I always knew I was an introvert, I just didn’t always know there was a name for it.
It wasn’t until early high school that I began learning about what it means to be an introvert. I used to think it meant that you were (metaphorically) allergic to people, but I learned that it just means you derive energy from time alone or with small groups of people. Knowing this completely changed my understanding of it. In many situations in the past, I’ve felt overwhelmed and uncomfortable with navigating busy social environments, making small talk, and meeting tons of people. I never understood why I felt tired after spending hours socializing, and I thought that something was wrong with me — it looked like everyone else was having a great time! Now, I see that there was nothing wrong with me — it’s okay to feel out of your element in an extrovert-friendly environment, and many people feel this way too!
I think it’s cool that although labels like “introvert” and “extrovert” can lead to unfair stereotypes, they can also help us put words to our experiences and show us that we aren’t alone. As a long-time introvert, here are some of the pros and cons of being an introvert that I (or my fellow introverted friends) have experienced.
- Con: You’re likely not comfortable speaking to large audiences or making phone calls (you might even detest them).
In the pre-COVID-19 era, I hated phone calls. Whenever I was texting someone and they asked, “Can we talk about this over the phone?”, I would cringe. This is the experience of phone call-averse introverts all around the world.
While shifting to an online setting has given me practice and confidence in public speaking, phone calls are still not my favorite.
- Pro: You may not be happy making phone calls, but you’re in your element when communicating through the written word.
I’ve always loved communicating through writing. Especially when I was younger, I would use written letters or emails to convey my message. Even before knowing I was an introvert, I knew that I could communicate much more clearly through the written word. While communicating through public speaking feels like crossing my arms in the opposite way (it takes deliberate thought), writing feels natural, like the habitual movement of crossing my arms.
- Con: Parties, gala events, and highly-stimulating environments are draining.
To me, going to a party is like eating a high-sugar dessert. At first, being in a busy environment gives me an energy rush, but as time wears on, I feel myself having an energy crash that’s like crashing after too much sugar. At that point, I just want time alone to relax.
- Pro: Parties drain you, but you thrive on one-on-one conversations, small group discussions, and getting to know friends and family members deeply.
Small group discussions: boring? Not in the introvert’s book. This is their optimal environment, their natural habitat, where they’re able to connect one-on-one with others. It’s a joy for introverts to build strong relationships with a small circle of family and friends.
- Con: In group projects, you may end up taking a back seat role, even if you have cool ideas you want to share.
In school or work group projects, the people who jump in and act first tend to be viewed as the leaders. They make decisions quickly and get the project moving, and people naturally look to them as group organizers. On the other hand, introverts may need more time to process the options and possibilities before landing upon one solution and sharing their ideas. Sometimes, the introvert’s opinion gets overlooked because by the time they’re done formulating it, the group has moved on to another idea or topic.
- Pro: You come up with creative and innovative ideas by spending time alone and reflecting.
Even though the fast-acting extroverts are depicted as natural leaders, introverts’ strength comes from time alone spent reflecting on their ideas. I mean, Archimedes had his eureka! moment while reflecting quietly on the movement of water in a bathtub. I feel you, Archimedes. I get a lot of great ideas in the shower too (though they’re not as scientific as yours).
Also, I’m confident that introverts can be just as effective leaders as extroverts; their leadership style is just going to look very different than the style of a more extroverted type.
- Con: When you say you’re an introvert, people often assume you are unfriendly or antisocial.
There we go with the stereotypes. There’s a misconception that introverts have terrible people skills and spend all their time lurking around in their home lairs. On the flip side, extroverts are often stereotyped as social butterflies who never stop talking. But the truth is that we’re all a mix of introversion and extroversion; we just prefer one over the other most of the time. The labels “introvert” and “extrovert” are just that — labels that don’t define us.
And that leads us to our last pro…
- Pro: Knowing that there’s a term that describes your experience means you can clearly explain to other people what that experience is like.
The beauty of the labels “introvert” and “extrovert” is that they can help us understand each other, especially when we’re so used to being ourselves that we forget how to see things from other people’s perspectives.
Being an introvert is not all sunshine and daisies; neither is it a curse that makes you flee all social gatherings with more than three people. Just like any personality trait, it comes with its fair share of good and bad. But no matter how much introvert or extrovert you have in you, know that you bring strengths to the table. I hope that knowing your type motivates you to learn not only about your type’s weaknesses (so you can grow), but also about your type’s strengths, so you can thrive in your own skin.