We all get to—and need to—define happiness for ourselves.

Define Happiness for Yourself, Fellow Introvert—Your Own Way

Happiness is not a one-size-fits-all entity. It looks, and feels, different to different people. So go ahead—define happiness your own way, as the introvert you are.

What does happiness look like—and feel like?

That’s a dumb question,” you might be thinking. Happiness is happiness. Everyone knows what happiness looks like and feels like.

But is that really true?

More specifically: Does happiness look and feel the same to you, as an introvert, as it does to someone who is much more extroverted?

No, it almost certainly doesn’t. Not if you stop to think about it. And not if you’re honest with yourself about it.

Happy has become synonymous with an effervescent, enthusiastic emotion,” particularly in American and other Western cultural contexts, writes coach and licensed counselor Holley Gerth, in her must-read book The Powerful Purpose of Introverts: Why the World Needs YOU to BE YOU.

“Picture the Super Bowl beer commercial with the crowd of 
good-looking people laughing on 
a beach,” Gerth says.

“Ask an extrovert to describe how they feel when they’re happy and you’re likely to hear words such as enthusiastic, energetic, excited, thrilled, overjoyed, ecstatic.” AKA the epitome of the beer commercial.

Ask an introvert, on the other hand, and “you’re more likely to hear content, fulfilled, calm, engaged, peaceful, satisfied,” Gerth points out.

Yes. Exactly right.

Thus, we can’t use the pronoun it to refer to happiness, because happiness looks different and feels different to different people, especially when it comes to introverts 
vs. extroverts.

Introverts and extroverts define happiness differently.

Which means that we as introverts need to pursue happiness and assess our happiness differently too.

Says Gerth:

“When we evaluate our happiness as introverts, we can’t use the American cultural definition (or the equivalent in any other country) because it doesn’t fit us—it’s secondhand happiness. If we do, we’ll think we’re not happy, and people may worry we aren’t, when we’re just differently happy.”

“Differently Happy” Under the Hood

All through my childhood in 
the 1970s, my dad—the introvert’s introvert—spent 
huge amounts of time in the garage.

His garage.

It was not at all unusual for Dad to camp out for an entire Saturday out there, weather be damned, chain smoking his Winston Ultra Light 100 cigarettes and working on the cars he had bought for little or nothing so that he could sell them for a lot or something.

I don’t think my mom ever fully understood why Dad was in the garage so much, and I didn’t get it either.

I do know, though, in my own case at least, that I never connected what Dad was doing to his 
happiness. I thought he was getting away from something—including Mom and me and my three siblings, no doubt—not intentionally moving toward something.

But I was wrong.

The car rehabilitation project my dad spoke about most proudly involved a late 1960s Jeep Wagoneer that, according to him at least (no need to verify—the story works well as is!), the previous owner paid Dad $75 to get out of his yard.

Dad gave the car a few months 
of TLC in his garage and ended up selling it, repainted a beautiful navy blue, for $875.

Tinkering with cars, in terms of both the journey and the destination, made my dad happy. But not once did I see him shouting about it or high-fiving my Uncle (and fellow 
introverted car nut) Dick about it or doing cartwheels about it or even really talking about it all that much.

My dad’s version of happy wasn’t the beer commercial or anything close to it. But it was genuine happiness just the same. Engagement, contentment, satisfaction, fulfillment, just as Gerth suggests.

Why not, perhaps at long last, give yourself the same gift?

You Define Happiness for Yourself

Let’s go back to our original question, then:

What does happiness look like—and feel like?

Now it’s clear that the question you really need to be asking yourself is:

What does happiness look like—and feel like—to me?

Answer it honestly, keeping your introversion in mind so that you define happiness on your own terms.

Maybe happiness, to you, is being in nature. Or writing in your journal. Or taking photographs of your kids. Or just quietly sitting with your coffee and watching the sun rise.

“[N]o one else’s experience of happiness is just like yours,” Gerth stresses.

Yours need not be like everyone else’s, either.