“Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again.” -Anais Nin
The terms introversion and extraversion were popularized first by Carl Jung, whose work I really admire, though sometimes it is quite hard to follow his findings and ideas, as they are very complex and detailed.
A century ago, psychoanalysts declared that the human personality was largely fixed by age five, meaning in general that who we are as kids, determines a big part of who we are as adults.
As the whole field of psychology has continued to evolve, the biologically oriented psychologists have detected characteristic signs of temperament already in infancy.
I have always had my own dilemma with the outside world, trying to fit into this world where extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style.
There is so much talk about being more active to get more out of life, unleashing the power within style books… etc. that I have always had a hard time relating to. It took a while to realise I don’t need to fit anywhere. I am exactly where I need to be.
I don’t live in a cage and do enjoy socialising and meeting new people, but I do need time alone.
Time alone usually means reading books, long walks in the woods, doing something random like solving sudoku or just time in silence. That’s the time when I re-charge my batteries and truly find the contact with myself.
About a year ago I added Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” to my Amazon wish list and finally got it last week and really enjoyed it with great findings, new perspectives and ideas.
If you consider yourself an introvert or just want to understand them better, then I highly recommend this book.
According to different studies at least one-third of the people we know are introverts and this book gives a very good look at how we undervalue introverts, what it means, and main research done on the topic.
She also introduces readers to successful introverts like Steve Jobs, Rosa Parks, Bill Gates, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln and many others.
Introversion — along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness — is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women living in a man’s world, discounted because it goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality trait, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.
The highly sensitive [introverted] tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions–sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments–both physical and emotional–unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss–another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.
Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.”
Her words, but absolutely something that I feel myself:
“…I also believe that introversion is my greatest strength. I have such a strong inner life that I’m never bored and only occasionally lonely. No matter what mayhem is happening around me, I know I can always turn inward.”
If you are a parent or a future parent, then you will find some very good perspectives on raising an introvert child. Today most schools are formed around extroverts and introverts are constantly given advice on how to be more sociable, though what they really need to flourish is a chance to study in smaller groups and more time alone.
Introverted kids energize by being alone and they do enjoy the company of others, just in smaller doses. They also don’t like small talk – especially with strangers. Introverted kids process their feelings internally and it takes time for them to open up.
Introverted kids enjoy activities that allow their minds to wander and prefer one-on-one encounters for a deeper and more meaningful connections.
She also lightly introduces in the book personality psychologist Brian Little’s Free Trait Theory, which suggests that people can behave in new ways that may not be their “first nature”, but can strategically advance projects that are important to them.
It was somehow very easy to relate to his theory that instead of being fixed and stable in our behaviors, we all can choose to act extraverted to advance important personal projects or even increase our happiness.
Now sit back and enjoy Brian Little’s TEDx talk titled “Confessions of a passionate introvert:”