Is Introversion a Crutch?

Last week a new friend invited me to a very cool Friday night event that sat right at the intersection of two of my interests and would require little more of me than showing up and enjoying its coolness with a free drink in my hand for however long I pleased. Sounds like a dream in party form, right?

And yet, when Friday’s 3PM hour rolled around, there was an inexplicable weight on my chest that was shaped a lot like that invite. My feet were dragging both physically and metaphorically and as a deadline started to push my work day into the evening I was presented with an easy out. So I did the logical thing and spent two full hours splitting my attention between trying to eliminate the out (so I could go) and toiling over whether to take it (so I wouldn’t have to).

It didn’t make sense. The party sounded fun and I knew it probably would be and yet there I sat, two hours later, sending a text that brought on as much regret as it did relief.

Maybe I could chalk my reluctance up to being worn out by the end of the week, or the introversion several Myers-Briggs tests have confirmed is coursing through my veins, but the shame I felt about bowing out indicated it might be something else. Something Leandra might call an addiction to my comfort zone.

The blurry line between listening to myself — forgiving myself, even, for being introverted — and craving, perhaps problematically, what’s easy and comfortable is something that sits in the back of my mind like an anchor. One that sometimes keeps me from introducing necessary and beautifully-novel friction into my life.

On the same day last week, The Atlantic published a story about social energy and what it means called “Make Room, Introverts—Everyone Needs Time to Recharge.” It acknowledges and then explores how glorified — and consequently muddled — the concept of introversion has gotten.

I’d say it felt serendipitous if that Friday scenario had been at all uncommon. The excitement-to-dread cycle often incited by social invites is as familiar to me as my own hands.

But it wasn’t always this way. I distinctly remember the sense of relief that washed over me when I first discovered — and then identified with — introversion after years of thinking I was an extrovert because I had been a chatty kid. The catalyst was an article from 2012 that told me there was a reason I never answered the phone when it rang unexpectedly. I’d never felt more understood.

But introversion has become synonymous with a lot of things that actually aren’t related to it at all. And I’m not talking about the first wave of introversion confusion — when people thought it meant you were quiet and subdued — but the second wave: where people think it means you’re intellectual and superior. That’s exactly what Julie Beck unpacked in her Atlantic story. You should give it a read.

All this has had me inspecting both what the trait means on its own and what the trait means when it mixes with my other ones, and I’m still left with a lot of questions. Is my dread of otherwise lovely-sounding social events a product of my introversion or something else? Fear? Laziness? Addiction to comfort? If I’m only in the mood to be social twice a week and I honor that, am I being myself or being complacent? At what point does “doing me” become “doing me a disservice?”

Is introversion a crutch?

Illustration by Emily Zirimis.


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  • Aydan

    Like most things in life, I consider this a balancing act for me personally. I was an INTJ for years until I recently took the test again and found that I had shifted to an ENTJ. (We’re talking from ages 18-26). Though I do indeed find myself to be more extroverted now, that’s not to say that I often find myself turning down an event, ignoring phone calls/texts, or something else to maintain my solitariness. Ultimately, I find that the combination of both being an introvert and extrovert has worked the best for me — do you want to go to this party? do you want to do this event/activity? If yes, do it. If the thought is hmm no I’d like to stay home and be alone tonight–do it!

  • (INFJ) Haven’t really decided which of both labels to use for me, but I do/did try to coin descriptions for my wishes and my behaviour, because they can be useful when having to decide about things. I usually claim to be an introvert when conventionally-minded people feel unwell in my presence. It makes my retreat easier and more dignified. 🙂 Also when needing me-time.
    In my simple opinion, people who work really hard deserve to choose how to spend their free time. And since so many people want you to put them first, only a fancy label like introvert will persuade them there’s no slight involved. Sounds crude, but I cannot type essays on my phone cause my fingers are too big 🙂

  • INFJ here.

    A party doesn’t sound fun to me to begin with – just exhausting and dull. I used to force myself to attend things people invited me to and felt bad about my inability to enjoy things like cocktail hour. Even my boyfriend repeatedly chided me for not trying hard enough.

