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Understanding The Introvert

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I am someone who works closely everyday with kids and families and most assume that because of this, my personality type would be extroverted, but they would be wrong for while I do fall into many pre-established stereotypes, being an extroverted is not one of them. I am in fact an Introvert and one of the primary distinction for me and others like me to help others tell us apart is that we are friendly, not shy.

Everyone has their own personal limits created for themselves to cope with the world around them and one of ours happens to be "people time". However, even when we get close to our limit, shutting down and shutting out is hard for us and there are several reasons for this. Mainly because of the worlds view of introversion. I spend numerous hours each week helping others and while I love doing it, Introverts must balance work time and quiet time to avoid the constant bombardment of interaction. Unfortunately, there are many times that even the hint of desiring alone time is taken so personal by the other party, it is met head on with judgment, guilt trips, and/or indignation. This causes us to live lives of "making the best of it", and often pushing ourselves to be more social, even when we are exhausted, all because we don't want to inconvenience others. Sadly many Introverts feel extroversion is more prized in our society while introversion is viewed merely as a “second-class" personality trait that lies somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Obviously, it is none of those things and instead is how we are hard wired.

Here are some little known facts about Introverts:

Fact: Introverts DO like to engage in conversation and will even do so...

Many people assume that being introverted means you don't like to talk which is highly untrue. The difference for us is that we don’t talk unless we have something to say and we HATE small talk. I realize in the booming, social networking overload era that we live in, this is an oddity. The flip side of all this is if you are able to get an Introvert talking about something we are truly interested in, you probably won't get us to shut up for days. Ask me, I'll show ya!

Fact: Introverts DO like people...

Introverts will not have a large number of friends, but the few we do have, we place an immensely high value on i.e. treasure them dearly and those who truly know me, know how accurate that statement is. I can probably count on one hand my "close friends", as is true with all Introverts, but what society needs to remember, is that if an introvert classifies you as a friend, you should consider yourself EXTREMELY lucky. The reason being, you have gained one of the strongest allies you will ever have and unless you do something intentionally to harm them (emotionally, physically, psychologically, etc) you will have one for life. Once you have earned the respect of an introverted person as being someone of substance, you're golden!

Fact: Introverts DO know how to relax and have fun...

Introverts typically relax at home or in nature as opposed to busy public places. For example, my idea of a perfect vacation is a place with history and culture, not a place with noise and lights. Introverts are also not thrill seekers or adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, we simply shut down from overload because our brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways, look it up! I have many times, had a panic attack and had to leave some situations because they became too much. Hence the reason most of us avoid things like “Black Friday” or other holiday shopping.

Fact: Introverts ARE NOT aloof nerds...

We are people who primarily look inward and pay close attention to our thoughts and emotions. It’s not that we are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around us, it’s just that our inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to us. I think it speaks a great deal to someone's confidence if they are able to be alone with themselves and also be okay with it.

Fact: Introverts DO NOT always want to be alone...

It is true that since Introverts think a great deal, all the time about all kinds of things, we are perfectly comfortable with our thoughts and we also daydream a lot. In fact, when I was younger, I did it so much they wanted to put me in special education classes. It's true that we like to have problems to work on and puzzles to solve, but none of that means that we do not also get incredibly lonely when we don’t have someone to share our discoveries with. We crave AUTHENTIC and SINCERE connection with ONE PERSON at a time, but it is those three requirements that tend to make things tricky for people.

Fact: Introverts ARE NOT shy

It was stated in the beginning of the article that shyness has nothing to do with who we are. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people and rather need a reason to interact. We are simply just not people who are able to take part in that pastime, "interacting for interactions sake" and there is nothing wrong with people who do. However, we do want people to recognize that there is nothing wrong with us if we don't. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking! We are not consumed with what is polite or political correct because we are just not that fragile!

Fact: Introverts ARE NOT rude...

For those who truly know me, I know this will come as a surprise, but we often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. We want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this has become unacceptable in today’s times, so we often feel a lot of pressure just to fit in, which personally is exhausting. So we would rather not bother all together.

Fact: Introverts ARE NOT weird...

I am not sure of too many people in my life that would not agree, I am definitely weird, but it is not because I am Introverted. Introverts are just individualists who do not in any way want to follow the crowd. It should never be viewed as a curse or an infliction to prefer the value in novel ways of living or being capable of thinking for yourself. Our ability to consistently challenge the norm and not make the majority of our decisions based upon what is popular or trendy should be seen as something to be envied, not cured! We are non-conformists who do in fact choose the road less traveled and are often pioneers in our time!

Fact: Introverts DO like to go out in public...

To label all introverts as being unable and/or unwilling to go out in public is not only nonsense, it's unfair when in fact we do, we just don’t like to go FOR AS LONG, again for a few reasons. For one, we prefer to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. Another reason is because we are able to take in data and experiences very quickly. As a result, we don’t need to be there for an extended period of time to “get it" which in turn means we are ready to go home sooner to recharge and process it all. Recharging is absolutely CRUCIAL for Introverts.

Fact: Introverts CANNOT fix themselves and become Extroverts...

A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts because Introverts cannot “fix themselves”. It is who we are and deserve respect for our natural temperament as well as the contributions we provide to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that introversion and intelligence are positively correlated in that the higher the level of a person's introversion, the higher their I.Q.

Much of this can be summed up in saying, we all have boundaries and we all need to demonstrate respect for those boundaries, especially in regards to our children. We all have our own ways of communicating our needs and wants and when you truly love a person, there is a willingness to meet them at their level as opposed to trying to force them to meet yours. Children on the other hand do not always possess the ability to communicate their feelings and needs which requires us to not only be in tune to ourselves, but also be in tune to those around us. We need to move past these stereotypes that proclaim just because a person prefers to be alone at times, enjoys activities alone, and is not the first in line for social events, it absolutely must mean they are depressed, negative, antisocial, avoidant, unapproachable, or sad. These labels can be EXTREMELY damaging to a child, especially when all they are trying to do is be themselves because that's what we tell them they need to do. Yet when we won't allow them to, on top of actively damaging their self-esteem, we are confusing them on a constant basis.

It is destructive and unproductive for the world to try and force others to be something they are not simply because creates feelings of discomfort or inconvenience. Introverts are by nature harder to read, harder to get to know, and harder to get information from which means effort for those on the outside and we have proven in this day and age, most anything involving a great deal of effort is usually dismissed as irrelevant and/or unimportant. Due to the level of judgment and attempts towards forced change that Introverts face, they have a higher probability of hating themselves and others because of their differences. Therefore the burden for change does not rest solely on the shoulders of the Introverts. We simply have to stop the further advancement of an enabling world that is constantly forcing Introverts to move out of our comfort zones for the comfort of themselves or others for it will only continue to create unnecessary anxiety and stress for our children. This could cause them to act out behaviorally as well as develop emotional difficulties. This world is hard enough to bear each day without added pressure from those around us so there is a need for Extroverts to recognize and respect the Introvert, but we also need to respect ourselves!

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