What does it mean to be an introvert?
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
Introversion is one of those words that gets tossed around a lot. In fact, it gets thrown around so much that it becomes difficult to discern what it actually means. The public image of millennials is one of a social butterfly—the person who seeks to go out every night and be with their friends or family. So when we encounter someone in this age range who doesn’t display those characteristics, we label them an introvert. This habit has caused us to fuzz the definition and connect many unrelated issues or personality traits under an umbrella term. However, by doing this, we could potentially be pushing aside actual signs of trouble, and dismissing them as simply another aspect of a friend or loved one’s “introversion.” Because the lifestyle of an introvert can be so radically different from our own, we can interpret their actions in the wrong way.
So what does it mean to be an introvert? Is it synonymous with depression, or being anti-social? Should these people be thrown onto an island and quarantined like they have some infectious disease? Obviously not, but there are some misconceptions that do need to be cleared up.
Are you depressed? One of those weird, fuzzed definitions I mentioned earlier is the one that separates being an introvert from being depressed. A lot of people treat the two words as if they are symbiotic, when really they are two completely separate issues. An introvert is not always someone who suffers from depression, and vice versa, as someone who’s incredibly social and outgoing isn’t immune to depression. If your friend or significant other is an introvert, you shouldn’t feel the need to force them to go out and do things in an attempt to make them “happy.”
Humans are naturally social creatures. Most people like to go out and interact with other people, and when they don’t, or they spend too much time alone, they start to go a little stir-crazy. Being an introvert is like the opposite of that. Instead of wanting to go out and socialize, introverts prefer to remain on their own, and if they’ve been around people for too long they can start to feel anxious or irritated, much in the same way someone will become stressed if they feel they haven’t had enough time just hanging out with friends. This doesn’t mean introverted people will never want to go out, either in a small friend group or to larger, more social places like a club or event—those times are simply fewer and further between for them than with other people.
What is recharging? This concept of “recharging” is one that is relatively new, but it does help to better understand introverted behavior. Recharging is when an introvert has hit their breaking point in socializing, and they need to be alone for a little while. Remember, it’s pretty much the exact same as when a more social person feels that they’ve spent too much time alone. Maintaining a balance can help to re-centre them. Spending a little time on their own will eliminate that irritability and stress that builds up when they’re bombarded by social event after social event. As a friend or loved one, understanding that this “recharge” time is a necessity is probably one of the best things you can do.
Are you anti-social? If someone tells you that they’re an introvert, most people’s automatic assumption is that they’re anti-social. This association is a disservice. Introverted people like having friends just like anyone else, but they do tend to be shyer.
To be friends with an introvert, you have to understand that if they don’t want to hang out, it’s not because they’re mad at you, or they’re trying to upset you. Most of the time introverts—who naturally desire being on their own—are forced to go out in the public, either for work or school. This becomes incredibly draining, similar to having to cram for a test. You read and study constantly until you hit a breaking point where you just have to veg out for an evening. An introvert will spend an entire day outside, looking forward to when they can simply go home and relax. If a friend then calls and invites them out, sometimes they’ll refuse simply because they’re exhausted and need to recharge.