    I completely stopped after getting hit by a car. I was in the hospital for six hours, laying on top of a bleeding head injury and trying not to vomit from vertigo when I sat up. The left side of my body was numb for several months afterward. I didn’t wish I had said “yes” more or that I was more carefree. I thought about the years I was crippled by PTSD and depression. I only regretted not prioritizing my happiness and beating myself up for things other people said. I expelled those negative thoughts, started a new career, developed several hobbies and overall never felt better.

    Life is too short. If the party sounds fun, attend it. If you want to rest, rest. Let’s redefine complacency as a place of self-acceptance.

    • snakehissken

      I’m an INFJ too, and I actually enjoy parties! But I’m always worn out the next day and just lie around all day.

    • Mariana

      Good for you! I love reading this kind of stories: when a bad thing actually bring a good consequence in life.

    • amcrni

      INFJ too! Sometimes I really dislike parties. I don’t like being in social situations where I don’t know anyone, I get tons of anxiety. I forced myself to go to a book club once with a bunch of strangers and felt wildly out of place the entire time. I probably get in my own way a little too much, and I THINK too much, but I definitely relate to the introvert trait of needing time away from people.

      • Adrianna

        It’s interesting to re-read my comment a year later. I’m 28 year old, and I think the best thing about getting older is knowing that I feel out of place in parties because that’s just the way I am.

        I don’t struggle with shyness, but I also benefited from working in retail in NYC when I was 18-21. I learned how to speak to any sort of stranger.

  • Rae

    I spent so many years trying to push past my introversion and feeling guilty for just wanting to stay home sometimes and wishing that I was more ‘fun’; I’ve now accepted my personality and will never apologize for it again. I agree that pop culture currently has a bit of an obsession with introversion and I can see how it’s maybe being ‘gorified’ a bit, but I think more than anything it’s just a pushback on allll the years that introversion was misunderstood and extroverts got to define ‘normal.’ I can’t even explain the relief I felt when I learned what being introverted meant, and could finally stop feeling like there was something wrong with me, so if tomorrow’s generation of awkward preteens doesn’t have to search for that as hard as I did, I can’t see that as anything but a good thing.

    Additionally: my boyfriend is extreeemely extroverted & I can testify that he hates absolutely nothing more than alone time. No recharging needed (aside from sleep obvi). He can manage on his own just fine, of course, but would never choose it.

    One last thing: introversion/extroversion is a continuum, not an either/or. So sure, someone who identifies as an extrovert might also need some alone time on occasion, and an introvert can also genuinely enjoy social interaction.I think if any disservice is being done, it’s by putting people into limited boxes and expecting all those boxes to look the same; not by acknowledging the positive qualities that introverts bring to the table.

  • Jill

    I’ve been an introvert for all of my 40+ years, and a long time ago, I stopped worrying about whether that was “good” for me or not. Sometimes my social life is busier than I’d like, sometimes it’s just perfect, and occasionally, I’m all, “Hey! Where is everybody?”. Balance. If I want to do something, I’ll do it. I don’t mind parties. I can go out and be fun and witty and enjoy myself and meet new folks. But there will come a point where I get overloaded and then I’m *done*. So I bid adieu, and head home to recharge. Not a big deal. Sometimes I get invites that I just don’t want to accept…so I don’t. Recently got invited to a concert (outdoors, in August) for a band I don’t love (but don’t hate) with a group of girls I like. I turned it down, because I don’t love the band, and sweating it out (and it will be awful; I’ve done outdoor concerts where I live before in August) for a band I don’t really care for isn’t enough to make me pay the money and suffer through. Even though I like the women who will be going. I said, “No thanks” and they said, “Sorry you won’t be there” and we all moved on. It’s life. It ebbs and flows. Just be honest with yourself about your reasons and motives. And if you see a reason to change your behavior, work on that. But if you don’t (even if other people tell you you need to get out more, try harder, etc), then don’t. No worries.

  • padutchchick

    I am an odd combination — I have been able to perform/speak in front of large audiences since I was a kid — but I loathe small talk with people I don’t know in forced social situations. However, put me on a stage in front of those same people, I’ll entertain them for hours. I have never understood this and deeply envied those who could chat the night away.

    • ME TOO.

