In today’s world, extroverts get all the praise for their loud social charm, outspoken personality, and bouncing-off-the-wall confidence. Some are members of your family, your best friends or even co-workers or modern-day heroes of yours. But what about giving praise for those of us who don’t cartwheel into a room at every occasion? Who instead walk in with quiet grace and a warm smile? Introverts continuously get asked to be more extroverted. At least I do – even at the ripe age of 31.
I’ve always been an introvert and for the longest time and I used to think it was a massive flaw – is my quietness making me socially awkward? Are friends uncomfortable around me because I’m not participating as much? The list of questions can go on. I was continuously being asked to be louder, more outspoken, and more social. Even as recently as this year, somebody asked my husband, “What’s wrong with her?”, as I retreated into a bedroom for some quiet, alone time to recharge after a day of intense socialising. Yet, I’ve never heard of any of my extroverted friends being asked, “Why are you so loud? Why are you so social?”.
Comments like these can affect the most confident of people, however, why is there such a worrisome spotlight on those who are less overtly ‘out-there’? Is it better, then, to be fake rather than frank? Let’s take a look at some of the mindful and beneficial qualities that come from strong and silent self-awareness instead of shouting it from the rooftops.
Reasons to be proud to be an introvert
1. An introvert pays attention to what matters to them and is a deep thinker
Personality and cognitive behaviour and abilities are closely and inextricably linked. According to neuroscientists, introverts actually have a more complex brain and hence take longer to process things (1). Therefore we process in great depth analytically, critically and emotionally. This makes us great reflectors and it also makes it easier for us to know what makes us fulfilled and hence build a life according to that.
2. An introvert is more sensitive to the happy hormone
Introverts don’t require much in order to feel the benefits of dopamine – the happy hormone. The simplest things like a smile from a beloved or a good passage in a book can be enough to bring inner joy, rather than huge, saturated gestures of happiness that require convincing. It’s not that introverts have less dopamine present in their brains than extroverts – they actually have the same amount. The difference is in the activity of the dopamine reward network. It is more active in the brains of extroverts than in the brains of introverts says Scientific Director, Scott Barry Kaufman (2).
3. An introvert is naturally empathetic and compassionate
Everyone’s nervous system has two sides — the sympathetic side, which triggers the “fight or flight” response, and the parasympathetic side, which is responsible for “rest and digest” mode.
When your sympathetic system is activated, adrenaline is released, glucose energizes muscles and oxygen increases. Areas of your brain that control thinking are turned off, although dopamine increases alertness in the back of your brain. But when you use the parasympathetic side, your muscles relax, energy is stored and food is metabolized.
Of course, extroverts and introverts use both sides at different times. But which side do we introverts prefer? According to Dr. Laney of The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, it’s the parasympathetic side, which slows us down and calms us (3).
Introverts are more sensitive to people and the stimuli around the world bringing forth compassion and empathy as prime characteristics.
4. An introvert is a great listener
Since we introverts tend to be a lot shyer and quieter, we are great listeners. We really pay attention to what people are saying, how they’re saying it, and think through all of this so we are able to give a supportive, thoughtful response.
5. An introvert loves alone time and is independent
Introverts need alone time in order to recharge our batteries. This is the happy place. The quality time of reconnecting with yourself quietly is what makes introverts quite mindful of themselves and their surroundings. And if you need one last boost of confidence to help you nurture your natural introvert just think – some of the greats thinkers like Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt were introverts too!
1. Stauffer, C. C., Indermühle, R., Troche, S. J., & Rammsayer, T. H. (2012). Extraversion and short-term memory for chromatic stimuli: An event-related potential analysis. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 86, 66-73. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2012.07.184