Our society arguably privileges extraversion. That is to say, the outgoing are the ones who get to be politicians, presenters, influencers. There is an understandable bias towards those who engage, especially in visible, public roles. This can lead to a demotion of introvert qualities to ‘second best’. We regard ‘shy’ behaviour as inferior to ‘friendly’ behaviour (just look at the bias in the wording).
In fact, we are all a mixture of the tendency to move outwards, and the tendency to move inwards (i.e. we are all a balance of introversion and extraversion). We all know that there are times when it feels right to extend the hand of friendship, and other times when it feels right to withdraw and avoid contact. In our evolutionary history, we have developed both skills, self-extension and withdrawal, as a result of billions of encounters needing one or the other skill.
REASONS TO PROMOTE YOUR INNER INTROVERT
In a society which promotes extraversion, we need ways of making sure we feed our inner introvert. This is because there are distinct advantages to retaining the ability to ‘turn inwards’. Here are a few:
- We develop our ability to operate independently, and reduce our addiction to external reassurance.
- We deepen our relationship with ourselves, and therefore our ability to lead rich inner lives.
- We clear the air of the noise of others, so that we can listen more carefully to what is around us.
- We enhance our ability to focus and contemplate, leading to creativity, original thinking and problem-solving.
- We learn not to invade other people’s spaces, and can therefore help to promote peace by example.
WAYS TO PROMOTE YOUR INNER INTROVERT
If you find your life is lacking depth and creativity, then you might want to try giving yourself more time to think, research and investigate alone. Writing (journalling, poetry, fiction or non-fiction) is an example of an activity that can be done alone, and which works in sympathy with introversion. Also many creative arts, visual, musical, and related to design and form.
If science and art aren’t your things, then perhaps you can take time to walk and enjoy nature alone. The body and mind rebalance themselves when walking in natural surroundings. The undulation of the landscape brings graduated exercise which is good for the heart and muscles. The constantly changing perspective (visual, sonic and tactile) brings relief to tired eyes, ears and hands.
SIGNPOSTING FOR OTHERS
You’ll notice one thing: other people may not welcome your attempts to spend time alone. They may feel rejected, starved of reassurance, or simply bored without interaction from you. It therefore helps to get good at signposting your ‘times of aloneness’, so that others accept them more, and are less offended. It’s easier to accept a person’s withdrawal, if you know when you are going to see them next.
It’s good to think of new labels for alone time, to help explain to others that you are not rejecting them. Possible names include ‘going for a walk’, ‘writing’, ‘researching’, ‘meditating’. Timetabling them makes it easier to teach others to make room for that aspect of you. If you clearly signpost, others will learn to make allowance for your inner life.
Our society privileges extraversion in all sorts of ways. But we are all a balance between the need to move outwards, and the need to move inwards, and enrich our personal lives.
Introversion can make you more independent, a deeper thinker, a better listener, more creative, more peaceful.
The sciences and arts are good ways to immerse yourself formally in a more introverted life. Walking and lone travel can feed the same inner skills.
You may need to be clever in how you signpost (communicate in advance) your time alone, so that you don’t offend friends and family. Finding good, socially acceptable labels for that time can help.