We already made a post about the Difference Between Introvert and Extroverts. There is a great time to be an introvert. Off the top of my head, I know of a couple books published in the last few years that extoll the many strengths of introverts and how to be able to talk to people and interact in a social gathering.

As an introvert, I am excited to discuss the positive aspects of introversion. But there is one aspect of the conversation that bugs me. I see a lot of writing up that include titles like “Enough with This Introversion Equals Shyness Already!” Most people feel that being introverted means you are shyness and shyness means introverted. However sometimes these two go together but other times one can be shy but not introverted. A typical example is my very own parents, my mother is shy till she is done with the simple questions then she will go on to display her extroverted traits while my father on the other hand is very introverted person but can make a conversation to make you feel comfortable. You will think he is much of a chatter till you realize he is avoiding eye contact.

You see, I’m an introvert, but I’m also shy, at least sometimes.  In fact, I used to be painfully shy as a child.  Oh, and to top it off, I appeared to be a highly sensitive person as well. As you growing up some improve while others are just stay how it is. Personally , I developed a sense of humor to be able to cope with being shy. If the people around be laughed them it was easy to slide and fit in  um.. i mean made it more comfortable to be around people when they laughed at my jokes and comment.

I know there are differences between shyness and introversion, but there are also places of overlap. I worry that we run the risk of alienating people who are both shy and introverted when we’re so focused on only the differences. I sometimes feel that shy people are labeled in a way that places them at the bottom of any social desirability hierarchy. What’s so wrong with being shy anyway?

In addition to feeling badly about myself for being shy as well as introverted, I’ve also felt guilty, because I am sometimes lose out on a lot of fun. A few of my friends don’t bother inviting me to go anywhere I will fake my death if I had to just so I can stay in bed and play Sims3 (my sim is called Julia Pineapple and she is pregnant with her 19th child by the way – speak of family planning) in a book by Carl Jung called Original Writings, he described introversion as

Introverts “have an inward flowing of personal energy…The introvert is usually happy alone, with a rich imagination, and prefers reflection to activity…the introverted attitude includes a tendency to be shy.”

When I first read this, I felt vindicated. Jung talks about introversion and shyness together.  Even Susan Cain talks about shyness and introversion somewhat interchangeably in her book, and many examples she uses in her book are of shy people. In addition, if you look at a list of famous introverts, it’s the same list as famous shy people.

After consulting Jung’s original work, I decided to look up “shy” in the dictionary. There are many definitions and synonyms including “having or showing nervousness or timidity around other people…bashful, shamefaced.”

Ouch! Okay, I can see why some don’t identify with the term “shy”. But I think we have to keep in mind that the negative bias against shy people is unique to Western culture. There are studies showing that in Asian cultures, children will often seek out shy children as the most desirable of friends. While in most Africa culture, a shy child doesn’t always fit in so well in school. They are not bullied or picked on but sometimes they are forgotten. Shyness is seen more as “humility” and this is valued. Maybe if there were more acceptance of shyness as a normal variation in personality, there would not be such a need for some introverts to focus on how they are NOT shy.

I realize, though, no one wants to be misunderstood. Many introverts have worked hard to “overcome” shyness, and don’t want the label pinned on them anymore. I get it.

I think the major thing we all have in common is that our society has not valued people who are quiet, regardless of the reason for their quietness. Susan Cain writes, “the shy and the introverted, for all their differences, have in common something profound. Neither of them is perceived by society as alpha, and this gives both types the vision to see how alpha status is overrated, and how our reverence for it blinds us to things that are good and smart and wise.”

So, I’ll end my rant. In the future. And I’ll work at not being so sensitive to the headlines about introverts not being shy.  But also, let’s not leave anyone out. I think everyone, introverted and shy, should try and surround their selves with people who understand how they feel.

Some very amazing books on this topic are

  • An Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World by Sophia Dembling
  • Insight: Reflections on the Gift of Being an Introvert by Beth Buelow,
  •  Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D.