April 07, 2016

Introverts: Inside the Mind of an Introvert

Meet Sally, a typical introvert discovering the introverted tendencies that can serve her well and do her harm. Do you resonate with introverts like Sally? Find out how to better understand introverted tendencies.

A Day in the Life of an Introvert

Sally wakes up one bright summer morning and lays there for awhile, letting herself wake up slowly. After a bit, she reaches for the book she was reading the night before and reads a few chapters before finally getting up. She stays in her pajamas as she gets breakfast and does a few chores, browses social media, and texts a friend.

As she goes about her day, she thinks. About everything. About her plans for that evening, about the future, about her finances, her relationships, God, humanity, time, and space.

She starts to get a little-stressed thinking about it all, and tries to distract herself by browsing Facebook again, but soon finds herself equally overwhelmed by thinking about everything she views on there.

In the afternoon, she watches several episodes of her favorite Netflix show while playing Candy Crush on her phone.

As the evening approaches, she resumes thinking about her plans to organize a birthday party for a friend. She’s looking forward to seeing her friend but is dreading the event overall.

Finally, she puts together a cute outfit, does her hair and makeup, and heads to the party, feeling a little queasy at the thought of all the socializing ahead.

The party is lively and crowded with loud music, dancing, and lots of talking and laughing. It’s not long before Sally begins to feel dazed and overwhelmed.

She wonders what everyone is thinking and tries to engage in small talk but, she just can’t think of anything to say and finds the whole thing boring.

Despite the crowd, she feels very lonely and eventually slips away early to go back home and read until she falls asleep.

The next day, she starts it all over again.

How to Tell Whether You’re an Introvert

Sally is an introvert.

Being an introvert doesn’t mean that she is shy, that she loves to read, or that she dislikes social interactions although any of those things may be the case.

As Psychology Today explains,
“Introverts are drained by social encounters and energized by solitary, often creative pursuits.”
Introversion is a broad term that defines a group of people who are primarily focused inward rather than outward, and who do not require large amounts of external stimulation to feel energized. In fact, too much stimulation will leave them feeling exhausted.

In other words, you could very well be a social, friendly person and still be an introvert.

Introverts are Everywhere

Introverts come in many shapes and sizes, but they all crave solitude and plenty of time to process information. Anything that enters your brain via sensory input including sights, sounds, colors, or any other information affects your brain chemistry.

If you’re an introvert, it doesn’t take very much of these things to keep you feeling engaged. You process through things by musing and mulling, sometimes a little too much.

Given too much stimulation with too little time to sort it all out, you become overwhelmed and exhausted.

You don’t do or say much without carefully thinking it over first. And you never do anything without analyzing it all until afterward.

Given the choice between going out and staying in, you’re most likely to choose to stay in. If you do go out, you’d rather it be a place you’re familiar with, with a small group of people you know well, or better yet just one good friend.

But a new place with lots of noise and tons of strangers? Forget it.

Famous Introverts

Does the description of an introvert sound like you? You’re in good company!

The thoughtful temperament of introverts means that they are well-suited to accomplish much in the world. The website MyPersonality notes that many famous writers such as Louisa May Alcott, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and C. S. Lewis were introverts, as well as other types of artists like Steven Spielberg, film director; Auguste Rodin, sculptor; or Neil Diamond, musician.

In addition, introverts often make good actors because of their ability to tune into the character’s thoughts and emotions. Jimmy Stewart, Barbara Streisand, Angela Lansbury, and Tom Cruise are just a few examples.

A number of renowned political and historical figures have also used their unique strengths as introverts to bring about world change, such as George Washington, Mother Theresa, Susan B. Anthony, Nelson Mandela, and, of course, the father of the introvert-extrovert categorization, Carl Jung himself.

Extroverts may outnumber their introvert friends, and thus make up the bulk of society, but introverts pack a pretty big punch!

Introverts tend to be the thinkers and dreamers of the world, using their rich thought life to make their mark on history.

Your type, whether it be introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, like everything else about you, is just one aspect of your being; a trait that can be used for good or, allowed, to drag you down.

Pitfalls to Avoid

While introversion brings many helpful qualities and assets, it comes with a few challenges as well. All of the great people named above had to work hard and take the time to overcome inherent issues and build good habits.

What are some of these pitfalls? Well, let’s look back at Sally’s day.

She is wearing herself out because she’s not balancing her life wisely. She steps outside her comfort zone only when she absolutely has to and, even then, she doesn’t manage it in a way that keeps her healthy and happy.

