How To Be An Introvert

» Posted by on Nov 21, 2012 | 46 comments

How To Be An Introvert

Have you ever been to a workshop where the person on stage bounds out and shouts ‘are you excited???!!’? Or maybe someone has gleefully asked you this at a party or other social gathering. If you’re an introvert like me, you might find this question a little daunting. I can be excited about something and it won’t really show outwardly, although those who know me well can tell. I’m introspective and quiet by nature, and so my response to the question ‘are you excited????’ can simply be ‘yes’, said with a smile.

I have often been challenged on this:  ‘well you don’t LOOK excited!’ they boom at me, or else I get the more sarcastic ‘oh yes, I can see you’re REALLY excited!’. For a long time I thought this meant there was something lacking in me. Why couldn’t I jump around with glee and squeal about my excitement to others? I experienced bouts of depression in my earlier years, which took time to be diagnosed and treated, and during those times I was naturally very flat. But I haven’t been depressed for well over a decade, so what was wrong with me NOW I wondered. Why wasn’t I BUBBLY?

Of course there was nothing wrong with me. I’m an introvert, and I’ve finally learned to own that and stop feeling like I need to apologise for it. When I was younger,  I was also a lot less sure of myself in social gatherings, so I tended to fade into the background. I can’t tell you the number of times people made the comment ‘gee, you’re quiet’ – which was true, no argument there. What got me about these comments though was the tone with which they were said. The words ‘gee, you have two heads’ could have been said with the same tone and would have fit just as well.

Being fairly insecure in those days, I would then launch into trying to explain WHY I was quiet. But I never felt I could tell the truth – that I was naturally more of a listener, that I was a little on the shy side, that I lacked confidence in myself, that I was an introvert. I felt I had to come up with a more plausible reason that would convince them I wasn’t a weirdo (I never did).

When I started to do a little more work on myself and gain some self-confidence, the pendulum swung, as it tends to, a little too far in the other direction, and I would find myself being the sarcastic one:

Gee, you’re quiet / Well it’s a little difficult to get a word in really…

Gee, you’re quiet  / Yes it’s just as well some of us are able to listen to others…

and so on. And that was nothing compared to what was going on in my head that thankfully wasn’t actually verbalised! Luckily I got through that phase and the pendulum swung back to middle ground.

I learned not to take responsibility for what other people made of my introspective nature or my non-bubbly responses. I can now comfortably stand by myself at a social gathering without feeling the need to look like I’m deep in conversation with someone and having a great time. Inevitably someone will come over and start chatting anyway. And if anyone says I don’t look excited enough or I’m too quiet, I will just smile and point out that it’s just my nature.

Ironically the more I’ve accepted this about myself, the more others have been ok with it as well. Being defensive and trying to explain yourself seems only to convince people you have something to defend, that you really are doing something wrong. The other thing I’ve learned is be kinder to myself by giving myself permission to not spend too much time with people who find it hard to understand me.

It’s not that I have anything against extroverts – I have several in my social circle and they give me hours of entertainment – but it doesn’t do me much good to be around people who inadvertently trigger my old beliefs about not being ok as I am. There will always be people we aren’t compatible with, and we don’t have to be.  I used to seek those people out, thinking if I explained myself satisfactorily enough and won them over, it would mean I was ok. All it ever did was reveal how different I was to them and make me feel inadequate.

I don’t compare anymore – they are them and I am me. Underneath my reserve, I am actually a people person and I thrive on being in a close-knit circle of like-minded souls. I also like my alone time.  I’m still working out how to balance this and not spend too much time with people, which leaves me feeling drained, or too much time alone, which leaves me feeling flat and unmotivated.


What many fail to see is that deep within the introvert there is often a lion who roars, a wolf who howls and an eagle who soars. They are all there, but rather than giving them voice directly through talk and chatter,  they are expressed through deeds, journals, paintings, a piece of music, a flower garden, a placard for a special cause, an altar, or a well-placed silence.