    • Rae

      It seems counter-intuitive, but often introverts make really great public speakers. I’m the exact same way! I would MUCH rather give a speech in front of a thousand people than make small talk with five people I don’t know.

    • Jep

  • I think there’s nothing wrong with staying true to yourself. I’ve come to a point where I’ve realized that I like being social a few times a week, and if I have to go out I prefer to do it in smaller groups because I feel overwhelmed with big groups. I genuinely enjoy my alone time.

    Recently I met a girl who was extroverted. She kept on talking about how she liked going on trips/festivals with big groups and asked me if I would want to join her some time.. all I was thinking was that sounds like a nightmare to me. I politely told her that wasn’t my cup of tea, and she said ‘ok I understand but keep an open mind.’ It kind of pissed me off because I have tried those things in the past and I’ve realized they’re not for me. I don’t think that makes me close-minded.

    • My boyfriend actually scored as introverted in the Myer-Briggs test, but he’s more social than I am. We used to argue about our difference when we started dated because he came from a place of, “well you just haven’t been to a good party/bar/festival/etc yet.” I’m a grown woman, I know what I like!

      • My boyfriend is introverted around strangers but if he’s around people he knows he’s always up for going out and doing something. I occasionally do go to the parties/camping trips/festivals he wants to go to but I definitely prefer staying at home alone.

  • Andrea Raymer

    I thought that I was an introvert for most of my life since I never really felt comfortable making small talk and find conversation with new people difficult. However, I realized lately that i am actually an extrovert, just a shy one. I think there is a difference and it is just as possible to be an introvert with an outgoing personality. I like being around groups of people, I just have difficulty conversing with them. I think that is really when I tend to recharge and feel more like a person. If I spend too much time by myself (as i have been doing lately, yay unemployment…) I just get exhausted.

    • Me too! I can get super depressed and anxious, thinking I need alone time, when in reality company would have been better.

    • Rae

      Totally possible! Introversion & shyness, while often used as synonyms, are really different things.

      • shannonly

        It drives me crazy when people equate extroversion with outgoing…or rude or bossy or someone who interrupts people. I’m an extrovert because if I don’t leave my house, people watch, and have some conversations I’ll be totally drained/lazy. It energizes me to work in a busy coffee shop or chat with my coworkers and think through ideas.

        But I’m shy at parties! And I love skipping parties to watch Netflix or read a book.


        • I am rude and interrupt people if they make me nervous (small talk, platitudes, senseless aggression, too many lies etc. …) or if I’d simply love to get away and hide :-).

          • shannonly

            Haha! 🙂

        • Senka

          Yeah. Your example shows exactly how many shades of Introversion/extroversion there really is, and it’s hard to fit ones self into a cathegory. I like being around people and socializing too, I love outdoors and crowded busy streets, but am sometimes very socially awkward and need time to my self every now and then.

    • Haley Nahman

      Yes! Also you should read the article I linked — it covers this exact thing!

    • Mariana

      I totally relate to this comment. When I spend too much time with myself I think non stop (ps. I dont know how to relax myself, always thinking about a variety of subjets, scrolling through IG, worring about the future, etc) and I bring myself to exhaustion.

  • Great piece! I think it is a bit of both. I often find that when I’m a bit tired/mentally exausted and the comfortzone needs to stretch due to an event – the confusion to whether I REALLY don’t feel like being around people vs just have a little fear (of not being accepted?), is so much greater. So I always remind myself how I feel after an event most of the times – super energized and happy. I’m probably an ambivert more than introvert, but looking at past experiences when I have needed to recharge and felt the relief saying ‘I need alone time!!’ – I’m often super grumpy, anxious, in a horrible mood and in reality not very good company to anyone.

    So I don’t think introversion is a crutch, but using it as an excuse *all the time* can make it one.

    • Haley Nahman

      THAT’S IT. The confusion about the true motive.

      • aj

        Highly recommend the book ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain on the subject! Very interesting insights into introversion vs. extroversion beyond the simplistic generalisations society tends to make.