While it makes sense that she gravitates away from too much stimulation and towards more alone time, sometimes we have to look at the big picture. Sally enjoys her solitude. She likes peace and quiet, loves her close friends, and enjoys being comfortable. None of these are bad things. The problem arises when she doesn’t pursue her preferences in a balanced way.

She avoids excessive stimulation at all costs and doesn’t engage in enough external activity to give her overactive mind something to do besides cannibalizing itself.

Psychology Today sums it up by stating,
“Thinking things through is good. But thinking things through over and over and over until you've sunk your brain into a rut that you can't climb out of is neither productive nor healthy.”
And it leads to her feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, as well as somewhat lonely. Her craving for solitude will also inhibit relationships, and probably her work.

Break Out Every Now and Then

Unfortunately, we can’t always avoid things that may drain us in life and Sally needs to learn to interact socially and in the workforce without wearing herself out. But how?

To lead a more peaceful and fulfilling life Sally needs to step back, engage in some honest self-evaluation, and take note of her patterns and tendencies. She needs to find ways to balance out her social life and her alone time, as well as integrating activities that will give her mind something to chew on while she’s alone.

She should also try to balance things that energize her with things that aren’t her favorite, to achieve a happy medium rather than clumping first one and then the other into huge chunks of time until she’s worn out.

And she should remember that it’s okay to not enjoy small talk and loud music and new things as much as others. Everyone is different, and many of those differences aren’t positive or negative. They’re just that, differences.

Strengths to Embrace

Now that we’ve looked at tendencies Sally needs to work on, let’s look at some of the traits that she should be proud of!

Sally enjoys thinking things through, analyzing them, and coming to conclusions. This opens up a wide range of possibilities for art and creativity. Her thoughtfulness makes her not only deeply creative, but it makes her a wonderful friend.

She loves forming intimate relationships and will tend to pick up on what other people need or want, giving her the ability to be there for those around her in a unique way.

She may not be good at small talk, but on a topic that she has thought deeply about she can contribute endlessly, because, as Marsha Pinto writes in the article '6 Reasons Why You Should Appreciate Introverts', published by The Huffington Post;
“While extroverts may speak every thought that comes to mind, an introvert will filter their thoughts and only speak of the ones they think are best to share.”
This makes Sally a very good listener, able to take in and process what others say and turn it over in her head until she formulates the best response.

She is also almost never bored, if she runs out of things to do, her own thoughts and imagination could keep her busy for a very, very long time indeed.

These are just a few of the wonderful things about being an introvert that can help bring her and those around her a life of joy and contentment.

A Day in the Life of a Balanced Introvert

Sally wakes up one morning and allows herself 20 minutes to think about her day before getting up and dressing in clothes that make her feel both comfortable and beautiful.

She enjoys thinking over the past few weeks and some of her favorite topics while she does chores, but after a while, she notices that she is starting to get overwhelmed by her thoughts and she turns on a new audiobook to give herself something new to think about.

After lunch, she grabs coffee with a close friend and enjoys the relaxing atmosphere and comfortable conversation.

After she gets back home, she settles down to read with a cup of tea, keeping an eye on the clock so she can see when it’s time to prepare for the party she was invited to tonight.

When the time comes, she gets ready to go and heads off to the party.

It’s definitely more crowded and louder than she would prefer, so after about half an hour of meeting and greeting, she retreats outside for a breath of fresh air and to give herself time to process through how the evening has gone so far.

After a few minutes, she returns to the party feeling refreshed and proceeds to seek out her close friends for some laughter and fun discussions.

She finally heads home. Settles down and watches a quick episode of her favorite show. Helping her to wind down from the experience before bedtime. When the show is over she gets into bed and quickly falls asleep.

Tomorrow she will wake up ready for another balanced, introverted day.

See alsoPersonality vs. Character: Are They Really that Different?

Be Like Sally

Remember it didn’t take anything huge or dramatic for Sally to discover a lifestyle that suits her temperament. Nor was it too difficult for her to balance her days in a more healthy way. All it took was a little honest self-evaluation. Identifying the best ways to balance the quiet time she enjoys with some ways to step outside her comfort zone here and there.

Take a few minutes to look at your own life. Identify what small changes you can make to embrace the best parts of being an introvert.

Check out the other articles in this 4-part series which include: "Inside the Mind of Extroverts, Introverts, and Ambiverts."