Woman at a window pondering what it feels like to be an introvert

What Does It Feel Like to Be an Introvert?

Most people don’t understand what it feels like to be an introvert. Although introverts have gained a lot of acceptance, they’re still a minority — perhaps as little as 30% of the population — and to many people, they’re a mystery. Misconceptions abound, which means many people think they know what it feels like to be an introvert, while totally missing the mark.

For example, people often still think that introverts must feel lonely, shy or afraid. They can’t imagine what it truly feels like to be an introvert: totally normal, often peaceful and focused, and occasionally exhausted.

The truth is, most of the time being an introvert feels no different than being anyone else. Introverts enjoy many of the same things as extroverts, pursue many of the same hobbies, and love being around their friends (yes!). But it is true that introverts sometimes feel things that extroverts don’t. And one of them — alone time — is the key to what it feels like to be an introvert.

Being an introvert feels totally normal, often peaceful and focused, and occasionally exhausting.

Introverts Feel Good When They’re Alone

Introverts tend to feel at peace when they’re alone. Alone time doesn’t feel boring, lonely, or empty. Instead, an introvert feels their deepest experiences when pondering, dreaming or thinking on their own. And even simple solo activities like reading or drawing feel refreshing to an introvert.

For an introvert, alone time is not “filler.” It’s peaceful and relaxing.

To have this effect, however, alone time has to be interruption-free. No distractions, no “quick questions,” no one popping their head in to plan dinner. Even having someone else in the room can be distracting; it’s a rare friend with whom an introvert can sit quietly and enjoy the silence.

In a way, you could say that being an introvert feels like being a monk at heart. You feel most clear and focused when you are in quiet contemplation.

Of course, even introverts have their limit. Yes, introverts feel recharged by all this alone time, but they’re also human, and they’re social creatures. Sooner or later an introvert will want to see friends or family, or go out and interact with the world. But for an introvert, the “right” amount of alone time isn’t an hour or two; it’s often a few days.

Introverts Feel Differently About Socializing, Too

To an extrovert, alone time feels quite different. Extroverts may feel restless, bored, or simply unhappy when they’re alone. But socializing feels good, and they often seek out as much of it as they can get.

To an introvert, social time doesn’t necessarily feel good at all. It can feel good — but it can also feel exhausting.

And some activities feel more tiring than others. For example:

  • Big crowds feel more draining than small groups
  • Loud venues feel more tiring than quiet spaces
  • Talking to new people feels harder than talking to people you know

These activities — or any kind of stimulating social activity — will quickly wear an introvert down, so that even if they enjoy it at the beginning, they will feel tired and burned out long before the extroverts do. And that’s because of how introverts are wired.

Are you an introvert? Take the introvert test and find out.

Being an Introverts Feels Different Because Our Brains Are Different

How can introverts feel so differently about the same activities that extroverts enjoy? It turns out the answer is in our brains.

Being an introvert is genetic, and the brains of introverts handle dopamine a little differently. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that gives you a sense of joy when you achieve things. It’s the brain’s “reward” chemical. Extroverts and introverts feel very differently in response to dopamine.

How Dopamine Affects Extroverts

Extroverts are less sensitive to dopamine. That means they need to constantly seek out stimulation in order to get a sense of energy or happiness — a “dopamine hit.” That’s why they seem to have relentless energy for chatting, smiling, laughing, dancing, or spending time in places that are loud, bright or busy.

How Dopamine Affects Introverts

Introverts, on the other hand, are actually more sensitive to dopamine. So they get the sense of reward and satisfaction very easily, without nearly as much stimulus. That’s why a quiet afternoon with a book can be so riveting for an introvert, and so soul-crushing for an extrovert. Meanwhile, the kind of loud environment extroverts thrive on actually overstimulates an introvert, so that they may not even enjoy it.

That’s right: to an introvert, parties are passé.

This Is How We’re Wired

And that explains the biggest difference in what it feels like to be an introvert. We often say that “introverts get their energy from being along, and extroverts get it from being around people.” But that’s not really true. Loud social activities drain everybody, introvert or extrovert — even the most social butterfly you know needs to crash after a party eventually. But extroverts keep chasing that sense of excitement and satisfaction so they can get more dopamine. It motivates them to keep going, keep chatting, or stay for one more dance.

Introverts feel the bare truth: that they’re getting worn out and it’s time to go home. This difference in energy is a core part of the official introvert definition.

This Is What It Feels Like to Be an Introvert

The truth is, you might already know what it feels like to be an introvert — even if you’re not one.

Here are two examples:

1. Have you ever had to do something that everybody else found really fun, but you just weren’t into?

Maybe you were dragged to a dance when you don’t like dancing. Maybe it was a fancy sushi restaurant and you’re the only one who doesn’t like fish. Or maybe your partner insisted you go see a movie that you reeeeeally didn’t want to see. Remember that feeling?

If so, then you know what it feels like to be an introvert at a party.

2. Have you ever felt totally relaxed, refreshed, and at peace — like your whole being is happy?

It could have been at a spa or spiritual retreat. It might be how you feel after you finish exercising, or when you and your friends sing along to a favorite song. Like all the fatigue has left you and your problems just don’t seem as big as they were before.

Well, that’s pretty much what it feels like to be an introvert getting a nice stretch of alone time.

Remember, it’s OK to be an introvert, and every introvert is slightly different. One might need slightly more or less alone time than another. Some may be very outgoing when they’re around you, and others may be super quiet. But all introverts have the same basic wiring, and it doesn’t feel that different than having any other healthy personality trait.

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