How to Accept Yourself as an Introvert
Loving Your Introvert Nature
Think back on how people described you as a child--were you often called shy? Did people remark that you didn't fit in or enjoy social situations? Were you labeled "antisocial"? Now, think about how those labels and perceptions carry over into your adult life. Do you often feel guilty for not being more social, or like you should be different than you are? Do you fake being more outgoing and then fall into bed exhausted and drained each night?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you may very well be an introvert--and that's okay despite what you've been led to believe! Introverts have a lot to offer, and if you understand more about introversion, you may find yourself accepting traits you thought were negative.
Read on to learn how to accept yourself as an introvert.
Extroverts versus Introverts
A succinct definition of an extrovert, according to MerriamWebster.com, is one who is "predominantly concerned with and obtains gratification from what is outside the self." An introvert, in contrast, is one who "turns inward or in upon him- or herself."
So how do get from those simple definitions to the preconceived societal notions of introversion and extroversion? We're told from early childhood to be more outgoing, to be friendly, to enjoy social situations because they are "fun." Being alone or craving solitude is seen as being shy, antisocial, and even awkward. A passion for reading or solitary pursuits gets you labeled a bookworm, a nerd, or other similar terms.
This inevitably results in the valuation of extroverted personalities over introverted personalities, leading many introverts to feel there's something wrong with them or that they could be "better."
Well, there's nothing wrong with you! It's not a matter of being "better" or "worse" depending on whether you'd prefer to read a book than go to a dance; it's a matter of psychology. Introverts draw energy (recharge) from solitude, while extroverts draw energy from crowds. Introverts can and do enjoy social situations, and often have deep friendships and relationships. They are excellent at analysis, observation, and deep thinking--but if they don't have the option to "draw energy" from solitude, they may become stressed, irritable and depressed; extroverts may experience the same symptoms if they spend too much time alone.
Do you consider yourself an extrovert or an introvert?
A Great Recent Book Looking at the Power of the Introvert
Positive Steps Toward Accepting Yourself as an Introvert
Now that you know a bit more about introversion, do you really think you should carry the labels of shy or antisocial?
If those labels bother you, take it a step further and work on two things: 1) accepting yourself and 2) training others to accept you.
If you don't feel up to a particular social outing or event, put yourself first and politely decline. If it's for your mental health, it's not wrong to decline an invitation! Give yourself permission to want to stay in and paint, or read, or bake and don't beat yourself up about that desire. Once you have a night in, you'll be surprised at how recharged and happy you feel.
If others don't understand your choice and insist you'll have fun, emphasize that you just need to recharge but will definitely take them up on their invitation the next time.
If you need to go to lunch alone sometimes at work, that's fine; and if you need a few hours to yourself on a weekend, away from your kids or spouse, take it! Explaining the difference between introverted and extroverted personalities can help others understand as well.
Don't act guilty or overly apologetic when you turn something down; eventually, others will get used to the boundaries you set about how you will and will not socialize.
A Humorous Look at Introverts versus Extroverts
Many introverts exist just fine in the spotlight, taking the time they need to recharge. Among them are:
- Meryl Streep
- Tom Hanks
- Steve Martin
- Johnny Carson
- Barbara Walters
- Albert Einstein
Concluding Thoughts on Being an Introvert
I knew relatively little about the psychology behind introverted versus extroverted personalities until recently, and it truly changed how I deal with people! Now I understand why I prefer to go out one night a week instead of three, and why my spouse is so energized after a party while I just want to sleep.
If you think you're an introvert, celebrate it--you're in good company! And you probably have strengths that your extroverted counterparts don't--so focus on those instead of bemoaning what you're not.