On Being An Introvert

Several years ago I cam home after reading a book titled The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney and announced to my wife that I was declaring myself a Militant Introvert! In her book, Dr. Laney pointed out that many of us introverts grow up believing there is something wrong with us because we are not as out-going or socially skilled as the extroverts in our lives. I resonated to that, having long seen myself as socially inept. What her book and the better known Quiet by Susan Cain helped me see was that we introverts have our own set of gifts and that I would do well to embrace those gifts.

Indeed many people we look up to are introverts. People I had long admired — people such as Gandhi or Eleanor Roosevelt or St. John XXIII were introverts yet were also clearly people of inner power.

What has also been helpful to me is to understand introversion and extroversion in terms of what energizes us versus what exhausts us. I remember after reading this idea in Laney’s book, I had the thought “Gee, maybe that’s why I’m so tired after a day of counseling with others!” We introverts indeed can do many social things and can do them well. (Remember that one thing most people like about we introverted counselors is that we listen well!) It just tires us while solitude energizes us.

As a strong introvert, I am aware, just as Jung said, that I have extroverted capabilities. I drew on those energies for example when I portrayed Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey. But my make-up is that of an introvert and I have come to embrace that rather than judge it negatively.

At the spiritual level, I function mainly as an introvert. I am drawn to introverted practices such as meditation or silent prayer or journaling. To be a complete spiritual person, I see that I am challenged to work at extroverted spirituality. I can do that but only if I first accept that I need to do that to be complete but not because extroversion is the better path.

So, yes, I am an introvert and a militant one and, somewhat later in life, proud of it!

Reflection: How do you see yourself on the introvert-extrovert scale and how does that inform your spiritual world?