Here are some things I’ve learned about introverts that have challenged some of the myths I used to believe about myself:

Myth 1– Introverts don’t know how to have fun

An introvert’s idea of fun differs from that of an extrovert’s. Introverts don’t feel the need to seek out external forms of stimulus as much as extroverts do because we get enough stimulus just being around other people. Introverts have a lower threshold for the neurotransmitter Dopamine than extroverts do, we don’t need to produce as much to feel its rewards.

Myth 2 – Introverts don’t have anything to say

Introverts love to talk IF they have something to say, but we hate small talk. Get me talking about something I’m passionate about and you’ll find it hard to get a word in.

Myth 3 – Introverts don’t like people

Introverts usually have a number of friendships that are very close, long-term and mean the world to them. They may not have many acquaintances, because that involves small talk.

Myth 4 – Introverts are rude and aloof

Introverts sometimes skip the social niceties because they want to get right to the heart of the conversation. Having to first work my way through the – how are you/I’m fine/and how are you/great/how was your weekend/oh that’s good – is exhausting for me!

Myth 5 – Introverts are shy

Introversion and shyness are two completely different things. Introverts aren’t not afraid to interact with people, we just need a reason to do it.

Myth 6 – Introverts want to be alone

Introverts think a lot, we process things internally in addition to talking them through with others, and we love to daydream. But we also get lonely if we don’t experience connections with others, especially one to one.

Myth 7 – Introverts are homebodies

Introverts love to head out on a Saturday night as much as anyone else, however they will need time to recharge their batteries after a period of time spent with others, especially if loud noises, crowds and bright lights are involved. They may not stay out as long, or they might decide to stay in the next night. This isn’t because we don’t like to go out, it’s because we need time out to process all that incoming stimulus.

Myth 8 – It’s better to be an extrovert

In some professions, being an extrovert is an advantage, for example in competitive high-stress environments. Introverts however are responsible for much of the art, music, poetry and literature of the world, and they are also highly represented in the fields of science, mathematics and medicine. Our world needs both types of personality to thrive.

Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, you’re in great company. Famous extroverts include Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs and Margaret Thatcher. Famous introverts include Nicole Kidman, George Harrison, Andy Warhol and Barbara Walters. Whichever you are, it’s important to embrace this and work with it, while accepting and trying to understand others as they are as well.

Myths taken and modified from / Photos from &

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  1. Leanne

    You’ve spoken my thoughts and journey so well, thank you. This is a beautifully written piece, I’ll share with clients,

    Emma x

    • Thanks Emma, glad to know a kindred spirit :)

  2. Interesting post, Leanne! I definitely identify as an introvert, even though people who interact with me (especially online) would see me as someone who’s very expressive, talkative and enthusiastic.

    For me, the key isn’t that I don’t enjoy being with people (I do, under the right circumstances, although I sometimes go into an almost synethsthetic sensory overload in crowds ), but that being around people drains me, regardless of how much I love them and how much fun I might be having in their company.

    So how introversion manifests for me is that for every hour I spend with other people, I seem to need at least an hour completely on my own – reading, walking, thinking, meditating or just chilling out – to recharge and rebalance myself. The trick is getting the balance of me-time to other-people-time right so I still get to enjoy spending time with my friends and family!

    I can’t remember who introduced me to the concept of extraverts being energised by interaction with others and introverts being drained by it, but it really resonates for me!



    • Tanja, yes it’s funny how we can sometimes be more outgoing online than in person! Getting the balance between socialising and alone time is definitely important to managing stress levels.

  3. I’m an introvert, too! Love your post; it completely resonates with me. Will share it!

    • Thanks Christiane, I appreciate it!

  4. Oh, I LOVE this!! Our society rewards extroverts and expects us all to be that way. I learnt that it’s up to us introverts to tell ourselves we’re ok just as we are. It was a tricky life lesson for me, but it’s wonderful to understand ourselves and feel at peace with the way we are. Thanks for this, it really spoke to me.

    • That’s great Kylie, we do really need to stand our ground in our extrovert-driven society!

  5. I’m an introvert too! Thanks for a lovely post that really resonated with me.

    I highly recommend “Quiet: The Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” Fascinating read!

