The terms “introvert” and “extrovert” were first used by famous psychologist Carl Jung in the 1920s, and, ever since, they’ve been part of many theories of personality, including the “Big 5” or OCEAN model (Openness, Consciousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism), and the famous Myers–Briggs Type Indicator. Most of these theories state that we’re both introverted and extroverted to some degree, but some people tend to lean more towards one of these traits. It is estimated that anywhere between 25-40% of the population is introverted, and yet introversion remains one of the most misunderstood personality traits, and that’s mostly because it’s confused with extreme shyness and anxiety. But while some introverts can be shy and anxious, there’s more to introversion than the social aspect.
What makes you an introvert is how you process the way around you, how you enjoy recharging your energy, and whether you’re inwards or outwards-focused. Many people are actually surprised to discover that they lean towards introversion despite the fact that they’re not particularly shy. Are you one of them? Here are the top seven signs of an introvert personality you might not have known about.
Perhaps the biggest difference between introverts is that extroverts prefer being around other people, whereas introverts have no issue being alone. According to Jung, That doesn’t mean introverts hate people or socialising; in fact, you’ll find many “social butterflies” among introverts. You’re just more comfortable being alone and you don’t mind if one weekend you have nothing going on and you spend your time at home, reading a book and focusing on your hobbies. If an extrovert gets bored easily if they’re not around other people, an introvert sees solitude as an opportunity to relax, reflect, and just have a good time, really.
Contrary to popular belief, introverts don’t necessarily hate going to parties or being in social settings. Many of them love going to parties, but not for the same reason as extroverts. Extroverts often attend parties to meet new people, try new things and generally be in the middle of the action. Introverts, on the other hand, go to parties but often feel alone in the crowd and prefer sitting at the table with people they already know. After a while, being around too many people drains an introvert’s energy, makes them zone out, and they feel the need to recharge by being alone. It’s still unclear why this happens, but scientists argue that introverts have naturally high arousal levels and already take in more information from the environment; so, when things get hectic, they feel overstimulated and unfocused and prefer retreating to a quiet place to process everything. Most introverts strive to reach a balance between being on their own and hanging out with other people and learn to alternate the two.
After analysing the social connections of introverts and extroverts, researchers have found that extroverts are more likely to have a large social circle of people they know quite little. In contrast, introverts prefer having a small group of friends they know very well and with whom they develop strong intimate connections. Introverts also prefer getting to know people one at a time, having deep, meaningful discussions (which may seem a little too intense or philosophical from the outside), and will avoid small talk if they can.
Although we tend to think of introverted people as shy, introversion and shyness are not the same thing. Some introverts may come across as shy, but that’s not always because they’re anxious or afraid to talk (in fact, many celebrities like Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Zayn Malik, have confessed to being introverts). It’s more of a personal preference to be private and avoid talking if it’s not necessary. Funnily enough, many introverts have an extrovert close friend and, once they get to know someone well and feel comfortable around them, introverts open up and love having personal conversations.
According to Jung, introversion is “an orientation in life through subjective psychic contents". Extroverts tend to focus on the things happening around them (“external objects”) because they’re outward focused. Introverts, however, have a rich inner world and take pleasure in reflecting on their own emotions. Introverts are more self-aware, love dwelling on internal experiences, and prefer hobbies such as reading and meditation because while they’re doing them, they learn as much about themselves as they learn about the world. If the idea of discovering a thought-provoking new TV show sounds just as exciting as playing a team sport, you might be an introvert.
Extroverts see someone do something, and they go right ahead and imitate them without worrying that they’ll fail. They just learn along the way through experimentation. But if you’re an introvert, this way of learning things may sound a bit like a nightmare. Introverts learn best by taking notes and observing closely the other person do something, and only afterwards do they start practising by themselves.
Although, as an introvert, you can hold lucrative jobs in fields that aren’t specifically cut out for you, such as PR, sales, or event planning, you may find that these jobs to be quite exhausting because they require a lot of socialising. However, you might find that creative jobs that require you to work independently, such as writer, architect, designer, computer engineer, and therapist, allow you to develop your full potential. Again, introverts can do social jobs, but they’re more likely to feel exhausted after a day of work and not be completely happy with their career path.
Because statistically, extroverts outnumber introverts, the latter can be quite misunderstood. If you’re an introvert, you may find that people assume you are shy or that they confuse your privacy for arrogance, and that happens because, usually, people have a harder time understanding those who perceive life differently. Another common myth is that introverts can’t be good leaders – they can, and the fact that they’re naturally good listeners will actually give them an advantage.
As a final word, remember that one personality trait isn’t superior to the other. Both introversion and extraversion are normal variants of behaviour. You can grow as a person and make meaningful connections no matter which side of the spectrum you are on. What matters most is to understand your traits and see which side you are leaning towards. This way, you’ll be able to prioritise the experiences that play on your strengths and put yourself in positions that let you use your natural skills.