Reflections

3 Benefits and 3 Challenges of Introversion

A key component of personality is where you fall on the spectrum of introversion and extraversion.   According to the "big 5" personality theory, your degree of extraversion is one of 5 traits considered a major factor in who you are as a person (along with openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness and neuroticism.)  

What really is the difference between the two?  The difference is how one gets their energy.  Introverts get energy from inside themselves, extraverts get energy from others.  But this spectrum of how one gets their energy is not so black and white. While most people favor one to the other, at least to some degree, some might notice they fall more towards the middle of the spectrum.  In fact, there is a word describing those who believe they fall right in the middle: "ambiverts." Ambiverts get energy both ways.  

 The main difference is not necessarily about shyness, or self consciousness, or talkativeness, or friendliness.  This is important to note, because an extravert can be shy sometimes, and an introvert can be chatty.  But the introvert will need time alone to recharge their social batteries, and this happens less frequently to an extravert.

As someone who leans towards introversion, I can speak from my own experiences of how this plays out in my life.  I am also well aware that these are my experiences, and I know other introverts that don't share them.  But because I am sure that there are some that can relate, I wanted to describe 3 benefits and 3 challenges I have experienced as an introvert.

Benefits:

1.  Being prone to reflection.  When you spend a lot of time in your head, you are likely to think deeply and ponder about life.  A lot of great writers, poets, musicians, etc are introverts who spend a lot of time thinking and/or feeling internally.   Often so are researchers, or scientists, or mathematicians. 

2.  Rarely feeling bored.  We can find ways to stay entertained.  I often need less external stimulation than my more extraverted friends.  Introverts have good imaginations often as well, so sometimes just daydreaming can be a way we pass the time.  We can find ways to keep ourselves busy and can be good at motivating ourselves as well.  

3.  Feeling comfortable doing things alone.  Personally I have a long list of things I like to do that I can do by myself- gardening, running, playing piano, reading, writing, enjoying music, and other creative hobbies.   I can enjoy long periods of time by myself.  I enjoy the company of others (most of the time)  but sometimes I crave alone time.  To me, being alone is different than "feeling lonely" which I have also experienced and definitely not enjoyed!

 

Challenges:

1.  Sometimes feeling misunderstood.  Because we can get so internal, we don't always articulate things clearly to others.  There have been times when I've thought something was clear, but it wasn't- and probably because I never actually said anything!  It's important to learn to express our needs and desires to others.  

2. Sometimes Too private.  While personally I have a tendency to want to keep a lot of things private, I have learned that true connection can only happen when you open up honestly and authentically with others that you trust.  

3.  Not great with small talk.  I haven't always liked small talk, but I've learned of it's value.  In order to establish any kind of connection with another person, it's almost always necessary.  Small talk helps me to be really present and grounded with another person and share in understanding each other's day-to-day life.  I've learned not every conversation worth having has to go deep. I've watched and observed people who can talk about anything and tried to pick up some skills for myself!   

So, for my introverted side, I have learned to love and enjoy it, and simultaneously recognized when my personality has its limitations and how I can grow.  Are you an introvert, extravert, or ambivert?  I challenge you to think about how this plays out in your own life and how you can grow!

Laura Novak