Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

What It Does NOT Mean to Be an Introvert

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I am an introvert. People are often surprised by that fact because I’m outgoing, enjoy speaking in public, and know a lot of people. In fact, sometimes people are so surprised that when I tell them I just want to spend a quiet night at home or go to a movie by myself, they think I’m mad at them or that I’m “depressed.” Those things are just not true.

Introvert B3 by Hartwig HKD

I just really need time by myself. I’ve learned over the course of my life to honor who I am and do what I need to do to care for myself.

But introverts are hard for some people to understand, so here are a few things that might help:

Being an introvert does not mean I’m shy. “Shy” means a person is “shy.” Introverted means that a person is drained, rather than recharged by being around other people.

Being an introvert does not mean I have stage fright. I speak in public a lot, and I’m just used to it. I actually like the opportunity to speak because those opportunities usually come when I’m talking about passions of mine – writing, literature, and fighting cancer.

Being an introvert does not mean I avoid human contact. I LOVE people. I love people in person. I love people online. I really do love people.

Being an introvert DOES mean that interaction with other people drains me. After a day of meetings or at a fair, I am exhausted. I just need time to recharge and rest, not because I loathed my time with people but because, for whatever reason, the way I’m built means that I give a lot more energy than I get in human interaction. This fact makes me sad sometimes because I wish I could spend whole weekends with people and come out recharged, fresh, ready to go. But that’s just not the way I’m built.

My introversion is just another way I know I’m built to be a writer. My chance to be with people is special; I value every one of those moments. But to savor those well, to appreciate them, to be pleasant and not grumpy, those moments have to be more rare for me than for some people. After a day of people time, there is nothing better for me than a day in my farmhouse with coffee, a pooch, and some cats. I get fed from that time.

So for the sake of the introverts in our lives, let’s all remember that it isn’t about being anti-social or even shy. Our desire to be alone is just about wanting to be our best selves when we get to spend time with other people.

What about you? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Are you drained by time with people or recharged by it?

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Author: Andi

I am a writer, editor, and writing teacher whose most recent book, The Slaves Have Names, tells the story of the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. When I'm not working, my husband and I are working to make our small farm - God's Whisper Farm - a retreat here at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

  • Jamie Kocur

    Total introvert here. I love what you said. It’s not that we don’t like people, it just takes energy rather than provides it.

    I love to sing because it gives me an opportunity to really share my heart without being interrupted. I sometimes get swallowed in large groups. It’s like I’m fighting for air and a chance to be heard. When I’m singing, I have people’s undivided attention.
    Jamie Kocur recently posted…Guest posting: My Quitter StoryMy Profile

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      It’s the same for me with public speaking and in writing. A chance to speak without interruption.

      Sometime, Jamie, I’d love to hear you sing.
      Andi recently posted…The Writer’s SmackdownMy Profile

      • http://unknownjim.com Jim

        I’ll shamelessly plug Jamie here, okay? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuoK8JnseFg
        Jim recently posted…I Need to Follow My Own AdviceMy Profile

        • http://rebootingworship.com Jamie Kocur

          You beat me to it. :) The YouTube videos aren’t the best quality, but it gives you a rough idea.

          • http://www.andilit.com Andi

            Jamie!!! What a beautiful song, a beautiful voice, a beautiful moment for me. Thank you!!!!

  • http://www.barnabashouseok.com Lisa Taylor

    I rank as far as possible on the extrovert scale. which is why i don’t consider myself a writer even though i can write. it’s a solitary thing and my personal motto is, “everything is better with a friend or cheese – ideally with both!” my husband, however is an introvert. i have learned that when we go on retreats or to seminars he is as drained as i am charged and i need to leave him alone. it took a while to learn, but i’ve got it now. and he knows that i’m like Tigger afterward and i need another person to process all the Tigger-ness. i have to phone-a-friend. it’s all good.

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Oh, Lisa, I hope it didn’t sound like I thought someone has to be an introvert to be a writer; I don’t think at all. It just makes it easier temperament wise.

