The Meaning of a True Introvert and Why the Internet Has Got It Wrong
The age of the internet has ushered certain imagery into our collective consciousness regarding introverts. You may expect to hear words such as shy, withdrawn, antisocial, or even socially anxious – none of which are necessarily true. In the early days of Web o.2, websites such as Tumblr, Reddit, and 4chan propagated a certain self-deprecating description of introversion.
But that’s exactly the point – it was self-deprecating. People were making fun of some of their introverted tendencies, exaggerating their effects. But, as it always happens with an extreme output of memes and emphasis on those traits, they become a part of our cultural mythology.
The most truthful definition of an introvert only ever entails one characteristic – introversion. Sure enough, many introverts will prefer to work individually and opt for quiet spaces rather than rowdy, boisterous environments. And, yes, sometimes they will cancel social outings.
Introvert Characteristics – Do These Sound Familiar?
Carl Jung, a famous psychologist and one of the most influential psychoanalysts (he did it right, not you, Mr Freud!), suggested the simple division between introverts and extroverts based on where and how people get their energy. Extroverts thrive in social settings, are energised by busy, bustling lifestyles, and like participating in many activities. On the other hand, introverts turn to their mind to charge their batteries and prefer to have alone time and work in solitary settings.
Listed below are some of the typical traits of introverts.
- A keen sense of observation. Introverts are observers (and judges) by nature. They prefer to silently take stock of what’s happening around them and form conclusions based on that.
- A strong preference for individual work. Open-space offices or spaces where too many people can look in on them make introverts uncomfortable.
- Artistic tendencies and creativity. Many art forms are solitary and expressive of inner worlds – an activity in which introverts revel. Love for the arts goes hand in hand with this.
- Decisions are made after careful consideration. Introverts make their decisions after mulling over facts, impressions, and feelings.
- One-on-one interactions are preferred. Introverts form bonds quicker when they get to do it on an individual basis rather than during big events, game nights, or pub quizzes.
- Introverts rest by enjoying their inner world. They turn inwards when they need to recharge from the events of daily life.
- Alone time is a must. Introverts are good at sharing living space, provided they get to spend some time on their own. Be it going for a walk, watching a film, or simply scrolling social media; introverts need their me-time to rest.
- Heavy social interaction can be draining. Introverts’ energy is quickly depleted in big groups.
- Introverts don’t like being observed. Having someone watching them work or relax is anxiety-inducing. Job interviews can be taxing, too, if they feel they are being judged a bit too enthusiastically.
- Ice-breakers are a nightmare. Yes, it sounds like a meme, but honestly, who even likes those?
Not all introverts will exhibit all of these traits. Introversion and extroversion exist on a spectrum between the two absolutes, and most people have traits of both personality types, falling somewhere between the two ends. Still, if you relate to a number of these characteristics, you can call yourself an introvert. This is greatly beneficial, as it helps you find activities, jobs, and interests that will suit your personality.
Introvert Intuition – A (Not So) Rare Occurrence
Intuition can be a vague concept to explain and understand. It refers to one’s ability to form conclusions based on patterns of events, impressions, and feelings. It’s basically your gut feeling. You know the one – that little tug somewhere at the back of your mind that hints that something might happen, and then it actually does.
Many introverts are highly intuitive people. They don’t do it consciously, but given that they are extremely perceptive and observant, their minds compile many bits of information and send signals that help them understand the world around them. And, they are, quite frankly, often correct.
Introverted intuition is a cognitive characteristic, most commonly found in INFJs (introverted, intuitive, feeling, judging) and INTJs (introverted, intuitive, thinking, judging) and occasionally seen in ENFJs and ENTJs – the four out of sixteen personality types on the Myers-Briggs type indicator. (To find your own, click here!)
Introverted intuition exists on the borders of INFJs or INTJs’ consciences, and they often don’t actively question how they came to certain conclusions in the moment of decision-making. They might consider it in retrospect, but for the most part, these types operate on hunches, feelings, personal experiences, and expectations. In practice, these personality types can easily adjust to various settings, accommodate many different personalities, and respond well to change (at least in the moment it happens).
This is also why assuming that introverts are antisocial is wrong. Introverts boast great empathy, and, combined with introverted intuition, they are impeccably equipped with many social skills that allow them to move swiftly through different situations. However, the downside of absorbing all these impulses and adjusting to them drains introverts’ energy, which is why they need their alone time to recharge.
Can You Train Your Introverted Intuition?
As I said, introverted intuition is a largely automatic and subconscious process. However, there are some ways that can help you harness this ability better.
- When you get the urge to do something – just do it. Take your impulses as guidelines and do what you feel like doing. I know that our busy lives don’t always allow it, but you have to learn to listen to your body and mind. If you allow yourself to do things you instinctively want to, you encourage your intuitive faculties to come into the foreground when needed.
- Spend more time in nature. Go for long walks, preferably close to water. Pay attention to everything around you – the grass, the sound of birds, the hum of the river. Try to stay present, appreciate your surroundings, and train yourself to notice things.
- Boost your senses. Focus on your five senses whenever you can. Take a deep breath and try to guess what you’re smelling, feel the paper under your fingertips, and listen to the sounds around you. Attune your body to your environment, and it’ll start picking up on things that you never paid attention to before.