    • Thanks Shann, I’ll make sure I check that one out.

  6. Yes, yes, and yes! I always thought there was something wrong with me when people asked, “Why are you so quiet?” or “Cheer up!” as if being quiet meant I was sad. You’ve hit the nail on the head here. Going to pass around so others might understand introverts a little better.

    • Oh Cassandra, I forgot about the ‘cheer up’ comment – how often I’ve heard that as well! Thanks for passing it around, I’m sure there’s lots of introverts out there who think there’s something wrong with them when there really isn’t.

  7. Hi Leanne – I also resonate with your post being more of an introvert myself……I believed some of those myths too……it’s kinda nice to read another’s person’s take on being an introvert……thx for sharing & writing about this……….

    • Thanks Gina, the myths are quite enlightening aren’t they!

  8. This post brought tears to my eyes! Like Tanja I too have the reputation for being an extrovert and people laugh when I tell them I’m not really THAT outgoing (only to have them wonder why, after we meet face to face, I am so quiet).
    Thank you so much for writing this Leanne, it allowed me to say with confidence ” they are them and I am me”

    • Nicole, glad it resonated for you – yes you are YOU whether you’re being outgoing or quiet, both are just fine :)

  9. With the holiday season here, this is super timely! I know I always needs lots of time to recharge and rest up between being around folks. Its not that I don’t like them, but its terribly tiring!

    • That’s a good point about the holiday season Corie – it’s when we particularly need to take care of ourselves. It’s so easy to overdo it and then want to hide out.

  10. Thank you for writting such an interesting post. It gives me more to think about and more tools when I work with clients. Some personal training clients are more introverted and it took me a while to find our balance.
    I love your list of myths!
    Thanks again

    • Glad to be of help Toni!

  11. I LOVE this post, wish I had read it years ago when, like you, I thought that there was something wrong with being an introvert – especially with several extroverts in the family! I have also only just started to understand the difference between shyness and introvercy, and no longer refer to myself as shy (which never felt right when I said it).
    Thank you for sharing your story, I’m sure it will resonate with lots of people so am sharing it on Stumble xxx

    • Thanks for sharing it around Jo, there is definitely a difference between shyness and being an introvert. Great that you’re able to distinguish so you can understand yourself more!

  12. Hi Leanne,

    Thank you for sharing this post…I am one of the extraverts who used to worry about the introverts who weren’t having fun.

    About ten years ago, I discovered an assessment called the DISC, which explained a lot of this. It was just invaluable, and turned my whole thinking process upside down. I learned that yes, indeed, many people do NOT want to be called on stage and have everyone sing happy birthday to them in front of crowds, in fact hate it. It was a big turning point for me in how I worked with other people.

    Great post. And I have no affiliation with the DISC, but you can google and find sites to do it for free online.


    • Hi Vickie, I vaguely remember hearing about DISC, I must check it out – thanks for mentioning it :)

  13. Hi Leanne,
    I can definitely identify with this……….I recently joined a facebook group called “The Introverted Entrepreneur” and my own website is pretty introverted and accepting that I build a rich, inner, mythic and dream life……….I would love to share this thing I wrote about introverts last year with you, I’ll try to contact you through the Goddess Circle. THanks for writing something that resonates with me so much! Love Clare

    • Clare, that sounds like a group I need to check out! I would love to read what you’ve written – you can contact me on . Thanks so much for dropping by :)

  14. (raising hand) Definitely an introvert. And a shy one. I find I need recovery time not only from social situations, but also from things like grocery shopping, or (yikes!) going to a shopping mall.

    One really interesting thing I’ve discovered, though, is that introverts tend to do really well in some virtual environments. I’m guessing because there’s less stimulus and we can take our time with the pacing of the conversation.

    Wonderful article Leanne!

    • Tracie, yes I hear you, grocery shopping does my head in :) I agree about virtual environments too, I’ve always been much more outgoing online – I think you hit the nail on the head, it’s because there’s less incoming stimulus.
      Thanks for commenting :)

  15. Great mythbusting, Leanne, and a beautiful claiming of the space we introverts inhabit.

    Thank you for this!

