My extroverted son is 7. I love him deeply. I want him to be himself. I would not change him into an introvert if I was given the choice.
I love and appreciate him for who he is. It hurts me to read such terrible stereotypes and intolerance towards extroversion, especially because that wiring is just there in him.
It is not his choice, any more than it is my choice to be a highly sensitive introvert. And plus, extroversion is not wrong, it’s simply different.
I struggled to write this article. This topic is close to my heart. It touches on a sensitive nerve. My thoughts were jumbled as I tried to write because of the emotion I felt.
So, I procrastinated.
In one of my many sessions of procrastination, I researched Carl Jung, the psychologist. Jung is considered the father of personality typing.
Initially, his goal for organising personality types was to find a middle ground between two other well known psychologists at the time, Freud and Adler.
Jung saw that Freud’s theories were from an extroverted standpoint, while Adler was an introvert, and had come up with his theories through those eyes. Jung felt both their perspectives were incomplete on their own.
So, he developed what he thought to be a more complete and balanced spectrum of 8 personality types.
What I enjoyed most when I read about Jung’s theories, is that he recognized that there are the many different facets to our personality types.
Jung saw introvertedness and extrovertedness as though they in the driver’s seat of our personalities. Our approach to the world, as well as our needs as people, differ greatly because of these core traits.
But Jung also saw the individual, and that’s where he placed the greatest importance. He saw that one person is different from the next, even those of the exact same type, and should be treated as such.
Jung said “I am unsystematic very much by intention. We need a different language for every patient.”
Each person is unique, and should be seen for who they are as an individual. As people we all crave the same respect – to have the freedom to be authentic.
We grow within ourselves when we learn to celebrate each other’s differences.
About a year ago, I accepted that I am a highly sensitive introvert. In order to learn more about HSP and introversion, I participated in online discussion groups.
For one of the first times in my life, I was able to talk and interact freely about being HSP. I felt as though I was no longer an alien in a foreign land.
It was refreshing and empowering. I loved, and still love, participating in the introvert and HSP online communities.
As time went on, I noticed some negative attitudes within these introvert communities, though. One of the main attitudes was a strong dislike towards extroverts.
Extroverts are too loud. They are always talking, they are obnoxious. They are shallow. They are always pushy. Their life is so much easier, and everything in society is tailored towards them.
On the flip side, this “extrovert dislike” attitude also claims that introverts are better. We have more substance, we don’t need attention. We are far more sensitive. As introverts, we have depth, we are smarter, kinder, more creative….you name it, we got it.
It’s us vs them, and we are better, but they rule the world.
This attitude never sat well with me when I interacted online. I avoided participating in extrovert bashing. I would scroll by these posts, and try to ignore them.
But for quite a few months it got under my skin. It still bothered me to read some of the hurtful, judgmental comments.
I find it ironic, too, that as a highly sensitive person and an introvert I’ve struggled along my way in life, feeling misunderstood and judged wrongly.
But yet, here, among these groups of highly sensitive introverts, I consistently saw a similar kind of misunderstanding and judgment of extroverts. One which introverts also experience as painful.
“Us vs. Them” is hypocritical
Many highly sensitive introverts feel rejected because of our sensitivity. Feeling rejected was one of my own biggest difficulties.
I lived my life feeling bad for being me.
I felt like I was broken. As though everything about me was wrong, simply because my mind and emotions processed life differently from what is considered “normal”.
In order to become healthier in my view of myself, I had to accept myself for who I am. This authenticity helps me gently start to stand my ground that it is ok to be the real me.
If I take on one of those misguided viewpoints that all extroverts are annoying (because some extroverts are louder), or that all extroverts are shallow (because they have internal wiring which recharges around people), I reject them in the same negative way that I’ve been rejected.
“Us vs. Them” limits possible future connections
We run the risk of judging the extroverts around us with stereotypes or past negative experiences, rather than opening our eyes to the unique, individuals that they each are.
We potentially shut ourselves off from listening to our intuition, or from really seeing the true heart of that person.
I once had someone say to me bluntly “I can’t get along with extroverts”. This statement is a sad limitation.
Switch out the word “extrovert” in that sentence to “blue eyes”, and it becomes ridiculous. Switch out the word for “introverts” and it would bother me greatly.
Switch it out to a culture or skin colour, and it becomes prejudicial.
“Us vs. Them” weakens us as highly sensitive introverts
When I focus all my attention on how “easy” life is for extroverts and how “hard” it is for introverts, I grow a victim mentality within myself.
Inadvertently, my focus turns toward the negative. I forget how to see the growth or positive traits in myself. I view my life as though I have no control over what happens within it.
I start to put my emotional energy into feeling sorry for myself, living life as though I am at the mercy of the dreaded extrovert society.
I don’t dispute the slant towards extrovertedness as the ideal, particularly in western society.
The characteristics of extroverted personalities (social, outgoing, upbeat, etc) are what is considered healthy. The characteristics of introverted personalities (quiet, reserved, needing more time alone) are usually viewed as being unhealthy.
This bias towards extrovertedness certainly has a negative effect on those of us with an introverted nature.
But when that bias becomes our own focus, we stop ourselves from the ability to grow into who we are. We carry forward the negative effects of this extrovert bias by continuing to view ourselves as the victim.
When we view ourselves as the victim, it keeps us on the defence, which stunts our growth. We become blind to the positive aspects of our personalities. We rob ourselves of the ability to grow.Click to tweet
A healthier response to “Us vs Them” would be to be more aware of not falling into these stereotypes in our thinking, to get introspective, and begin to focus instead on our individual strengths and weaknesses.
The “Us vs. Them” attitude toward extroverts is destructive to authenticity as highly sensitive introverts. The judgment and scorn that comes from this attitude causes harm to others, to ourselves, and it also limits our own growth.
Authenticity is the goal, and, we flourish best when we are not pressured to conform to an inauthentic version of ourselves.
When we change our focus, we change ourselves slowly, over the long term. Over time, this builds in us a quiet, magnetic confidence.
We become authentic, and that is a beautiful thing.
Image credit: Ian T. McFarland
A bend in the road led me to embrace my introversion, and to discover my identity as a highly sensitive person. As I have moved along the path in learning more about who I am, how to take care of myself as an introvert, and how to handle the challenges of life as an HSP - my love of writing has been rekindled and embraced once again. It intertwines with the journey I am on, and is reflected in what I write.