Today is for Introverts. Finally.

This was the header of a promo email I received the other day: ‘Today is for Introverts. Finally.’  As the member of a family that includes many proud introverts (including me), I couldn’t help but be intrigued.  It turns out that January 2 is World Introvert Day … every year.  Who knew?  On the other hand, introverts wouldn’t make a big deal out of it if they did know, would they?! 😉

Introvert2

Although I’m two days late in recognizing this august occasion, now that I know that such a special day exists it seems only fitting to give it its day in the sun.  North America is a world where extroverts predominate.  And there’s a sense that those of us who are not like that, should be.  The kids who raise their hands and eagerly shout out, “Me, me” before they have really thought about what their answer might be, they’re the ones who are pegged as the ‘winners’, the ‘smart kids’.  The people at parties who seem to know everyone and never run out of things to say are pegged as the most popular and most likely to succeed.  Interestingly, there are other cultures around the world where speaking before you are spoken to would be considered rude and where the preponderance of people are seen to be introverts, so there you go.  The reality is that most of us are some mixture of being more comfortable on our own and needing to have people around us all the time.  We figure out in our own way how to be most comfortable with ourselves in this complicated world.  There’s nothing better or worse about either end of the spectrum; it’s a question of understanding where each other is coming from and working to our individual strengths.

The first thing most people think of when they hear that someone is an introvert is that they must be shy, or socially awkward, or a nerd.  This isn’t really the case at all, although some of us may present ourselves that way.  There are lots and lots of definitions and descriptions of characteristics of introverts, but the common denominator is that introverts are comfortable spending time alone; they enjoy solitude.  Introverts actually gain energy from their alone time, whereas extroverts gain their energy from their interactions with other people.  Introverts need that alone time to recharge their batteries; too much people time is wearing on them.  Maybe that explains one of the characteristics I came across: introverts prefer writing to talking.  That one really resonated with me!!

Introvert3

Our younger son, a self-proclaimed introvert, observed early in the initial COVID lockdown that introverts finally had a societal advantage.  Introverts typically have been able to survive these extended periods of isolation a lot better than extroverts just because of their comfort level with alone time.  This is the same son who came home once long ago with a report card that was perfectly fine but also had a comment that said he’d be at the top of the class if he’d just raise his hand occasionally (there must have been a participation component to the marks).  His response was, “If I have something that’s worth saying, I’ll say it.”  As I say, a proud and committed introvert.

The website introvertdear.com lists 12 reasons to celebrate introverts on World Introvert Day.  I’ll share a few of them.

  • Introverts really know their stuff.  Really?  If so, maybe that’s because they spend more time reading and thinking than socializing?
  • Introverts are problem-solvers and idea-generators.  If you spend more time alone you have more time to think things through; I think that’s the rationale.
  • Introverts are low maintenance.  I’m guessing you’d have to ask partners and colleagues of introverts whether they agree with this, but it works for me!
  • Introverts can be the calm before the storm.  We’re typically more likely to think twice about a situation before starting to worry or become anxious.  I guess that goes along with problem-solving.

Drawing from a number of online articles about introverts (Amazingly successful introverts throughout history, Famous introverts who could teach us a thing or two, Famous introverts, Famous introverts and what you can learn from them, Famous introverts who have been hugely successful in life) here’s a selection of 15 famous introverts throughout history. Some of the people listed might surprise you.  I think they do a good job of showing that people can overcome their inclination to stay in the background when something is important enough.

