Introversion 101 and my MBA journey

High school was a difficult experience. I initially had a large group of friends and would hang out after school with them at a nearby pizza place. I wanted to be social but never enjoyed the large social interactions. I felt that I should have, but didn’t. I wanted to be able to hang out with lots of people and join in on large conversations but couldn’t.

College was all about getting through, then I wanted to study an MBA and then finally I realized that I actually might be introvert. It took me a while to learn that there was nothing wrong with me. Even though I was ready to start with my MBA degree, I decided to first focus on starting a small business/website with information about affordable MBA programs.

There’s the unfortunate misconception out there that being an introvert means that one is anti-social, a recluse, and shy. When I recently told a friend that I’m an introvert, he replied, “No you’re not. You’re social. You talk to people.” Being an introvert is not the same as having a shy or withdrawn personality. It’s a type of temperament, something unchangeable.

Our defining characteristic is that we draw our energy inwardly- from the inner world of emotions and ideas. Hanging out with lots of people or being in a bustling city will, therefore, drain our energy and overstimulate us. Extroverts, in contrast, gain their energy from the external world- activities, socializing, people, and places.

Famous well educated introvers
Famous well-educated introverts

Think of introverts as being rechargeable batteries. We need time alone to stop expending energy and to recharge. Extroverts, however, are more like solar panels. They need to be out and about to recharge and gain energy.

Now why am I writing this post? I want everyone out there that may be an introvert to understand that they are one and that there is nothing wrong with them. I want every extrovert out there to be able to identify their more introverted friends and understand where they are coming from. I also want to impart some tools to my fellow introverts that have helped my life wonderfully.

How do you know if you or a friend is an introvert? Here are some common signs and characteristics, according to The Introvert Advantage:
– You prefer to relax alone or with a few close friends
– You are engaged and talkative one-on-one but turn relatively quiet in large groups
– You need rest after outside activities, even ones you enjoy
– You are often the listener
– Although often the listener, you can talk a lot about topics that are important to you
– You love people-watching
– Your mind often goes blank in groups

I should point out at this point that introversion and extroversion in not like the difference between being a dog or a cat- either you are one or you’re not. According to Carl Jung, each temperament resides on opposite ends of a spectrum. It is not that people are incapable of being both introverted and extroverted but rather that we tend to be pulled in one direction more than the other. While most people tend to fall closer to the extroverted end, many people also fall somewhere in the middle. Then there are those on the extreme end who would go along with Satre so far as to say that, “Hell is other people at breakfast.”

Tools For Introverts
1. Realize that there’s nothing wrong with you

2. Take the alone time you need to recharge and don’t feel guilty about it. This has taken me a long time to learn but has helped me tremendously in improving my overall quality of life.

3. Confidently tell your friends or partner when you need alone time. Even if you don’t tell your friends what it means to be an introvert, most people know of people that sometimes need alone time and understand that it doesn’t mean that they are depressed. Your friends will respect you for taking the time that you need to yourself and for being confident in it. With your partner, try to explain introversion and the need for alone time. Also, be sure to explain that taking alone time has NOTHING to do with not wanting to be with them. This is uber-important.

4. Occasionally get out of your head and do something particularly “extroverted”. Go to a big party, join a big conversation, go to a music festival, take a dance class, talk to someone new. Do something scary and exciting! It may not feel comfortable but you can always take time to recharge afterward.

We all have our own niche on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. If you are on the introverted end of it, respect it and know that there is nothing wrong with you. If you are on the extroverted end of the spectrum and ever happen to see an introvert staring off into space or not leaving her room to party, don’t ask what’s wrong. The person is probably just recharging.