Introversion is Not a Personality Flaw

Despite the fact that an estimated 16-50% of the population is introverted, the meaning of the term is often not fully understood. Introversion refers only to someone who gains energy through time alone rather than from interactions with other people. For an extravert, time spent alone can be boring and draining; for the introvert, alone time is necessary in order to mentally recharge and face the world. This need for alone time often leads to introverts being viewed as shy, socially anxious, or even antisocial and unfriendly. Though shy, socially anxious, and antisocial introverts certainly exist (as do extroverts with these traits), it would be wrong to judge the tendency for reservation as abnormal or wrong. Unfortunately, this is exactly what our Western culture reinforces through the importance that is placed exclusively on extroverted tendencies.

If you are introverted like me, you have probably spent your whole life hearing about “how quiet you are”. While this was likely viewed as a good thing in your younger years (one less chatty child that the teacher had to control), later in your school career it soon became obvious that quietness was something that would not be tolerated. Classes graded on participation likely became the bane of your existence. Personally, I distinctly remember the one high school teacher who stated that she was going to drag us out of our shells “kicking and screaming” if need be. These kinds of comments combined with forced group projects and the constant push to be a part of as many clubs and activities as possible seemed to point to the fact that there was something intrinsically wrong with wanting to be alone. It didn’t matter that I was a good friend, or that I worked hard. I was always made to feel out of place and wrong.

The push for the “Extroverted Ideal” pervades nearly all aspects of our society. Professionally, introverts are passed over for promotion due to the view that they cannot be effective leaders, or do not have good ideas. To counter this stigma, most introverts are forced to adopt an extroverted persona, which only furthers the invisibility and stigma surrounding introversion. Socially, things that are more typical to introverts, such as having a small friend-group, or staying in on the weekends are viewed with pity. There is a sense that the life of an introvert cannot be fulfilling, particularly for a college student. I cannot tell you how many times I have disappointed family members when I tell them about my life in college. I will admit my weekends filled with studying or watching Netflix with my roommate do not make for the most exciting of stories, but I don’t see what this has to do with anyone else. Why must I always be “on” in order to be leading a fulfilling life?

The view of introverts as abnormal is so deeply permeating that in 2011, psychologists actually considered adding “Introversion” to the DSM-5. While this addition was ultimately not included, it saddens me that something intrinsic to my personality is viewed as something that needs to be diagnosed and treated. By excluding introverted individuals, or by forcing them to pretend to be something they’re not, we are harming not only introverts but society as a whole. Diversity makes us stronger, and we need the strengths of both extroverted and introverted individuals to make the world a better place.

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