There’s No Such Thing as an Introvert

I typically call myself “an introvert”; maybe you do too.

We need to watch it, though — for our language and the thinking behind it, both conscious and unconscious, can lead to trouble.

Remember: The personality traits of introversion and extraversion aren’t black and white. Rather, they lie on a continuum:

Introversion               |                   Extraversion

None of us is purely introverted or purely extraverted. Carl Jung once said that “such a [person] would be in the lunatic asylum.” Rather, we’re each a mixture of both traits and a thousand others. And even that mixture fluctuates to some degree depending on our circumstances.

If, for example, you’re very passionate about something, you’ll tend to become more extraverted in your behaviors, if only temporarily. Conversely, if you’re exhausted after a particularly trying day, you’ll likely become even more introverted than you already are.

Either way, you’re never 100 percent introverted. And therefore you are not — and cannot be — “an introvert.”

No one can.

Furthermore, the developers of the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) instrument — the most widely used personality assessment in the world — note that an “introvert” is more accurately described as “a person who prefers introversion” or “a person who tends toward introversion most of the time.” (Similarly, an “extravert” is more accurately described as “a person who prefers extraversion” or “a person who tends toward extraversion most of the time.”)

We’re all only human, pressed for time and energy, and so we tend to use the terms “introvert” and “extravert” as a form of shorthand in our everyday lives. It makes sense.

But it can be problematic if we’re not constantly vigilant about what we’re actually doing; shorthand invites potential typecasting (“all introverts are the same”), and typecasting inevitably leads to overstatements, misstatements, and misunderstandings where introverts and introversion are concerned. The same can be said, of course, for extraverts and extraversion.

If you’re someone who thrives on solitude, needs to think before you speak and/or act, craves depth and substance in your relationships and activities, and longs to focus intently on one thing or one person at a time rather than constantly multitasking, you’re probably someone who prefers introversion or tends toward introversion most of the time. You’ll be referred to as “an introvert” only — only — because it takes way too long to refer to you as “a person who tends toward introversion most of the time.”

But you are indeed most accurately described as “a person who tends toward introversion most of the time.”

You are not “an introvert.” I am not “an introvert.” No one is “an introvert.” Not really. We are all different, thanks to our individual experiences and our genetics and dozens of other variables that make each of us unique.

“An introvert”? There’s no such thing.

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