What Is an Introvert?

The Complete Introvert Definition and Guide

Introvert definition:
The definition of an introvert is someone who prefers calm, minimally stimulating environments.

Introverts tend to feel drained after socializing and regain their energy by spending time alone. This is largely because introverts’ brains respond to dopamine differently than extroverts’, but it’s also a mix of how they’re raised and their experiences growing up.

How Do I Know if I’m an Introvert?

Have you always felt different? Do you enjoy spending time alone? Growing up, were you the quiet one? Did people ask you, “Why don’t you talk more?” Do they still ask you that today?

If so, you might be an introvert.

And that makes you perfectly normal. Despite what your peers, teachers, and even parents may have told you, being an introvert doesn’t mean that you’re broken—or even that uncommon. Studies point to 30 to 50 percent of the U.S. population being introverts. That’s one out of every two or three people you know! Even if you are not an introvert yourself, you likely work with, are married to, or are friends with an introvert.

So, if about half the population are introverts, why do we “quiet ones” grow up thinking there is something wrong with us? That we need to change who we are?

It’s because society tells us that the introvert’s way is wrong. Beginning as soon as we can walk and talk, we receive messages from those around us that we should act like extroverts — chatty, outgoing, fun, and social. In school, our grade depends on our participation in group work and class discussions. At work, we’re expected to not only do our job, but to also make friends with our coworkers and play the “office politics” game.

Society says that only lonely people with no friends stay home on a Friday night. That quiet reflection is a waste of time. That the person with the loudest voice is the smartest and the best.

But if you’re an introvert, you know that’s simply not true. Quiet can be powerful. Spending time alone can be as nourishing as a good meal. Turning inward is what we do best — and where our true strength comes from.

The world could use more of what introverts have to offer.

Slowly, our society is beginning to understand and accept the introvert’s way. But in order to do that, we first need to better understand what introversion is — and what it’s not. That’s the purpose of this guide, and of this entire website.

If you’re an introvert (or if there’s an introvert in your life that you’d like to understand better), read on.

What Does It Mean to Be an Introvert?

The most common definition of an introvert may be someone who gets drained by socializing and recharges by being alone. But there’s so much more to introversion than that.

Everyone is born with an innate temperament — a way that you gain energy and prefer to interact with the world. Introversion and extroversion are temperaments. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert is largely determined by your genes — meaning you were probably born that way.

However, we’re also shaped by our life experiences. If your quiet, thoughtful ways were encouraged by your parents, teachers, and others, you probably grew up feeling confident in who you are. But, like many introverts, if you were teased, bullied, or told to “come out of your shell,” you may have developed social anxiety or felt like you had to pretend to be someone you’re not.

The good news is it’s not too late to work on the things that hold you back. 

Of course, not all introverts are the same. Some introverts will need only a little bit of alone time to recharge and can handle a fair amount of social time before feeling drained. Others drain quickly and prefer to spend very long periods alone. It’s different for each person, and many introverts are somewhere in the middle.

Sooner or later, however, all introverts will experience the dreaded “introvert hangover,” which is the feeling of being completely wiped out from too much “people time” or stimulation. This can mean feeling fatigued, unable to concentrate, or even grouchy. It’s as if your brain has used up all its mental energy and just doesn’t haven’t any left. (And, in fact, that’s exactly what has happened.)

The result is that most introverts share certain characteristics:

  • We’d rather stay home most nights than go out to one social event after another.
  • We enjoy quiet, solitary activities like reading, writing, gaming, gardening, or drawing.
  • We’ll usually choose the company of a few close friends over a wild party.
  • We do our best work alone.
  • Many of us will avoid small talk or other unnecessary social interactions.

Are Introverts Shy?

Some introverts are and some aren’t. This is probably the single most misunderstood thing about being an introvert.

The truth is that being shy and being an introvert are two totally different traits:

  • Being shy means you get very nervous and self-conscious in social situations. Both introverts and extroverts can have this trait — not all natural-born extroverts run around chatting with strangers!
  • Being introverted means socializing wears you out. You might not be nervous or shy at all. In fact, many introverts enjoy socializing (as long as it’s meaningful!). But since it will eventually tire you out, you probably avoid extra social time when you can.

Compare social stamina to running. If extroverts are marathon runners, introverts are sprinters. That doesn’t mean that introverts don’t like running (er, social time). It just means we have to conserve our energy.

5 Myths About Introverts

Unfortunately, many people don’t fully understand what it means to be an introvert. They equate introversion with shyness, depression, or social anxiety. When introverts go quiet, we are wrongly accused of being stuck up, angry, or disinterested. And when we spend time alone, we are often accused of being antisocial or selfish.