1. Albert Einstein
Einstein is known to have said, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”
2. Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks is one of the seminal figures in U.S. civil rights history, thanks to her courageous 1955 resistance stance of refusing to give her seat up for a white man.  Yet, according to biographers, she was a shy, retiring woman by nature.
3. Bill Gates
Bill Gates always understood that growing a successful business required having a mixture of introverts and extroverts.  You need the introverts to come up with creative ideas and solve the tough problems and then the extroverts to sell the ideas.
4. Sir Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton was known to be “a deeply introverted character and fiercely protective of his privacy.”
5. Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt was shy and retiring by nature, but didn’t let that stop her from doing what she believed was important.  She gave hundreds of press conferences as First Lady, served as a United Nations delegate, and was a human rights activist and sought-after public speaker.
6. Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela referred to himself as an introvert. He was more comfortable observing others and evaluating than in speaking.
7. Mark Zuckerberg
Another acknowledged introvert.
8. Al Gore
The former vice president, presidential candidate, and climate change champion is another public figure who found success despite being an introvert.
9. Abraham Lincoln
The introverted leadership skills of the President Lincoln have been studied often by researchers and educators because of his studied approach to decision-making and his reserved nature.
10. Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett is one of the most successful introverts and businessmen in the world.
11. Mahatma Gandhi
Famous for leading a massive nonviolent resistance movement, Gandhi is quoted as saying, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
12. Charles Darwin
The renowned scientists and author of The Origin of Species was a quiet type who enjoyed solitude.
13. Meryl Streep
Like many actors and actresses, Meryl Streep is a known introvert.
14. Frederic Chopin
This world-renowned and inspirational composer was so introverted that he gave only about 30 public performances in his lifetime.
15. Barack Obama
Barak Obama is a known introvert. Columnist David Brooks said it well in one of his The New York Times articles, “Being led by Barack Obama is like being trumpeted into battle by Miles Davis. He makes you want to sit down and discern.”

So, if you consider yourself to be an introvert, may I wish you a belated Happy World Introvert Day.  Welcome to my club!  And if you’re an extrovert, we love you just the same, but cut us a little slack when we just need to back off from too much talking.  It’s just the way it is!

As a bonus, let me share a typical day at our home of introverts:

IntrovertCartoon

Image sources: Introvertdear.com, Introvertday.org

This entry was posted in History and Politics, Life stories, Odds and Ends and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to Today is for Introverts. Finally.

  1. Great post, Jane. I’m putting World Introvert Day on my calendar. I always used to think the personality tests that labeled me an introvert were wrong. I’m not shy. I’m good at public speaking. Then I learned in a Univ. of Va. class that being introverted is about where you get your energy. Crowds drain my energy and solitude recharges my energy. Solitude is self-care for me.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Exactly, exactly. Me, too. And I can’t help but think that getting one’s energy in that way has made the stress of pandemic restrictions less harmful than for those who need to get their energy from being around others. We’re a complicated species!

  2. Roy McCarthy says:

    How interesting, and I guess we all automatically wonder where we fit on that spectrum – I guess I’d identify broadly as an introvert, though – as you say Jane – there is no black and white.
    There’s a woman of certain years in Bandon, West Cork who I cheer for. She’s always in trouble for not wearing a mask in shops (required in Ireland). She politely refuses to do so, is invariably arrested, has appeared in court a number of times. Always she goes meekly, offers no explanation, accepts her punishment, including jail time. When released she’s straight off into the nearest shop again. Her family try to corral her but she always escapes. She has no mental issues. She’s my hero introvert.

  3. Gillian says:

    I think I’ve always toed the line between the two but have come to realize that my introvert side is becoming much stronger each day!

  4. What a great post. I wonder if any extroverts read it?!

  5. heimdalco says:

    I’m WAY behind reading my mail because I was sick for a week (husband & I both tested negative for COVID with the PCR test, thankfully), so I’m trying to catch up.

    Enjoyed this post so much & didn’t know there was an introvert day. Made me think a bit about myself. I believe as a child I started off as an introvert. In high school I worked very hard to reverse that & managed to become an ‘exterior extrovert’…looking/acting the part while still being introverted. Following breast cancer I became a true extrovert because it was important to me to speak to seminars, groups, women about breast cancer. I’ve been successful at honing that extrovert skill & even hosted a local TV talk show for 6 years. From my vantage point of having been both, I enjoy where I’ve landed, which seems to be a combination. I enjoy time alone, writing & being personally creative but I enjoy being with people & I talk a lot … LOL

  6. Thanks for sharing this post, Jane. I had no idea about World Introvert Day! My immediate family are all introverts, which is one reason why we haven’t found Covid to be a huge lifestyle change. Bars, clubs, and most noisy events aren’t for us. Happily, writing events were never large or rowdy, which is now a bonus in a Covid world.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      You are so right. There’s no doubt that introverts have had the advantage during this never-ending pandemic of not missing the missing out so much, except for seeing family. Certainly not night clubs!

