The definition of an introvert according to the website introvertspring.com is “a person who gains energy from being alone and loses energy in stimulating environments, such as social events”. However, even as the website says, there is much more to being a introvert and someone’s introversion can vary from person to person. Some can be shy, while other have no problem dealing with people. Unfortunately, we live in a world built that discourages people from displaying introverted traits, no matter how varied. Parents constantly encourage their children to “come out of their shells” Schools, the workplace, and even among introverts, extroversion is the preferred personality type. Extroverts seem to have an advantage in many social facets of life. However, there is no one “better” of the two and extroverts even have their own struggles.
Introverts prefer to lose themselves in a world of thought while extroverts lose themselves in reality. Introverts draw meaning from an event or experience, while extroverts express the experiences themselves. If introverts and extroverts were machines, introverts recharge themselves by staying in with a good book or a movie. For extroverts, a quick jolt of another person is just what does the trick. Introverts need lower levels of stimulation such as a quiet dinner or getting lost in a novel or a movie. Extroverts need a higher space of stimuli such as meeting many people at a party or coming home to tell someone about their day. Introverts and extroverts just find their energy and enjoyment in different settings.
Despite there being no “better” personality type, introversion is stigmatized and introverts can face discrimination. Found from the website Pit Journal, submitted by a user by the name of skela in an article titled “The Stigma of Introversion and Why It’s Wrong” a test is run by an introverted teacher, his students and he took the Myers Briggs personality test. He believed that at least a handful of students would score the “I” for introversion on the test, so it was to his surprise when he realized that none of his students had scored for introversion at all. However, at a further glance at the questions, it began to make sense of why many of the students were reluctant to answer the “introverted” questions. For example one of the questions was “ would you rather go to a party or stay at home reading a book?” The question has a “correct” or “socially acceptable” answer. The teacher, William Pannapacker, states “Given that introversion is frowned upon almost everywhere in U.S. culture, the test might as well have asked, “Would you prefer to be cool, popular, and successful or weird, isolated, and a failure?”
This fantastic article also references another high school English teacher by the name of Natalie Munroe. In 2011, she became famous for writing on her blog about how she truly felt about some of her students. She said things such as “A kid that has no personality.”, “She just sits there emotionless for an entire 90 minutes, staring into the abyss, never volunteering to speak or do anything.” as well as “shy isn’t cute in 11th grade; it’s annoying. [he] must learn to advocate for himself instead of having mommy do it.” She was later fired for what was considered “poor performance” While details of whether the case is still going on is unknown, she has decided to fight the termination and has taken the Central Bucks School District to court.
Unfortunately, the discrimination doesn’t stop after high school graduation. In the late 1940s, the Provost of Harvard has said that Harvard should deny people that are “sensitive and neurotic” and “intellectually over-stimulated”. Many employers in jobs today will administer personality tests in hopes of screening out introverts, claiming that they prefer people who can work better in a group setting. An employer would rather hire someone who has “conviction” in their voice even if they are not even truly passionate about the thing they’re talking about. Psychologist Russell Green performed a study where he gave math problems to introverts and extroverts and changed the background noise while they took the test. The study revealed that introverts performed better with less background noise while vice versa for extroverts.
However, most workplace settings are jam packed with people and rarely have a place where an introvert can sit in silence. Huffington Post writer Carolyn Gregoire writes in an article that “Many workplace set ups undermine introverted employees by failing to accommodate their personalities and productivity styles — over-stimulation and excessive meetings can easily stunt their full brain power.” (Gregoire, 2013). Starting at birth, introverts are forced to learn how to live in a world made for extroverts. Introverts are forced to mask who they truly are so they can play a game that was designed for them to lose.
It is not all doom and gloom for introverts though. Susan Cain, author of the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking states that without introverts, we would not have the world’s most brilliant thinkers, we would never have some of the world’s greatest literature, scientific breakthroughs, influential leaders, and most amazing advancements in technology that the world has ever seen. Cain sites people such as J.K. Rowling, Barack Obama, Rosa Parks, and Steve Wozniak as introverts.
Barack Obama describes himself in his book Dreams From My Father as a “lonely old man who lives in a building” . “Introversion has been one of his assets. He plans his campaigns intricately and gives very cerebral speeches.” says Susan Cain. J.K Rowling also describes herself as very introverted “especially when she was a child”. Steve Wozniak is credited with designing the first Apple computer by himself. “He still advises people to work in solitude” says Cain. Cain even starts the first passage of her book with how she had always imagined Rosa Parks to be a woman with “a bold temperament, someone who could easily stand up to a busload of glowering passengers” (Cain, 2012). At the time of her death in 2005 however, she was described by obituaries as being soft-spoken and thoughtful, as well as being timid and shy. Obituaries also noted that she had “the courage of a lion” and “quiet fortitude”. Even the title of her autobiography is Quiet Strength. Introverts have been shown that they have truly shaped the world for the better.
I myself am an introvert. Growing up in a small household made me feel comfortable and at home being alone form a young age. I too have personally felt the struggle of being the quiet and soft-spoken one in settings. Especially as a man, these traits are seen as being “weak” or a “pushover”. At times I have felt left out and other people have regarded me as “boring”. It took me years to realize that being quiet did not make me uninteresting and that not wanting or liking to talk a lot is OK. Even though today I still struggle with accepting my tranquil nature on occasion, I know that with introverted role models like those listed above, I too have potential to do great things.
Thank you all for reading and I hope you have a great rest of your Feburary!