      You are a wise woman to find this balance with your husband. :)
      Andi recently posted…Living In Bright ColorsMy Profile

  • Joanne Yeck

    As an extreme introvert, I’m interested in how the introvert/extrovert conversation has taken off. The general public is catching on. Marti Laney’s book reveals (in layman’s terms) the chemical reasons behind why too much contact with people so often drains the introvert. It’s not hard science. In fact, it is very simple. Check it out:

    http://hiddengiftsoftheintrovertedchild.com/about-the-author/the-introvert-advantage/

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Thanks for the link, Joanne. I hadn’t heard of that book, but I”ll check it out.

  • http://www.unknownjim.com Jim

    I’m a bit of both. It depends on who I’m interacting with. Some people give me energy, some drain me. It could vary a lot on the topic at hand too. Talk about writing and I get energized by default. If I talk with someone who spews negativity, I’m quickly drained. I do get some energy from being alone too. I prefer a mix of alone time and social time honestly.
    Jim recently posted…I Need to Follow My Own AdviceMy Profile

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      I really enjoy some people, most people, but almost every single person – no matter how much I like them – drains me. That’s the introvert nature, I guess. I prefer the mix, too, but too much on the social side, and I’m just not healthy.

  • Brock

    100% an extrovert! Because, I am such an extrovert I love/enjoy my “me” time!! I live in the public eye and my life is an open book. I enjoy and am best at piblic speaking. However, I must have my “me” time!!

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Oh yes, Brock. I think all of us – introverts and extroverts – need time for ourselves. For me, it’s just a matter of needing more time alone – not even focusing on me – than some people do, you know?

  • http://www.sethsworldview.com Seth

    As an introvert, I don’t find myself drained by interaction per se. I find deep, meaningful conversation energizing. When I can be myself and enjoy the person across from me, that’s relaxing. With surface conversation and situations where I have to weigh my words, I have to think harder about what I’m saying, and it becomes draining. I’m also a person who prefers to be outside my house, like in a coffee shop. I like having some time to myself, but I also NEED my time with other people, all the more after being overseas for a year. Anyway, that’s me.

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      I so agree, Seth. I need time with people. I crave it in fact. That’s what I mean I say I’m not anti-social. But I have to have, on balance, more time on my own to recharge than many folks. But like you, I get a real charge from good conversation . . .

  • Pilar Arsenec

    I have no idea what I am. I think as I get older, I am becoming an introvert. I do find it draining to be “on”. I am very friendly and talkative at work. If I’m not comfortable around you, I get real quiet and distant. If I like you and feel comfortable around you, I am talkative, I laugh a lot, and love to listen. But my favorite thing to do is think and daydream. I love to get lost in books and music. I love people, but I also love my space. So I guess I’m an introvert. I think my husband who isn’t as talkative, loves to gather and be around people. This is what I’m discovering. At first, everyone thought we were alike, but we have slowly discovered, we are actually different. We have things in common, but I love to spend time alone and would choose that over getting together with people. Whereas he likes to get together more with people than I do. He likes the whole getting everyone together, being social and interacting thing. Whereas I can just stay hours curled up with a good book.

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      I’m the same, Pilar. I can be talkative or quiet . . . the thing is that with most introverts those social interactions, especially in large groups, are usually draining, even if we enjoy them at the time. It’s not a matter of preference really. Sometimes, it’s so much easier to be with a group than to be by myself – easier to think about other things than my own life, ya know. But even though sometimes I prefer that, I still find it tiring to be in that environment.

  • LarryTheDeuce

    I’m a semi-outgoing introvert. My wife is not an outgoing introvert. The difference is I like ro get out among people and the n go home for a while. My wife just eants to stay home.

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      I like those terms, Larry. . . they point out that it’s not about whether we are outgoing or shy, but about how we gain or lose energy. Thanks for that.

