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  • Jeannie Scott

Debunking Myths: 5 Misconceptions About Introverts (We’re Not All Shy)

These are just a few of the tiresome assumptions keeping introverts in boxes; either made for them or by them – we’re not all shy.

There’s still so much mystery surrounding what it means to be an introvert or an extrovert. But there seems to be an increased desire to identify either way, especially post pandemic. I think a lot of people, me included, forced into stillness and solitude, actually found that that’s exactly what they needed. They discovered a new or dormant introversion within themselves.

I’m an actress and coach. I’ve performed on screen and stage. I’ve worked in every customer facing role you could imagine, and I’m what you might call a sociable bubbly person. I’m not the typical image of what an introvert looks like.

Which is why I’d never assumed I was an introvert. And what happened?

I overcompensated. I didn’t take the rest I needed. I presumed I was just lazier than other people, and so needed to work harder. I berated myself for struggling to speak as eloquently as I could write. I pushed myself to my energetic limits and burned out.

And I don’t want that for you, fellow introvert. So, let’s debunk some myths.

1. Introverts don’t like people (most introverts that I've met actually find people very interesting).

There’s a difference between not liking people, and being exhausted by them. I love people. I mean I went into two careers where being around people are at the crux of what I do.

But what a lot of people don’t understand about introverts is that the difference between them and extroverts can actually come down to biology. Doctor of Psychology Perpetua Neo told business insider that introverts have a lower tolerance to dopamine (the hormone related to reward, and feeling good) than extroverts. Which basically means that we are more easily over-stimulated.

Dr Neo also talks about the difference in brain pathways for introverts and extroverts. Saying that the length of the brain pathway associated with social interaction is much longer in introverts; called the Long Acetycholine Pathway. Because it’s so long it passes through much more parts of the brain than the extrovert’s shorter pathway. Which, as you can imagine, is exhausting!

As a result, introverts suffer from the dreaded “introvert hangover”. Which, similarly to a normal hangover if you’ve ever had one, can be really debilitating and last for a couple of days.

Introverts don’t not like people. They don’t like the way that a normal social interaction for extroverts, can have quite severe implications for them afterwards. Which is why lots of introverts might tend to be a bit more cautious about how, and with whom, they spend their time.

2. We're all shy (shyness and introversion aren't the same thing)

Extroverts can be shy or struggle with something like social anxiety, just as introverts can.

Let’s go back to our brain chemistry.

Remember how I mentioned that introverts have a longer pathway than extroverts? When an introvert is in a social situation (or just any situation with another person), a signal will be sent along this long pathway; through the right frontal insular cortex – the part of our brain that notices errors. And through the frontal lobe, which evaluates outcomes.

What this means, is that that introverts notice detailed errors, so they’re more inclined to be self-conscious when it comes to making mistakes. And because they’re evaluating outcomes, they’re very busy worrying about what’s going to happen. Meaning they’re more susceptible to feelings of anxiety.

This goes to show why introverts may be more inclined to be shy or uncomfortable in social situations. Because for an introvert, a social interaction is never just that. When we’re regularly overstimulated, this impacts our nervous system. If continuously put into stressful situations, without proper rest, can lead to burnout – which is what happened to me.

Get my free guide Introvert Power Save Mode: 4 Ways to Hold onto Your Energy in a World Built for Extroverts

3. We're all avid readers

I come from a family of reading fanatics, and I always felt a bit of an outsider, because I was never a huge reader. I enjoy it. But I don’t devour books in the way people assume all introverts do.

Reading is a stress-reliever, and a wonderful self-care activity. It’s an opportunity for introverts to wind-down after a busy day. Whilst still allowing your busy mind to tick over. It’s also a very solitary activity, which, as you know from the previous assumption, can be hugely desirable for us quiet ones.

I think there’s also something to be said about how we process information when reading. Introverts, different from extroverts, process most information internally. It’s why lots of introverts can be mistaken for rude or shy. And when you read (for yourself), all of that information is processed internally. You’re creating worlds inside your head, without being distracted or stimulated by the outside.

But, like I said, no all introverts are massive readers. Some introverts might find that kind of stress-relief and self-care in meditation, physical activity or binging a Netflix series.

4. We're made to follow. We're not made to lead.

Contrary to popular belief, introverts are naturally gifted in areas that contribute to effective leadership. Some of the world’s most famous leaders, including Oprah and Ghandi, were introverts.

I wrote a blog post recently detailing these exact gifts that you can lean into, if you’re an introverted leader.

How you show up, and the impact you make when you do, can be helped by harnessing your strengths.

You can lead and create the kind of impact you want to, without changing who you are. As an introvert, you have the strengths needed to be a powerful and magnanimous leader…so use them.

5. Introverts aren't driven

As an ambitious af introvert myself, who works with other ambitious introverted women, I can tell you that introverts are just as ambitious as the rest.

We’re disinclined to small-talk and networking. Which could come off as not being ambitious. But when it comes to communication, we prefer spending time creating a deep connection with someone, than your typical networking event that thrives on short and surface-level conversations. If you’re chatting to an introvert, they’re going in! You have been warned.

Introverts prioritising following through. So, once we’ve started something you can bet we’re going to see it through to the end. If that doesn’t scream drive, I don’t know what does. We also lean on the side of overthinking, which can be handy when it comes to focusing on goals.

The thing about misconceptions, is that they’re harmless until they’re not. The problems start when you’re trying to overcompensate for your own or others’ misconceptions, to the point that you lose confidence in your own abilities or burnout.

Come over to Instagram and let me know whether you actually identify with any of these 'misconceptions'.

You might like:

Feeling Like a Fake? How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome as an Introvert

Build Your Introvert Zone of Genius

8 Ways to Boost Your Confidence if You're an Introvert or HSP

Get Noticed Without Being the Loudest Person in the Room

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