“Solitude matters, and for some people, it’s the air they breathe.” ~Susan Cain
We live in a culture that celebrates extroversion and sees introversion as a weakness or something to overcome.
If you’re an introvert, you may have grown up believing there was something wrong with you. You may not even have realized there’s a word for your personality type, that 26 to 50 percent of the population falls under that umbrella, and that our brains are actually wired differently than extroverts’ brains.
According to Scott Barry Kaufman, the Scientific Director of the Imagination Institute (which sounds like the coolest place in the world to work), it all boils to down to the neurotransmitter dopamine.
When our brains release dopamine, we feel more motivated to strive for external goals and rewards, like a raise or an ever-widening social circle. Though we all have the same amount of dopamine in our brains, the reward center is more active in extroverts. That’s why an extrovert might feel energized and excited anticipating a social event, while introverts might feel over-stimulated.
We introverts rely on a different neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which makes us feel good whenever we turn inward—something we’re much better able to do in calm environments, with minimal external stimulation.
Yes, I said “we.” I’m a proud deep thinking, quiet-time needing preferrer of profound conversations over small talk. I’d rather dissect the meaning of life on a rooftop below a starry night, with one close friend by my side, than scream over loud music amid a rowdy crowd at a party or in a bar.
For years, I felt like a loser because I have fewer friendships than most and spend more time alone. But it’s not that I’m less likable than other people (or at least, I hope that’s not true). It’s just that I detest forced socialization, superficial relationships, and feeling the pressure to ‘perform’ for a group.
While I’m beyond relieved to finally recognize my personality type isn’t a character flaw, I appreciate when the people around me understand and value my nature as well. And I know I’m not alone.
I recently asked the introverts within Tiny Buddha Facebook community what they wish people understood about them, and their responses all sounded like pieces of my own internal monologue. Below, I’ve shared a small selection of the 1,000+ comments that came in.
If you’re an introvert, this list might put into words what you’ve thought many times—from all different angles, while enjoying various solo activities. If you’re an extrovert, this will hopefully give you a little more insight into how your introverted friends feel, what they want and need, and why they do the things they do.
25 Things Introverts Wish People Understood About Them
1. I’m never lonely. I love, love, love the time I spend alone (or just with my immediate family). It feeds my soul. ~Kim Kay
2. I would rather have a deep conversation with one or two people than small chit chat with twenty-five. I value quality over quantity. ~Lyle Hatch
3. I’m not grumpy or unsociable, I just don’t know how to do small talk. Also, I’m not boring or uninteresting; you just never initiate deep conversations with me. ~Natashia Lee
4. I do not enjoy forced conversation and situations. They only make me want to retreat back to my own space. Just let me sit back to observe, and I will decide if I should join in. ~Michelle Bush West
5. I do not think I am better than you. ~Kimmie Nielsen
6. I mean what I say and only speak when I have to say something. ~Roland Laufer
7. Not wanting to hang out is not personal. I need way more down time and rest than other people may, and that doesn’t mean I’m lazy. ~Dani Hughes
8. We’re not all social butterflies; we’re more like social caterpillars. We take a while to open up. When we do, we can either be like a butterfly around you, but if things go south we’ll want to stay in the ‘wrapped up’ phase forever! ~Carole Ann Rickerd
9. Canceling plans with people less than twenty-four hours beforehand has nothing to do with them and everything to do with my self-care. ~Sahej Anand Kaur Khalsa
10. Just because I’m not all smiley and enthusiastic doesn’t mean I’m not happy. ~Brandon Logan
11. When you mention how quiet I am because I don’t talk much in large gatherings or make a big deal when I do speak, it just makes me feel self-conscious and retreat more into myself. ~Angela Eaves
12. I cannot be “on” when you want me to. There are times when I can join the conversation or party, and times when I simply cannot. ~Sabree Johnson
13. Just because I’m an introvert doesn’t mean I’m anti-social or stuck up. It just takes me longer to recover from events and big groups of people. ~Angela Stewart
14. I deeply care and empathize with so many people in my life, even those that I don’t know personally. I can’t ‘turn it off.’ Going home is my way of avoiding overworking my emotions. It’s so I can rest up and be a good friend, colleague, employee, and citizen tomorrow. ~Jayme Taylor
15. My silence in group conversations isn’t aloofness, indifference, or lack of personality. I’d just rather get to know you one-on-one before I start revealing my thoughts and opinions. ~Amanda Perrett
16. Just because I’m not loud and don’t share my feelings with everyone in sight, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have them. Quite the opposite. I feel things very deeply. ~Liz Szentendrei
17. I’m not a flamboyant personality, but I have as much substance as the next person. ~Terrie Lynch
18. Sometimes I just want to walk in silence, but I am neither sad nor lonely. ~Debra Temple
19. Just because we keep to ourselves, or we are not talkative, does not mean we do not have an opinion or are less intelligent than others. ~Tony Solis
20. Just because I’m quiet doesn’t mean I’m upset or mad, so there’s no need to keep asking me “Are you okay?” That gets very tiring. ~Linda Burton
21. I’m not talking because I don’t have anything worthwhile to say and I’m fine with the silence. ~Amber Lockey
22. Sometimes I may act extroverted, but it’s kind of a survival skill I’ve adopted in an extroverted-centered world. Still leaves me feeling mentally exhausted and drained. And feels unnatural. ~Dalas McCown
23. If you ask a question and we don’t respond right away we are thinking through every possible response, how you might react to each response, if it is actually the truth, and then we might get distracted and eventually ponder the meaning of life … even if you just asked how we are doing. ~Michelle Cobley
24. I don’t hate people. I just save my energy for genuine interactions. ~Sharon Stewart
25. I want to be invited! I may not always go or have the ability to stay long, but it doesn’t mean I want to be entirely left out. ~Diana Rouge
Extroverts, is any of this news to you? And introverts, is there anything you’d add to the list?
About Lori Deschene
Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha. She’s also the author of Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal, Tiny Buddha's Worry Journal, and Tiny Buddha's Inner Strength Journal and co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. For daily wisdom, join the Tiny Buddha list here. You can also follow Tiny Buddha on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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