  • http://www.wellwell2.com Barbara Bartels

    Being an introvert for me does mean I was very, very shy as a child — and have done much better as an adult.
    Does mean I have trouble speaking in front of groups — often — sometimes I can be comfortable.
    Does mean I often prefer watching to interacting.
    Does mean I’m not great at small talk and I don’t think out loud.
    Does mean people can exhaust me.
    But I think there are different kinds of introverts. Susan Cain, the author of Quiet, agrees with you saying that shy does not mean introvert but they often overlap.

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Of course, there’s overlap, Barbara. Absolutely. But the definition of introvert is someone who does not take but instead loses energy from being with people.

      I get tired of being asked how I can be an introvert when I’m not shy. I’ve taught myself to be good at small talk and to speak well in front of groups. I can’t teach myself not to be drained by those activities.
      Andi recently posted…Living In Bright ColorsMy Profile

      • Barbara Bartels

        I’m going to differ with you. I’m not sure there’s one definition, although I think this term is being redefined by both popular and serious psychology today to (emphatically) NOT mean shy — I found a lot of entries that used the same wording as yours.
        However the Oxford Dictionaries online define it this way:

        Definition of introvert
        noun
        Pronunciation: /??ntr?v??t/
        a shy, reticent person.
        Psychology a person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things. Compare with extrovert.

        So I think as a reader, I need to be aware of both uses of the word — the casual and the psychological as well as the current reactions to the word.
        I will add a random check of other American dictionaries does not define it this way. Most common is :turning inward

        • http://www.andilit.com Andi

          Ah, and therein is the problem I see, Barb. People read “predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings” as “selfish, self-absorbed.” But I’m not that way, and truly most of the introverts aren’t that way. And most of the introverts I know aren’t shy, although some are. The thing is in our culture we have to find “reasons” for people to not want to be connected all the time, and those reasons often find a place in something being “wrong” with the person who pulls away. I’m just challenging the idea that to want time to ourselves is wrong. That’s all. :)

  • http://KatieAxelson.com Katie Axelson

    Yes! Thank you! I consider myself an introvert because I recharge/prefer being alone yet still I need people contact, can be outgoing, and am not intimidated by public speaking.

    Katie

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Thanks for the affirmation, Katie. We’ll have to not spend time together soon. :)

  • http://denisedilley.blogspot.com Denise Dilley (@denisedilley)

    I’m a shy, terrified of public speaking, love being around people kind of introvert! :) My favorite type of day is being by myself thinking, reading, and writing. The best way for me to recharge is to have quality alone time. But I love spending time with friends. Meeting new people is enjoyable, but typically only if the new person is the one initiating the conversation.
    Denise Dilley (@denisedilley) recently posted…October is Writers Unite MonthMy Profile

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      I love how you define yourself, Denise. I differ from you in that I don’t mind initiating the conversation, but then I find it hard to end them – still working on how to do that gracefully. Thanks for reading.

  • Nena

    I spent the day totally alone. Cell phone off, did not check email, not even Twitter! :) I carved out some time I needed to work on some things in solitude and it was great! I am not sure where I factor in on the scale. I keep coming up about 50/50 on Myer Briggs. I need to recharge after spending time with people, then I need to put myself back ‘out there’ again and interact, but then I get tired again. I’m glad you posted this. I was beginning to feel like a misanthrope or something of the like. I love people, just really need a break for me from time to time. Another useful post, Andi, thanks!

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Good for you for taking the day off, Nena. I really need to do that soon . . . now to just break my social media addiction.

      And now, needing or even wanting time alone isn’t misanthropic. In our culture, we place – in my opinion – far too much emphasis on being connected all the time. Sometimes there is such great value in pulling back.

  • Stephanie

    I loved this post!! I’ve never heard it put this way before and that is so me. Interaction totally drains me and I have to get extra pumped up if I know that I have to be in a crowd of more than 5 people. Thanks for the post and the new perspective.

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Glad it was helpful, Stephanie, and thanks for reading.