I am always shocked to hear that people have an aversion to introverts and how terrible it is if their own children should show such tendencies. It reminds me of how devotees of the medieval Inquisition treated left-handed or red-headed individuals—with fatal suspicion. Surely others must be under the same impression that I am about introverts; I believe most of the world's highly intelligent people are introverts. Albert Einstein was said to have been an introvert for instance. Of course, I can hear extroverts right now, throwing out a rebuttal, "some of the most notorious criminals are introverts, Ted Kaczynski for example"! And to that I would say, "Ted Kaczynski may have been an introvert, but that didn't cause him to kill people. It was probably his poor response to the overwhelming discrimination he had to endure for being an introvert in this society."
Nonetheless, we all know there exists a variety of personality types in the world. Is any one particular personality type better? It depends on what the conditions are. At a party, extroverts are probably more fun. In an English literature class, introverts probably excel. Naturally, I would rather my child be an introvert so I could at least refrain from excessive worry about his or her school grades.
In any case, introversion is not considered abnormal or psychopathological. Whether the tendency of an individual is to be more introverted or more extroverted, may be a result of physiology, not psychology. Dr. Olsen-Laney, author of The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, describes the results of studies, testing methods used, and the neurobiology of introverts and extroverts. She also points out that there are differences between people who are shy, which is a psychologically based condition, and people who are introverts.
In describing the basic differences between introverts and extroverts, Laney writes, "[t]he strongest distinguishing characteristic of introverts is their energy source: Introverts draw energy from their internal world of ideas, emotions, and impressions. They are energy conservers." Extroverts on the other hand, "are energized by the external world—by activities, people, places, and things. They are energy spenders." Laney goes on to discuss the neurochemical (physiological) evidence for the energy-source differences.
After I read her book, I felt a feeling of validation, relief, and liberation from forcing myself to acquire extrovert qualities. I embraced my identity as an introvert and have been better off ever since.
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