For most of my life, I didn't classify myself as an introvert or an extrovert — and honestly didn't think I fit into either category. Like many people, I mistakenly believed that being introverted and being shy were the same thing. And while I felt I didn't qualify as an extrovert, I'm also definitely not shy, so I was convinced that I couldn't be an introvert, either.
When I moved to New York City after college, I immediately got caught up in the pressure to be hyper-social. I was afraid I'd be missing out if I didn't meet as many people as possible and go out pretty much every single night. There was just one problem: I wasn't really having much fun. I was forcing myself to be an extrovert, and it didn't fit my personality any more than the four-inch heels I was stuffing my feet into before heading to the newest club.
The more I went out, the more I began to crave alone time; and after a few especially painful wake-up calls, I stopped caring what other people thought and started spending my evenings doing things I actually enjoyed — having quiet dinners with a few close friends, reading, and rekindling my love for dance. I felt happier than ever — which I later realized was because I'd finally accepted that I'm an introvert and that's more than OK.
As it turns out, I have plenty of company. Approximately one-third to one-half of the population is introverted — and many of us have tried to pass ourselves off as extroverts because society tends to glorify extroversion (and under-appreciate introversion). But much of our cultural obsession with extroverts is due to misconceptions about introverts. Contrary to popular belief, introverts can enjoy socializing, are capable of being amazing leaders, and are not unhappy or boring individuals. We shouldn't fight our own introversion, and we shouldn't judge others for being introverts. So help us all become more accepting of introversion by not saying any of the eight things below.
1. "Introverts Are Antisocial"
In general, introverts don't enjoy huge, loud social gatherings or events — but that preference should not be mistaken for "antisocial" behavior. Personally, the reason I don't love going out in a crowd is because packed, noisy bars and parties aren't conducive to having meaningful and interesting conversations with my friends. Like many introverts, I prefer smaller gatherings with a few close friends — because those are the scenarios in which I feel most connected to my pals. They allow for the deep, thoughtful conversations that introverts crave. But does that mean that I hate social interaction? No way.
2. "So, You're Just Really Shy?"
Although shy is a kinder adjective than antisocial, it's equally inaccurate when it comes to describing introverts. In large group settings, introverts are typically quieter than their extroverted peers because we don't love small talk. But this quietness shouldn't be mistaken for shyness or social anxiety. Rather, introverts generally prefer to choose their words carefully and only speak when they feel they have a valuable contribution to the conversation.
3. "You Shouldn't Be In A Leadership Role If You're An Introvert"
When it comes to our cultural stereotypes about introverts, one of the biggest problems they create is the misconception that outgoing, assertive people make better leaders. In reality, both introverts and extroverts have amazing skill sets that can be brought to the leadership table and studies have shown that introverted leaders sometimes deliver better results than extroverted bosses.
Since introverts are really good listeners, they're more likely to hear and absorb feedback and ideas from their staff without butting in. As someone who has worked for a variety of personality types, I can safely say that the best boss and mentor I ever had was an introvert — she was always willing to listen to every word I had to say, and she offered thoughtful responses and advice when I was done speaking.
4. "Wait, You Spent Friday Night Alone? That's Weird!"
Don't get me wrong — on certain Friday or Saturday nights, there's nothing I love more than spending time with one or two close friends and enjoying a bottle of wine with a movie or some fun board games. And I'm not always opposed to going to a party or bar — I just really need to be in the right mood. But I have plenty of extroverted friends who often want to go out on the town after a long work week rather than stay in (which is a totally fine choice — it just doesn't happen to be mine).
Sure, I could go with them — but noisy gatherings just aren't my jam, and I'm happier ordering takeout, reading a good book, and catching up on my DVR. It took me a long time, but I've learned to not force myself to go out just because it's more socially acceptable. And, like most introverts, I certainly don't spend all my free time alone — I just pick and choose my social activities carefully, because there are plenty of solitary hobbies I enjoy.
5. "Are You Depressed?"
Since extroverts love social interaction, they tend to feel sad when they have too much alone time. Additionally, when an extrovert is dealing with depression, they may uncharacteristically isolate and assume that everyone else who's not constantly socializing is also depressed.
But introverts seriously love our alone time — and when we decide to not book a social event for every day of the week, it's because we know ourselves and we're aware that we need some solitude to unwind and rejuvenate. We're not isolating due to unhappiness; we're taking good care of ourselves by making sure we get the alone time we need.
6. "Don't You Feel Like You're Missing Out?"
Nope. I actually know that I'm not missing out on anything amazing, because I spent so much time forcing myself to pretend I was an extrovert. If I continued to engage in constant social activities that didn't enrich my life or make me happy, I'd be missing out on the things I genuinely do enjoy — like reading, journaling, dancing, and drawing. These activities keep me sane and even-keeled, so when a social event that I'm excited about comes up (like a small party, a brunch, or a hike), I feel rejuvenated and psyched to spend some time with my friends.
7. "Why Don't You Like People?"
Just because introverts don't feel the need to become best friends with every single person we meet, doesn't mean we dislike people. Sure, I'm not a fan of small talk and I don't constantly feel the need to make new friends — but that's because I love my close friends and family members more than anything in the world, and I'd prefer to focus on my relationships with them. Rather than having a huge circle of friends, introverts tend to have smaller groups of close friends. It's about the quality and closeness of the friendships — not the quantity. We value our alone time, but we're not lonely people.
8. "Isn't Your Life Kind Of Boring?"
When we arrive at work on Monday morning and don't have a ton of exciting weekend stories to share, this question sometimes comes up. But if I thought my life was boring, I'd do something about it! An introvert's ideal weekend might not make for a super exciting story — hearing that on Friday I ate a nice meal and curled up with a book I've been dying to read, and Saturday I went for a long walk with my best friend and then we had a three-hour conversation over dinner may not strike the casual listener as exciting. But these are the activities that make me feel like a genuinely happy and fulfilled person — and that's what really matters.