  • Gretchen

    Thanks for the thoughtful writing. You manage to find that sweet spot between fluffy lightness and undue seriousness. I suppose that any labels we end up with come with their own set of limitations. It is nice to know predilections are not just ‘weakness’, but its also good to give yourself room to flex some new social muscles sometimes. I often find myself heavy with dread when I have social plans, especially if I don’t have a requisite down time between work and more people, but occasionally find that being playfully social is rejuventating. Great job on the writing.

    • Haley Nahman

      Thank you Gretchen!! Means a lot

  • Haylea

    Reading through the comments I find that this may have a little bit to do with having a strong sense of self. I tend to not worry about what people think of me anymore. The young person in me that used to care about what people thought has fueled me in so many ways and i think i became exhausted of the shyness that introversion can bring along with it. So I decided to enter parties feeling strong. Just as strong not talking as much or accidentally talking too much. Being shy has given me so many empathetic and observational qualities that I love and now that I know myself better I decided to shed the not so lovable symptoms of shyness. There are so many strong women reading Man Repeller, women who clearly check themselves frequently and deep down probably know when it’s best to stay in or go out. It may be one of those things where you know in your gut what is right.

    • kellymcd

      This is so true. Once you get a better idea of the person you truly are vs the person you think everyone wants or needs you to be, life gets a hell of a lot easier. The older I’ve gotten, the more comfortable I am with myself and therefore, the more open I am to spending time alone (the past 2 years I’ve taken vacation by myself). While an empty evening used to fill me with dread and that FOMO feeling, I now embrace it as recharge time. I’m a social butterfly by nature and meeting new people energizes me, but I still need my time to chill out. That’s where most of my deep thinking happens. Only you know yourself best

  • Love this so much! I honestly wish there were more to it (I guess that leaves room for discussion?).

    I’m an INFP and I consider myself the queen of missing out on things due to my introversion. However, I do like people — I enjoy big parties and hanging out with my friends. But then I dread small talk/meeting new people and I always need a full day to myself about twice a week, which makes me RSVP no to too many events. I’m not sure if I would call this not being able to leave my comfort zone, but just needing time to recharge. For me, it’s not a means of doing nothing all day, it’s just doing things ALONE. Like on days where I recharge, I go out to eat alone. It’s actually very helpful for my mental well-being.

    But now I’m in a time where I need to ease up on the introversion because I’m about to go to college and meet hundreds of new people so introversion doesn’t necessarily help in this situation. I’ve gotten more friendly and I tend to not miss out on too many things due to this fact, but I’ll still have my alone days. Introversion doesn’t necessarily mean we’re shy or awkward it just means we gain our energy from being alone, not from other people. And I think that’s completely fine (even if society/careers don’t).

  • Fran

    I’ve read all the comments and they are all great, I believe being true to yourself is the most important thing. I’m just like you when it comes to socializing, and I’ve forced myself to go out many times for fear I’m stuck in my comfort zone. Sometimes I’ve spent the whole night wishing I was home and some other times I end up having a blast.

    When trying to accept myself, something that has helped a lot lately is being honest. Before, when a friend would invite me to a party a few days earlier, I would agree, and then a few hours before the party I would’t feel like going, I would make up excuses: I’m sick, I have to drive my sister somewhere, whatever. Then I realized that these people are my friends and they would be even if I didn’t want to go to a party. That’s when I started saying “I’m not going, don’t really feel like it tonight” and BAM… nothing happened! The only change is that now my friends are way more “casual” when inviting me (they go more like “hey there’s a party on Friday, come if you feel like it” than “hey you HAVE to come to this great party on Friday”), which also makes canceling on them a lot less dreadful and I don’t feel guilty about it 😉

    I have my times when I want to go out every weekend and then periods when I stay nights in weeks at a time. Learning to relax about that is important 😉

  • gleek

    I can relate 100% to this post. But then do you sometimes experience FOMO when you stay in and feel like you should be going out more?

    • Mariana

      omg, totally!! It is like I am bipolar. When I have too much of a social life I am complaining about not having time to myself and when I dont have nothing to do “nobody likes me, nobody wants to do stuff with me,yada yada” ahahah i am a weirdo

  • Rabbi Shaul

    It all boils down to how you were brought up and what your true priorities are all about.

