Our Aversion to Introversion

A while ago, I was talking with a family in the Lawrenceville Admissions Office when a comment about introversion particularly stuck with me.

A while ago, I was talking with a family in the Lawrenceville Admissions Office when a comment about introversion particularly stuck with me. Some parents had asked me about how their child, being an introvert, would handle Lawrenceville. Before I could say anything, another student answered, “Well, she won’t be one when she leaves Lawrenceville!” The comment was said in a light-hearted tone and with a kind smile, so I’m sure the other student had nothing but good intentions, just trying to assure some worried parents. However, I couldn’t help but be hurt by the implication that Lawrenceville would change students for the “better” to turn them into extroverts and was frustrated that introversion was interpreted as something that could be changed at all. At Lawrenceville and outside of our campus, introversion is treated as a weakness and as a negative quality in a person, instead of simply quality of ourselves.

Introversion is a personality trait; it’s not something that can be easily changed by spending time with large groups of people. Here at Lawrenceville we often perceive introversion as a lack of capability in social situations that we should try to overcome, but it’s not something that can be or should be “fixed.”

Second, introverts are perfectly capable of expressing themselves and succeeding in a Harkness or workplace environment. Introversion is the quality of getting drained by social interaction rather than energized by it, not the quality of incompetence at social interaction. Introversion is not related to the ability to be a good leader or a thoughtful contributor at the Harkness table, and introversion is certainly not inferior to extroversion. They are both personality traits that can have their advantages and disadvantages, but there is not one or the other that is required in order to succeed in particular tasks.

After feeling disappointed, I realized this problem not only just comes up in at Lawrenceville, but also in the media. This negative connotation around introverts is prevalent throughout our society, which continues to feed the false stereotype that introverts are feeble, awkward people who need help getting through daily conversation.

Outside of Lawrenceville, this false stereotype of introversion is extremely prevalent, which is part of the reason why so many of us carry a negative connotation around the word “introvert.” I so often see articles like “Introverted? Here’s how to be more social!” but never see articles like “Extroverted? Here’s how to enjoy time independently!” I don’t think that either of these types of articles should be encouraged; again, introversion and extroversion are personality traits, but the fact that one of them is so much more prevalent than the other speaks to how much of a double standard there is. Another article I remember seeing is titled “How to Admit to Yourself You’re Really an Introvert.” While this does not mention anything specific about introversion, the title alone implies that people are ashamed to admit they’re introverts, reinforcing the idea that introversion is inadequate. These types of articles promote the idea that introverts should actively try to overcome their personality to match extroverts, and they treat introversion like it’s shameful and it’s a weakness. Not only is this insulting, but it also shapes the idea that introversion is similar to laziness or poor time management, where one can work on a negative aspect of themselves to change it for the better, seemingly blaming introverts for their own “faults.”

Introversion is a personality trait that is defined by gaining energy by spending time alone and a preference for smaller groups of people. It is the inability to express oneself or be incompetent at social interactions. And while there are drawbacks and advantages to both introversion and extroversion, neither is better than the other, and this innate quality of anyone shouldn’t be encouraged to change. The negative stereotypes surrounding introverts that are shaped by false statements and portrayal in media have led to a widely-shared belief that introverts are incapable of social interaction and that they should work on “improving” this aspect of their personality. These hurtful descriptions of introverts, from casual comments at the Harkness table to New York Times articles, need to change.