  7. Jean says:

    Very interesting list of folks. well, introverts do have comfort level to be left some time / alone to mull, over / dream. 😀

  8. boblorentson says:

    I wasn’t aware I had a “day.” Guess it’s not surprising that we introverts aren’t better organizers and advertisers. But since we’ve come this far, I think we should go further. We should also have a slogan, a theme song, and a banner. Maybe you or one of your readers can host a contest. In the meantime, I had a few suggestions:
    Slogan: I don’t greatly need the world, but I do like to know it’s still there.
    Song: How can I miss you if you won’t go away, by Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks
    Banner: A lone figure reading a book in the corner at a party.
    Great post.

  9. Pingback: Silence - Pointless Overthinking

  10. Excellent post! I like to think of myself as a friendly introvert. Being a Franco-American, I can talk the hind leg off a mule, but I sure do need my alone time.

  11. My husband and I are both introverted. So many years ago we took a college speech class together and took a test for the purpose of categorizing ourselves as introverted or extroverted. I’ll never forget the teacher saying, “Must be such interesting conversation at your house.” Happy Belated Introvert Day! I see you.

  12. jane tims says:

    I agree with your son that, during the Covid crisis, introverts have an advantage. Finally, I have a great reason for not going anywhere but home! I also find I like Zoom-type meetings where others find them bothersome.

  13. Belated Happy Introvert Day!

  14. Reblogged this on Musings and Wonderings and commented:
    Ah yes the joys of being alone!

  15. LiziRose says:

    Yes! In a talkative world, having a quiet personality is a relief, not a flaw to be fixed. And it’s a gift to enjoy alone time. So happy introvert day from one introvert to another! 😁

  16. I guess I should be in that group today too!! On the farm with hubby is heaven to me. One thing though, who decides what day it is???

  17. I think there is an intro/extroversion spectrum. I have been called a shameless extrovert on more than one occasion but I now know that not to be true. While I am comfortable meeting new people or being the Centre of attention, I have never liked bars, tables of many people talking over each other, crowds… and upon retirement, I realize I am very happy with my own company where I can recharge my batteries in a quiet house or on solitary walk. I am lucky to have a partner who can’t think of anything he’d rather do than spend hours reading; we are very compatible.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Lol. Jill, I have to admit I’m not surprised that you have been called a shameless extrovert from time to time! 😏 If Wayne gets the credit for showing you your introvert side, then even more kudos to him. According to another commenter, you’re probably an omnivert. Surely it can’t get much better than that! 😊

  18. Christine Newsome says:

    I was well into my fifties before I realized that being introverted wasn’t a failing. Most of my life I just assumed that I needed to push myself to be more social. It’s great that in the past twenty or so years much has been written about being an introvert. I finally can say that I’m owning my wonderful introverted self and my extroverted friends are understanding what it means to be an introvert. I love the self-sufficiency, the reflection, the creativity that comes from my nature. I do extroverted things like spending a life-time “performing” in front of classes and performing on stage and speaking in front of large crowds does not faze me at all. But at at the end of all that, I can’t wait to get home to my books, my studio, my pet and the quiet.
    Great article Jane!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Christine. You have hit the nail on the head. Our North American society values an extroverted nature, even though most people are not extroverts and so many introverts have so much to offer that never gets acknowledged, especially when they’re in school. Let’s hear it for introversion! 😊

