Introverts hate socializing, extroverts are happier, and apparently we can’t get along? Think again.
Whenever I tell someone for the first time that I have a panic disorder, it’s usually followed by a very confused look and something along the lines of, “But you’re so outgoing?” If they knew me in high school they also bring up the fact that I was voted the most talkative girl in the entire senior class. (But, let’s forget about that one please!)
The point is, it’s rare to find someone who isn’t shocked that as an outgoing, talkative person, I also deal with raging anxiety.
This repeated reaction got me thinking about how many stereotypes we have as a society when it comes to personality types, namely the way we label introverts and extroverts. Instead of exploring the depth of each, the extremes are often put forth when explaining them.
To fully dive into these myths, though, let’s start at the core of what it means to be extroverted or introverted.
“Introversion and extroversion are personality characteristics and often influenced by nature and nurture. Because they’re widely discussed in business, social, and relationship circles, they’re often misconstrued,” Dr. Juli Fraga, Psy.D. tells Healthline.
“Extroversion and introversion refer to where people receive energy from. Extroverts are energized by socializing in larger groups of people, having many friends, instead of a few intimate ones while introverts are energized by spending time alone or with a smaller group of friends.”
The big takeaway: It’s not how you act but what situations you thrive in and get energy from. With that in mind, let’s dig into the myths about extroverts and introverts that should be put to bed.
Again, the distinction is how many people a person likes to socialize with, instead of one type of person not wanting to socialize at all.
“People often think introverts are ‘anti-social,’ which is not the case. Introverts enjoy relationships and socializing; they just have a different tolerance level for how much socializing they’re comfortable with.”
On the contrary, extroverts can be seen as the life of the party or social butterflies. “Certainly, there’s a correlation, but this is not always the case,” Dr. Fraga says. While introverts do tend to like more time alone, this break allows them to be fully invested and to enjoy themselves when they’re with friends.
What in the world does how many people you hang out with or if you like spending time alone have to do with taking risks? Fears and desires are a completely different distinction from extroversion and introversion.
“[These labels] convey misinformation and can cause rumors to spread about these personality characteristics that are unfounded,” Dr. Fraga says.
So instead of counting introverts out for risky things, give them a chance to express themselves and choose whether or not an activity is something they’re interested in doing.
Inherently, acting as an extrovert or introvert is you proceeding in a way that makes you happier — so why would one make you feel better or worse? The only way one person would feel sadder is if they were to try to act as the opposite of who they naturally are.
Embracing the social situations you naturally gravitate toward, instead of forcing yourself into ones that are too big or small for your liking, is what will make you happiest.
Just because someone does well in big groups and is talkative doesn’t mean that they are less likely to deal with a mental illness.
“It’s damaging to convey that there may be a connection. When looking at what increases one’s risk of mental illness, we need to look at many factors: biology, childhood trauma, family history, and overall temperament,” Dr. Fraga says.
Honestly, a lot of the time that I’m outgoing and talking a lot, it’s when my anxiety is flaring more than normal. By surrounding myself with good people and chatting about unrelated things, it helps me tune out the anxiety or diminish it altogether.
Confidence is knowing what’s best for you and who you want to spend your time with. It’s not having more friends or being social all the time. So whether a person is an introvert or extrovert has no impact on their confidence, as long as they’re doing what makes them feel good and happy.
Again, introverts are not necessarily shy or timid. If you only see an introvert in large group settings then this may be the impression you receive, but that’s only because it’s not the environment in which they thrive.
It’s like when someone says, “They’re quiet until you get to know them.” Take your time with introverts and hang out with them in a smaller setting. You may be surprised at how soon you won’t be able to get them to stop talking!
The truth of the matter is no one is fully one way or the other and there will be times that an introvert may enjoy hanging out in a big group while an extrovert chats one-on-one.
These preferences are not defining characteristics of a person’s personality, meaning that an introvert and extrovert may find plenty of things to bond over. The key is to give everyone a chance, no matter what size group they feel most comfortable in.
Sarah Fielding is a New York City-based writer. Her writing has appeared in Bustle, Insider, Men’s Health, HuffPost, Nylon, and OZY where she covers social justice, mental health, health, travel, relationships, entertainment, fashion, and food.