    No one can be you but you. If you are conflicted it is because you do not yet know where you want to be going or better yet – you struggle to understand the meaning of life in a world gone haywire.

    These are all normal issues for humans.

    All I will tell you is this – there is a meaning to life and maybe you should really spend some time searching for it.

    I could give you the easy answer but you would not believe me, because nothing can be that easy and if it is, then why does everyone else seem to not agree and are on either side or all sides of the conversation. But until they hear it – they could not tell you what it is.

    So, whether or not you went to the party or did not go to the party which is the first decision, then you have all these other decisions that will come up until maybe there is a decision you might have to make that you will not want to make or are afraid to make or will make anyway and mess up what you already have now which may or may not be what you want out of life.

    And that is the test we all have to go through to learn the Truth of what the meaning of Life is all about.

    Happy searching.

    And do not think because of my title that you know what I am going to say.

    Even people in my field of endeavor do not tell me what I would tell you is the meaning of Life and you would think that they should know the meaning of life.

    • Lillian


      • Rabbi Shaul

        were you expecting only responses from young people who have not experienced more then youth.

        I was giving you some older perspectives to think about.

        Not a big deal – and maybe not something you want to consider at this time.

        That is ‘What”

        Enjoy your life and maybe one day you will think on what I said – or Maybe not.

  • Lillian

    Restless INFP. I just moved to a new city so this is particularly heavy on my mind. At first I happily accepted then forced myself to accept all kinds of invitations that I would never otherwise be into. FRIENDS trivia? I had to, because who knows if I’d meet someone cool? (I didn’t) But with time I stopped entertaining the offers I knew I wouldn’t enjoy. You can only be so hopeful about a potential social interaction. Or is that my brain’s way of coaxing me back to my comfort zone? Am I not trying hard enough or I have I just not found the right fit? What even is trying? I don’t know!

    • Me too (moved, new people, less and less enjoyment): I simply tried to do some maths and decided the stress from socializing that does not make me happy is too strong to be worth it. I also have this “is this worth sacrificing the rest of my lifetime for?” mechanism working vigorously these few years, so.

  • taconoelle14

    INFP over here. In my experience, when I say no to plans it’s because that way, I have control. Interacting with others mandates a loss of self-control, which I both relish and loathe.

  • Noelle

    INFP over here. In my experience, when I say no to plans it’s because that way, I have control. Interacting with others mandates a loss of self-control, which I both relish and loathe.

  • Dunkay Del Rey

    and in rolls the myers briggs personality types…

  • Senka

    I am more concerned about that “weight on my chest” as you put it,and it’s exactly how it feels every time I have to socialize, participate something that is not just my parents, boyfriend or closest people. Sometimes I genuinely want to go, but part of me is like physically protesting. I chalk it up to my neuroticness, but it’s annoying.

  • lauren

    I’m an INFJ,

    Parties usually don’t interest me unless its a small group of my closest friends and we can converse naturally about interesting topics. I have no interest in standing around with a drink in hand listening to a stranger tell me their recent successes or struggles (mostly because I will probably never see them again.) Usually I leave a party like that with a headache from all the fake smiling I do at people while I listen to them talk about themselves and give them the compliments they are seeking. That sounds rude, but I guess its because I like my small comforting bubble of friends and I have no interest in having a large amount of acquaintances. I want my relationships to have depth and meaning. I’m sure for extroverts casual conversations like that are a dream come true, so let’s just pair them together and let them recharge each other. 🙂

    But to contradict myself, when I look back on memories of time spent at a gathering like that, I usually recall them as happy memories with friends even if I didn’t enjoy it at the time.

    So I’m not sure which is better. Gaining memories or recharging? Ugh, I don’t know.

  • “Cancelled plans still feel pretty euphoric.”

    What brilliant lines. I loved reading this article! I think it’s interesting the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve become a home body and less excited to go out. It’s not necessarily that I hate the activities I’ve been invited to, it’s just no longer a preference to mingle and get ready. However, I do think that we should remember to take a break from introversion. Go out and enjoy. Hibernating or rain checking can make you miss some of the best opportunities in life.

    Great post! Thank you again for sharing.

    The Modern Alice