The Stigma That Comes from Being an Introvert

By Carla Back, MFT

Being an introvert,  I spend a great deal of time in my mind, analyzing, dissecting and turning things over.  I don’t require a lot of external stimulation, there is plenty going on right where I am. I am fine there. Some people don’t like to stay in that place, so they look to escape into the outer world.  Some people just desire to be around other men and women. I don’t think there’s any right or incorrect way to be, except to be who you genuinely are.

“Eastern cultures see introversion as a value and give it much esteem.  Western cultures favor extraversion.  For a balanced, safe, and caring planet, we ought to learn to value both.”  John Weber

Personally, I feel that introverts have been pathologized way too much in our culture. There’s something to be said about liking a quiet life without a plethora of friends. Does it mean one is special because they have over 500 buddies on Facebook?  Does that person hold the golden key to the magic kingdom?  Or, might some of them actually be insecure and making an attempt to prove that they are more well-liked than they actually are?

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I’m not trying to degrade people who are extroverts. I’m just looking at the stigma that goes along with being an introvert. Because someone would truly rather stay home and read a book, as opposed to going to a social gathering, does that mean they are depressed? Not necessarily. Many therapists decide that someone is depressed if they don’t have a lot of friends and if they don’t go out much.  Therapists such as these see people through just one lens, and don’t realize that being alone a lot does not necessarily mean that one is unhappy. They need to understand that for an introvert, solitude and self-reflection makes them content. It is where they are the most comfortable.

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I have many relatives who are extremely social. Some have worried about me because my calendar is never full. What they don’t realize is that I prefer it that way. I would rather have a handful of friends whom I know intimately than have a lot of acquaintances. I think popularity, which is particularly valued in our society, is highly over-rated. I don’t have the time, energy or inclination to be a best friend to fifty, twenty or even ten people.

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If you’re not sure whether you are an introvert or an extravert, ask yourself if you need to re-charge your batteries by being alone. If this is the situation, you’re an introvert. If you’re an extrovert, you recharge by being with others. If it’s somewhere in between, you’re a healthy mix of both.