Ellingson: Introversion is more than just shyness


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There are many misconceptions about introverts that give them a poor social status, when in all reality, it should be embraced.

Caitlin Ellingson

What does it mean to be an introvert? Most people would give a basic definition of something along the lines of being absurdly shy, submissive, timid, nervous and other similar words that basically mean the person is scared to death of their own shadow in social situations. But shyness and introversion are not the same, and there are many other misconceptions about introverts that can give them a negative connotation. After thinking about various situations I’ve experienced over the years, I thought I’d discuss a few of my own opinions on them.

“Introverts are just shy.” While they can overlap in some people, these terms have similar yet different meanings. Shyness is a type of behavior where a person is afraid or nervous about being in social situations, while being an introvert is essentially having little or no desire to participate in social environments (usually).

“Introverts hate social interaction.” Not true; we enjoy meeting new people and hanging out like anyone else, just maybe not to the same extent. A key difference is how we socialize compared to extroverts. Many of us generally prefer attention in more of a one-on-one type of situation where we feel comfortable. Also, introverts tend to need time alone every so often. It’s our way of recharging, so don’t take it personally.

“Introverts need help meeting people.” We really don’t. We meet people in our own way and in our own time, and we don’t need anyone holding our hand in order to do so. Many of us value friendship in terms of quality, not quantity, so socializing and constantly meeting a lot of random people doesn’t really matter all that much.

“Introverts hate attention.” It depends on the attention you’re giving us. For example, telling the server of a restaurant that I’m turning a year older so that he or she sings “Happy Birthday” in loud, off-key tones that make everyone look at our table and stare kind of just makes me want to die a little inside. We generally prefer attention from a small group or single person because there is more meaning to us in that. We’d rather get attention from people who matter to us.

“Introverts don’t work well with others.” That depends on the situation. We might not like to work in groups or have a take-charge personality, but we get our work done regardless. We just have the ability to do it independently, and often that’s preferable for our own convenience. If we can do it by ourselves, we will.

“Introverts hate to talk.” Actually, many of us really enjoy talking, but don’t want to waste our time with someone who we think isn’t listening, or maybe we just have little desire to participate in pointless small talk if nothing interesting is being said. Also, if we’re quiet around you, that doesn’t mean we dislike you. We just don’t know you very well, and it might take some of us a bit longer to feel comfortable around new people.

“Introverts are depressed.” Completely incorrect. If someone is pretty quiet and keeps to themselves, don’t automatically assume they are sad individuals who hate life and need to seek professional help. Fact is, anyone can become depressed, and many hide it well. Look for other signs of depression, and don’t make an irrational decision simply based on how much someone talks.

“Introverts hate talking about their feelings.” Well, I actually do hate talking about how I feel. Nevertheless, for many introverts that’s not the case. We feel emotions just like anyone else and oftentimes are more in touch with them because we think more inwardly. We tend to choose our words carefully and think things through. If we actually verbalize how we feel, you should listen because we mean what we say and probably won’t repeat it.

“Introverts are not as fun.” We are extremely fun. It just might be a different kind of fun compared to what you like. Simple as that.

All of these things vary depending on the individual, and what is true for one person might not be true for another. Maybe you’re a mix of outgoing and quiet. Maybe none of these ring true for you. Maybe all of them do. That’s up to you.

It’s not a bad thing to be introverted, nor is it something you should feel you need to “overcome.” Embrace your awesome qualities and ignore those who tell you otherwise. And to many of you lovely extrovert readers: if you ever get the chance to hang out with an introvert whom you don’t know very well, you should definitely do it. They are probably the most interesting people you’ll ever meet.


Caitlin Ellingson is a senior in journalism and mass communication and environmental studies from Milo, Iowa.