For most introverts, these misconceptions couldn’t be further from the truth. Here’s the truth behind the five worst stereotypes:

  1. Introverts are not necessarily socially awkward. Just like shyness, social awkwardness is a separate trait from introversion. Many introverts can actually be quite charismatic in social situations. (In fact, introverts account for 60 percent of all lawyers, a profession that requires quite a bit of confidence speaking in front of others.)
  2. Introverts don’t hate people. An introvert’s lack of chitchat is often misinterpreted. People take it as a sign that we don’t like others. The truth is the opposite. Introverts often avoid small talk because we consider it to be inauthentic. We crave a more meaningful connection with the people we talk to.
  3. Introverts aren’t rude. Yes, if an introvert is completely out of social energy, we might start getting a little crabby or simply zone out. But we’re not trying to be rude — and we’ll be a lot more friendly if you give us some time to recharge alone.
  4. Introverts don’t need be “fixed.” Being an introvert is part of who we are, and it can be a source of brilliance. We are at our best when we embrace our nature and use it as a source of strength.
  5. Introverts don’t (usually) wish we were extroverted. Sure, sometimes introverts envy an extrovert’s ability to think quickly or fit naturally into a social situation. But we also take great delight in our inner world and our alone time. Introverts have many strengths that don’t come naturally to extroverts, and we wouldn’t trade them for the world.

The 13 Signs of an Introvert

Every introvert is unique, but there are some signs you’re an introvert that most of us can relate to. Introverts tend to:

  1. Enjoy spending time alone
  2. Get drained by certain types of socializing (the “introvert hangover”)
  3. Do their best work alone
  4. Would rather hang out with one or two close friends than a large group of people
  5. Are often “in their heads”
  6. May have a vivid, rich inner world
  7. Prefer to stay out of the spotlight
  8. Feel like they’re faking it when they have to network
  9. May struggle with word retrieval (choosing exactly the right words on the fly)
  10. Are better at writing their thoughts than speaking them
  11. Dive deep, both in their relationships and interests
  12. Seek meaning in their jobs and relationships
  13. Feel out of place in an “extroverted” society

Not every introvert will match all of these signs, but if most of them sound familiar to you—chances are good that you’re an introvert. And if someone you love matches most of these signs, it may mean they’re an introvert, too!

There’s No Such Thing as a Pure Introvert

No two introverts are exactly alike. What’s true for one introvert may be be quite different for another. Each introvert has a different level of tolerance for socializing and other types of stimulation.

Above all, there is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. “Such a man would be in the lunatic asylum,” the famous psychotherapist Carl Jung once noted. Introversion and extroversion are on a spectrum, meaning, they are not all-or-nothing traits. Everyone acts introverted at times and extroverted at other times. It’s all about what your preference — in general — is.

If you’re not sure whether you’re more of an introvert or more of an extrovert, you can take the introvert quiz and find out.

Can Introverts Become Extroverts?

There are two answers to this:

  1. No, introverts cannot become extroverts.
  2. Why would we want to?

Why we can’t: The research is clear that introverts express their temperament from a young age. In fact, one study by psychologist Jerome Kagan found that it’s possible to predict which babies will grow up to be introverted based on their reaction to stimuli at just four months old. In other words, if you have an introverted nature, you’re likely to be that way from birth and remain that way throughout your life.

Why we don’t want to: This speaks to a deeper truth about introverts. There are plenty of introverts out there who wish they could be more outgoing, but this isn’t the same thing as becoming an extrovert. Introverts, like everyone, can practice their social skills and become more capable in social situations. But it won’t change the fact that those interactions drain us.

And the reality is, it’s better that way. Introverts who embrace their nature tend to flourish

. They are happier, have better relationships, do better work, and enjoy life because their minds are well-rested and their energy level is high. The best thing you can do if you’re an introvert is not try to change it, but to take the alone time you need and let your vast inner world work for you.

The Gift of Being an Introvert

Many introverts grow up feeling out of place. We live in a fast, noisy world that sees chattiness as a virtue. Many introverts worry from a young age that something is wrong with them.

But being an introvert is a gift.

The world has a need for people who go deeper, think before they act, and look at things in new ways.

The world has a place for people who value meaningful relationships over meaningless small talk.

And the world is ready for thoughtful, contemplative people who bring calm and wisdom to a room.

These are traits that introverts offer. And, precisely because the world has so many extroverts, when you step into these traits and own them, you will find that people appreciate you — and value you.

Why? Well, we’re not all the same, but depending on the introvert, introverts are…

There is an old saying that the person who says the least is also the wisest.

Introverts aren’t born any wiser than anyone else, but we do have an advantage. We are built to do the kind of contemplation that turns into great insight over time.

How to Thrive as an Introvert

Introverts can be successful in any walk of life

. There are introverts who are famous actors and politicians. There are introvert CEOs, pop stars, authors, and engineers. And introverts, like everyone, can find happiness in love, in family, in spirituality or in learning — or in whatever gives them purpose. What’s different about introverts is what we have to do to tap into our talents and thrive:

We have to work with our introversion rather than fight against it.

That might mean turning down social invites. It might mean focusing on the friends you value most instead of trying to be everything to everyone. It might mean finding a way to get more solitude at work — especially in an open office.

And, most important, it might mean trusting your instinct about what you really need to be happy. Once you do that, you will stop feeling worn out or uncertain — and you’ll start seeing your genius come through.

Learn More About Being an Introvert

To learn more about being an introvert, we recommend the bestselling book, The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World, by Introvert, Dear founder Jenn Granneman.

Also, we recommend starting with these articles:

Introverts Don’t Hate People, They Hate Shallow Socializing

12 Things Introverts Absolutely Need to Be Happy

The Science Behind Why It Can Be Hard for Introverts to Put Their Thoughts Into Words