As an introvert, I can figure things out on my own, and I don’t need anyone else to entertain me or to pad my self-esteem.
All my life, I’ve been an introvert in an extrovert’s world. Even though I’m pretty outgoing for an introvert — I enjoy hanging out with friends, taking road trips, and having new adventures — it always ends the same way. After a set amount of time, I get weary and need to retreat. I return home, to my own things, to my controlled environment, and to a quiet space that feels right. It’s just how I am.
At one time in my life, I tried to be more extroverted and social. I really did. But it always felt fake because I was being fake. Eventually, I stopped trying to be something I wasn’t, and I nestled comfortably into my introversion. That’s when I really began to flourish.
If you don’t understand introversion, you may see my desire to be alone as a weakness. You may even consider me to be shy or “anti-social.” But the true definition of introversion — someone who thrives in calm environments and needs solitude to restore their energy — has always made me feel good about myself. Being an introvert makes me more independent, more capable, and more resourceful than many of my extroverted peers.
We introverts do ourselves — and the world — a disservice when we try to be something we’re not. When we dig deep, we introverts have an unlimited quiet power. However, too often, our power goes untapped. It’s time for us “quiet ones” — and the world — to understand that our differences make us strong.
You Can’t Fight Human Nature
Introversion blossoms differently in everyone, but it’s been growing in my life since I was a baby. My mom said I mostly played by myself unless my curiosity drove me to pull things out of cabinets and drawers in the kitchen.
My mom would know. She’s an introvert, too, which is probably why she was the first person in my life to make me feel okay about being quiet. I remember her often sneaking off by herself to read. I believe it was her calm, gentle influence that gave my siblings and me permission to be ourselves — introverted or otherwise.
Once I saw how comfortable my mom was in her own skin, I felt at home to do the same. As I slowly but surely embraced my introversion, it pushed me to be stronger.
For example, one year in high school, I went shopping at the mall for a homecoming dress. I was alone, which was not unusual, and I picked out a few dresses I liked, then went into the dressing room to try them on. Troves of girls wandered in and out, trying on dresses and modeling them in the mirrors for their friends to see. More than once, a girl came out wearing a beautiful dress that she clearly loved, only to have her “friends” tell her she could do better or that it was ugly.
Unlike those girls, I never had to check in with anyone about what my likes and dislikes were. My choices were always up to me. I bought a dress that I loved, because I loved it, and I didn’t need anyone else’s approval. I believe I had such confidence, even as a teenager, because I spent so much time by myself.
Although the extroverted world still sometimes makes me feel like I don’t fit in, I’ve found that the more I embrace my introversion, the stronger I become. Here are five ways my introversion has pushed me to be a stronger person.
How My Introversion Pushed Me to Be Stronger
1. I figure things out for myself.
As introverts, we spend a lot of time in our heads, but we are also creative problem-solvers. When we “zone out,” we may be turning things over in our minds to find unique solutions or a new perspective.
When I was younger, I was too shy to ask questions when I didn’t understand something in class. I didn’t want to look dumb in front of my peers or like I hadn’t been paying attention. Sometimes that tendency made things difficult for me, such as when I left class with no clue how to finish my math homework. As an adult, I’ve learned to speak up when it’s really necessary.
Ultimately, though, I believe this tendency made me more resourceful. As an adult, I read a lot and mindfully evaluate what I see on social media or on TV. I believe this thoughtful approach — which is common to many introverts — makes me a better problem-solver. Plus, it means I never really take anything at face value (such as a suspicious looking Facebook post), and I dig deeper to figure things out for myself.
2. I’ve built my own self-esteem.
Like many introverts, I’ve always found it difficult to make and keep friends, even though I value deep friendships. It didn’t help that, growing up, my family stayed put while other families moved away, including kids I had connected with. I was not one of those girls who had a group of friends that lasted from kindergarten to high school. (Although I envied the women in movies about friends reconnecting at their 10-year reunions. There would be no Romy and Michelle adventure for me.)
Without a regular group of friends, I did a lot of things by myself, like exploring my home town on my own. At times, it was lonely, and I yearned for a best friend who would sleep over at my house and save me a seat in the lunchroom. But I also found my own presence satisfying and reassuring. I believe this instilled a quiet confidence in me, because no one else was there to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do (like the dress-shopping experience I mentioned earlier).
It was nice when I did have friends by my side, but as an introvert, I did not need them in order to feel happy. I gained a great deal of mental energy from being on my own, energy I used to become more self-aware.
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3. I’ve learned how to process my own emotions and comfort myself.
Another skill I learned from spending time alone was to console myself. As a result, I built a certain mental resilience because I learned that I could get myself through anything, even the most difficult situations. It’s great to have a support system, and I lean on mine when I need to, but it’s equally satisfying to know that I can take care of myself on my own. Being alone — and being okay being alone — helped me understand my emotions better and take care of myself when no one else could, such as when I entered the Armed Forces and later started my own copywriting business.
It may sound strange to someone who is not an introvert, but I also have valuable conversations with myself. I dive beneath my hazy, general feelings and analyze specifics, like whether I actually want to quit a project for a client or I just need a break from it. Extroverts rely on others to build their energy reservoir (and sometimes their self-esteem). Introverts, on the other hand, gain energy through alone time, so we can rely on ourselves to an even greater extent. And that’s powerful.
4. I’m more observant.
Because extroverts spend so much time socializing, you might think they are the experts on human behavior. But introverts have them beat: One study found that introverts perform better than extroverts when it comes to observing and understanding people’s behavior in group settings. “We think this might be the case because introverts [are] looking out at the world…and through this observation, they may more accurately judge how most people are behaving or acting or feeling,” one of the researchers said. Observation isn’t just a powerful leadership skill — it’s also key to relationships. Introverts may understand people just as well (or better!), because we spend a great deal of time “people watching” and reflecting on their behavior. Even though society usually prefers action over thought, I believe my observation skills have made me a better wife, friend, and writer.
5. I have greater self-awareness.
Self-awareness is a key part of emotional intelligence, and I believe it’s a skill that many introverts have — again, thanks to our love of alone time and self-reflection. For example, I would rather sit home with my own thoughts — or have a meaningful conversation with my introverted husband — than go to a bar where there is only loud, shallow conversation. I also prefer the conversations I have in my head with the authors of books I read, especially if that author has written a self-help book. I love discovering ways to improve myself and understand my mind better (because I spend so much time there). All of these things have helped increase my self-awareness.
I can’t speak for all introverts because our experiences are different, but I believe that being introverted has pushed me to be stronger. I don’t think I would have developed these skills if I had been born an extrovert. I love being an introvert! And, fellow “quiet one,” I encourage you to grow stronger from your desire for solitude. Introversion isn’t a weakness — it’s one of your greatest strengths.