    Love and blessings,

    • Sue, I love your phrase ‘claiming of the space’!

  16. Hooray for introverts! There are so many of us…and it’s a shame that the introvert is made to feel ‘less than’ when the truth is we’re just different. I know so many introverts who have acted like introverts for years – to their cost. Great post Leanne. xx

    • Hi Donna, yes we are encouraged to ‘fix’ ourselves by acting more outgoing and extroverted which doesn’t serve anyone. There are a lot of us – about 1/3 of the population and probably higher because that doesn’t include the ones acting like extroverts!

  17. Thank you for explaining me to myself and others, LOL. Now I can just refer people to your blog post. ;)

    • Thanks Lisa, that would be wonderful!

  18. Amen, Sister; You definitely hit the nail on the head!! I agree with Lisa, next time I need to explain this, I’ll just send people to your blog.. :)

    One of my greatest challenges is mixing my introvert needs with the extrovert needs of my husband. (That old opposites attract story…) It probably helps both of us to step out of our comfort zones a bit; and to help each other to capitalize on our strengths.

    • Hi Peggy, I think it’s good for ‘innies and outies’ to spend time together as we do help each other stretch ourselves a little more – as long as they’re people who are accepting and understand the differences between us. Thanks for dropping by :)

  19. Hi Leanne,
    I’m one of those introverts who appeared to be an extrovert because when out socially I easily participated in conversations.
    But all of that socializing wasn’t really me, I prefer the solitude of my own company, animals and nature.
    I now socialize less preferring outings where I align myself with others who share the similar values.
    I’m happy to do this via blogs, forums, a zen meditation group, toastmasters and the occasional catch up with a friend or family get together.
    I’ve recently joined toastmasters as I’d love to have the courage to get up on stage and give a presentation like ted talks.
    Unfortunately my first speech was delivered in a quiet monotone way lol.

    • hey Priska – congratulations on doing Toasties – my first speech was shaky, quiet and I didn’t look up from my notes once! Lol – I went on to complete 4 advanced manuals and became an excellent speaker (even if I do say so myself!) – Toastmasters is awesome – keep going because every time, you get better! x

      • Donna, how funny, I just asked Priska how she managed to get herself there to the first meeting as that’s exactly what I’m intending to do after Christmas. Seems like I’m in good company with this plan! Would love to hear your experience too – might email you!

  20. Great post Leanne! Taking your lead I’ll be reminding myself to give myself ” permission to not spend too much time around people who find it hard to understand me”. I have actually been doing this intuitively for a while but you have articulated it so well in words I now have a new affirmation to use! I give myself permission to not spend too much time around people who do not understand me! Fantastic! Thank you.

    • Michelle, good for you – you have my permission too!

  21. I like that you are an introvert so am I. You could probably tell this :) We introverts rock.

  22. Yes its me one of your students. I really like what you wrote here it describes me perfectly. That is exactly what i do. Did you see my drawing on the board in class the other day. I was feeling like i needed relaxation so i drew a nice scene to look at in class lol. Then Trevor added to it hehe

    “What many fail to see is that deep within the introvert there is often a lion who roars, a wolf who howls and an eagle who soars. They are all there, but rather than giving them voice directly through talk and chatter, they are expressed through deeds, journals, paintings, a piece of music, a flower garden, a placard for a special cause, an altar, or a well-placed silence.”

    I enjoy your expression in the way your write btw. I have a blog too where i express myself as well.

    • actually i think i drew it in Sue’s class, you missed it.

    • Christine, I did see your picture, I didn’t realise it was yours! Thanks for your lovely comments – I would love to see your blog too ♥

      • Oh it was your class and you did see it lol. I might let you see my blog soon I am in the middle of fixing stuff up there. I had a Major thing happen and all the pics I added to my blog over the years (been writing in there a long time) all disappeared and now I have to go back an add them all again and even find new ones. I have no idea how it happened. I could let you see it in its sad state so you can really feel for me lol. We will see Leanne, Ill kept you posted.


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