- Ditch other people’s opinions. Don’t let others’ expectations guide your life, especially when you’re supposed to make big decisions. Remember, lots of significant life choices are permanent or have permanent consequences, so make sure that you make them for yourself, not for others.
- Awaken and heal your inner child. Try doing something you know you enjoyed as a kid. Kids are extremely in tune with their present moment – they just do what they like (see point 1!), so revisiting some old passions may bring your inner child back to life. Remember, you’re never too old to play!
Harness Your Introvert Personality in the Right Setting
Here’s the thing, we introverts are pretty awesome. Being somewhat reserved and quiet is nothing to be ashamed of, and there are ways in which you can harness your potential by giving yourself the best environment to thrive in.
First off, become acquainted with yourself and your preferences. As an introvert, you’re very likely to spend time reflecting on the world around you and the one inside you.
Find a Hobby
Consider your hobbies and passions: Are you likely to do certain things out of interest, habit, or societal pressure? Ideally, the first one. In your free time, you should be able to respond to your own needs and preferences. Don’t just go through the motions; find out what drives you. For example, don’t just go to the gym because you’re expected to – find ways of exercise that feel good. Don’t watch the same Netflix show that everyone watches – go for the one that seems interesting to you personally. Who cares if its rating is low – no ranking system should dictate your life.
Once you have a handful of things you love, try to find time for them. I love books, and no matter what, I find ways of weaving reading into my routine. I read before bed and while I’m having my morning coffee. Since I love fitness too, I listen to audiobooks when I exercise or go for walks – perfect combo, actually. Whatever you like, you should be able to find at least 30 minutes of your day and get engrossed in it.
Enjoy Your You-Time
The next thing to consider is your alone time. Work out what helps you relax and how much time you need to recharge your social battery. Make this time your priority. You won’t always be able to be alone, what with classes, meetings, gatherings, and so on, but when you do have some alone time, make sure to focus on yourself. Pursuing your hobbies is a good way to do it, and so is simply lounging around when you feel like it. Try to strike some balance in your life, but also, don’t feel too bad if you sometimes simply have to take a rain check on being social.
Embrace Your Emotions
Allow yourself to feel everything and validate your emotions. I have no idea when absolute stoicism – or at least the idea thereof – became the preferred norm, and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s false and forced optimism. If you’ve fallen victim to either one of those, I’m here to tell you that feeling your emotions and addressing their causes is the best way to deal with them. When you’re excited, jump up and down, sing, dance, and hug your friends. When you’re sad, listen to sad songs, cry it out, pop that ice-cream tub open, and then move on. Yes, sure, there may be bigger problems out there, and people have it worse, but that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel the way you do. Don’t bottle things up, and work through your emotions so that you can contend with whatever comes your way.
Some Jobs for Introverts
To be truly happy in life, you might as well plan what you want to devote at least eight hours of your day to. There are some great options for us introverted folk:
Software developer. There’s no need to explain this; you’ll be spending lots of time alone in front of your screen. A home office may as well be the only one you’ll need.
Artist (of any kind). This one may take years to set up, but if you have a bit of talent and a lot of love and dedication, you can progress quickly and make it into a profitable career path. God bless the internet for quick dissemination of artworks!
Librarian. Who wouldn’t want to spend all the time in a library? Peace and quiet are guaranteed, and people coming tend to be nice.
Academic career. Especially if you focus on research and publishing. Sure, teaching is a part of it, but remember, introverts are not shy, and the ability to read the room makes us great public speakers.
Accounting. If you like fiddling with numbers, accounting is a fairly solid option to immerse yourself in.
Editor (of any kind). Editing journals, books, blogs, audio, and video clips – you’re the boss in this field, and everyone depends on you!
Therapist. Owing to high perceptivity, empathy, and individual rapport, introverts make great counsellors and therapists. We can really walk a mile in anyone’s shoes. Just make sure to get enough alone time to rest!
Landscape designer. Practical art this time. You get to plan and conduct big projects to improve the aesthetics of the world around you.
Social media manager. Don’t be scared by the word social – in this job, you get to stay behind the screen and maintain company brands from there. Most of the communication will also flow through the internet.
Bonus: A Job You’d Be Great at, BUT …
A (kindergarten) teacher. Let’s face it, you‘re empathetic, love kids, and could think up a billion activities for them, but this job can be terribly taxing on introverts, especially if entitled parents come into the mix. Data suggests a noticeable decline in children’s social skills after a few years of home-schooling, and, unfortunately, teachers suffer the most from it.
Remember, Introvert vs Extrovert – It’s Not a Competition
In a world that still loves binary oppositions, it feels like it’s expected to take a side even when it comes to personality types. Don’t. While being sociable and gregarious may seem appealing at times (especially those times when you’re supposed to go out, but you just want to be a couch burrito wrapped in your blankets), being an introvert has many positive aspects to it.
- Introverts are highly observant, intuitive, and creative, which increases not only social skills but also provides many conversation points (when you feel like conversing, of course).
- To harness your full introvert potential:
- Look inwards and discover your likes and dislikes.
- Make sure you get ample rest time and spend some of it alone.
- Practise being in the moment and listening to the world around you to kick-start your intuition.
- Always embrace who you are and live your life within your own truth.