I is for Introvert


Photo source: dethjunkie on Tumblr

A couple of posts ago, my mom left a comment suggesting that I explain my MBTI personality type (IN[F/T]P). I think it’s a great idea because the MBTI test is a good way to gauge general motivations and impulses, although the personality types find unique expression in each person depending on environmental factors and personal history. When I get to the F/T part, I’ll explain the uncertainty, but I think that, since so much can be said about each element of the type, I’ll dedicate one post to each. And so we begin with a discussion on introverts.

Most people have a very clear image of introverts: shy, even avoidant, soft-spoken wallflowers. However, while introverts do prefer solitude over crowded parties, introversion doesn’t have to mean that one dislikes the company of others or is incapable of functioning well in social situations. I’m an atypical introvert; in fact, most people (those who don’t know me well) would be shocked at the idea. I’ve been called bubbly, high-energy, vivacious, even a “social butterfly.” While the latter is way off, I am capable of interacting with others and having fun at concerts, parties, and other social situations, and doing it pretty well. I go to work, socialize with my coworkers, and lead weekly meetings; I dance at parties; I’ve attended nearly every concert that my husband has performed over the last eight years that we’ve been together. That doesn’t make me an extrovert, and this is why: it’s incredibly draining.

In between these things, I need periods of solitude (equal to the amount of time spent socializing, if not more) in order to remain healthy and sane–to (as a similarly introverted friend of mine said once) “feel like a person again.” My house is my cave, my safe place, and most of my nights at home include just one other person, my husband, who isn’t so much another person to me as the cliche “other half.” Being together is like being alone but in the best way; we respect each other’s privacy and need for silent meditation, but we also feel comfortable freely sharing our thoughts with each other when we want to bounce them off another person who innately understands our motivations and sense of the world. I can sit quietly for hours without the pressure of feeling the need to entertain and then pipe up with an idea, out of the blue, without filtering my thoughts. Anyway, I need time alone (or mostly alone) to re-energize, to think and address the thoughts and emotions I’ve collected throughout the day or week, and to create (whether it’s a sewing project or a poem or short story). And when I don’t get this time to myself, I become tense, moody, even at risk of a breakdown.

Introversion, as defined by Jung, means “inward-turning.” This means that one’s energy and motivation come from one’s internal world: thoughts, ideas, dreams. Introverts are thought-oriented seekers of depth (rather than breadth) of knowledge and substantial (rather than frequent) interaction; I’d rather have an intellectually nourishing conversation with a small group once a month than attend a cocktail party full of small talk once a week.

For introverts, energy is expended through interaction with the external world. We need time to reflect before and after bouts of action, and too much action can cause us to feel stifled and cornered and become withdrawn. In essence, we’re like sea mammals or amphibians that spend most of our time underwater, poking our heads up now and then to express air and glimpse the busyness above but always needing, for whatever reason, to go back down again.

Courtesy of g00dtrip on Tumblr

Join the Conversation


  1. Heid, you are so much like me! People describe me in exactly the same terms (bubbly, energetic, gregarious) and appear shocked when I say I’m really an introvert: Public occasions/events drain me. However, when out in public–be it at work, at an event, or whatever–I conduct myself so that no one would ever guess that I prefer seclusion.

    I’ve noticed that as I grow older, the more I like to seclude myself in a comfortable environment (home), surrounded by the people I love (my family and my pets). There’s a song that goes, “Don’t surround yourself with yourself.” I thought about it and said, Why not? 😉 I’m sure they were thinking that too much seclusion can be detrimental to one’s health. And I know that.

    I’m so glad that you and Eric complement each other so well. You two are definitely soul mates!

    I love you!

  2. Enjoyed reading this. I’ve been teaching psychology for nearly four decades (can hardly believe that!), and one of the many misguided ideas that people have is that somehow shyness and introversion are the same thing. In additional, I’m not sure why this is the case, but often others think that somehow extroversion is preferable to introversion.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jayne! I’m not sure why people believe that extroversion is preferable, either. Many artists and writers are introverts, and they need to be in order to create. It’s not that one is better than the other; we all have different needs, and that’s good because there are so many different ways of living that tend to suit one personality type or the other. Both types are valuable. Thanks again for taking the time to leave your thoughtful comment!

  3. Interesting commentary and post.

    If you want an archetype, whenever anyone mentions ‘introvert’, I instantly think of Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

    Any thoughts?

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