Introversion and extroversion became part of Carl Jung’s typology, a theory of psychological types defined by three dichotomies in ‘The Collected Works of C. G. Jung’ published in 1921, his works were extrapolated and expanded to include a fourth dichotomy and this became the basis of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a psychometric questionnaire for understanding human behaviour. The purpose of this test is to make Jung’s typology understandable and usable in helping people develop constructive and positive changes in their lives by coming to an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.
There are many definitions for introvert and several will have you believe that an introvert is a shy, reticent person, and while some introverts are shy, this is a misconception. It is important to remember that introversion isn’t a personality flaw but a character trait, and is not the same as social phobia. The main difference between introverts and extroverts is the source of their energy, extroverts thrive on social interaction and external factors, whereas the introvert thrives on solitude, creative pursuits and introspection. All humans fall somewhere on the introvert/extrovert scale, we all have a propensity to lean one way or the other, however no one will be 100% either way, as Jung put it, “there is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert; such a man would be in the lunatic asylum.”
However the modern world and society is geared toward the extrovert and yet it is estimated that the worldwide figures for introverts is 1/3 to 1/2 of the population. We tend to think of extroverts as the movers, shakers and reformers. But look again, many great achievers are introverts, think Barack Obama, J. K. Rowling, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Steve Wozniak, Steven Spielberg and Abraham Lincoln, to name a few. And while these famous introverts have done great things, it’s in a world skewed toward the extroverts strengths.
The world is a noisy place, and society today, embraces gregarious, chatty personalities, the brainstormers, the quick problem solvers, and overconfidence. Introverts are often seen as socially awkward, ruminating and dull, whereas the extrovert is sociable, friendly and outgoing, so right from the get go, the extrovert sounds more appealing. But would it surprise you to know that there are many extroverts that are shy and many introverts who love to socialize. While the gifts of extroverts seem to be obvious, introverts are excellent at the details, learning through observation, creative and solitary pursuits, and are considered to be thoughtful, self aware and empathetic.
Many of our writers, musicians, scientists, therapists, actors, computer/IT designers, and according to Buzzfeed professional Netflix binge watchers tend to be introverts. However introverts can be found in every profession, in boardrooms, offices, courtrooms, in fact anywhere, where minds meet and ideas are exchanged, introverts have much to give. With the extroverts confidence, enthusiasm and momentum, and the introverts attention to detail and creative thinking, just imagine what could be achieved.
The secret to my own personal contentment is self awareness and today I am a self confessed introvert, but for many years I forced myself to be other than what I truly was, in the belief that there was something wrong with me. I tried to be Superwoman, to be all things to all people, the ‘yes’ woman, committee member, volunteer extraordinaire and the life and soul of the party, in my efforts to fulfill my desire to be wanted and needed, but in the end I was left mentally exhausted, unhappy and unwell. When I stopped resenting and ignoring my introvertive nature, I found a wonderful inner peace. Today I still belong to committees, but they’re the groups where my gifts, talents and knowledge are recognized, valued and appreciated. I still attend parties and social events but carefully selected ones, and I love going out for dinner and movies and spending time with those I love, and some of those are incredibly wonderful inspiring extroverts. But when I feel the need to retreat, I now embrace it, enjoy it and nurture it, it energizes me and then I’m ready for my next great adventure.