometimes had the feeling that introverts were somewhat inferior to extroverts, simply because they enjoy being alone a little more, which is, of course, totally wrong. Just because we are different, it does not mean that we are less valuable: we bring skills that compliment extroverts perfectly, so I think it’s time for us to be proud of our introversion!

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with another message from Susan Cain: “Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured…Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to”. [3]

 

European Politics student, chocolate-lover and writing enthusiast
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