  19. Dr. John Persico Jr. says:

    Thanks Jane, I could see myself in this 100 percent. Karen says that I am less introverted than she is but I guess opposites did not attract on this quality. I like your metaphor of energy up or down to describe the difference between an introvert and an extrovert. I have found in my consulting work that many of the CEO’s that I once worked with were introverts. This surprised me since so many CEO’s seem to have a sales background. We have one daughter who is off the scale on the extrovert side and she is “stereotypically” in sales. Funny watching how she interacts with the rest of the family. I like your posting the names of some famous introverts. Makes me feel better. Here is one statistic you might enjoy: The first official random sample by the Myers-Briggs organization showed introverts made up 50.7% and extroverts 49.3% of the United States general population.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      It’s all fascinating, isn’t it, John? The North American “culture” is definitely on the extrovert side insofar as those who give immediate answers are encouraged and more often than not drown out those who may have more useful things to contribute. Yet, as you say, that doesn’t mean that most people are extroverts, it just means that everyone else thinks they should be! I think it’s actually reassuring that the introverted deep thinkers are more likely to be the CEOs. The psychology behind this subject is very interesting indeed.

  20. Inkplume says:

    One company where I worked for many years regularly included personality tests as part of team building exercises. After a while it seemed futile to me; the results were always the same! I am an introvert, a processor and analyzer and that’s not going to change. I’m a proud, card bearing member of the Introvert Club!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Aha, so we’re club mates! I know what you mean about redoing the M-B annually, but I found the M-B test (a quick, informal version) very useful for preparing my computer science students to work in teams to analyze and design software. It’s useful just to talk about the fact that there’s no right or wrong result, but the results are different because people don’t all approach problem-solving and interacting with others the same way. The teammate who speaks infrequently may well be the one who has the most important and/or creative ideas to contribute. The rest of the team needs to understand that they should ask serious introverts for their input and make sure they take the time to listen. Understanding that everyone has a contribution to make but that their interaction may require encouragement is especially important for team leaders and committee chairs. Too often the extroverts’ voices reign because they’re so quick to respond.

  21. barryh says:

    Nice one, Jane. Yes I come from a long family of introverts… Good to have this shout out, but not too loud!

  22. margiran says:

    Interesting post Jane thank you. Too many people see the introversion/extroversion debate as black and white rather than the grey areas you have highlighted.
    To enjoy the company of others and talking with other people face to face doesn’t necessarily make us extroverts. I suppose if we can’t stand our own company at all that suggests we may not be an introvert. Or does it? There are far too many variables for me and you mention some in your post.
    I think it’s important to be aware that some introverts can spend that much time in their own minds, debating with themselves, that they lose the ability to connect with anyone other than themselves. Whereas extroverts often find it difficult to provide the time and space for themselves in order to reflect.
    Is there a description for those of us who see ourselves as a mixture of both?… intextrovert? 🙂

  23. debscarey says:

    Love this Jane, some really interesting people who are introverts. I’ve always presumed I was an extravert – and test likewise. But, I have been becoming more introverted as I age. Or perhaps I was always more of an introvert who felt they had to be extraverted to fit in? Something to ponder on methinks.

  24. Wynne Leon says:

    I love this post! I’ve never really spent a lot of time evaluating whether I’m an introvert or extravert but I do love my alone time. Given your description, I’m probably more of an introvert than I realized.

    The name on my list that blew me away – Mark Zuckerberg. There is some big irony that the guy that invented social media is an introvert. Right?

    Happy Introvert Day, Jane! And thanks for some good writing/reading in celebration of it!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      It’s fun to think about, right, Wynne?! Re Mark Zuckerberg, you’re right about the irony, but aside from the fact that all the techies who started their unbelievably successful companies are introverts by nature (after all, they’re nerds at heart), if you think about it, social media allows you to communicate so easily without having to be with the person; writing instead of talking! Granted, I doubt that was an underlying motivation. 😏

      • Wynne Leon says:

        Great point! As an electrical engineer by education, I can definitely relate to the geeks. By the way, I once ran into Bill Gates alone in an elevator early in the morning at Microsoft. I was young (in my 20’s) and was so surprised that I squeaked out a high-pitched hello. He just looked at me. 🙂

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