If you take a look at the unabridged version of the Merriam Webster’s dictionary, introversion is defined as “the act of directing one’s attention toward or getting gratification from one’s own thoughts and feelings and other intrapsychic experience.”
I don’t know about you, but reading this definition, I couldn’t blame other people for thinking that we introverts
are self-absorbed and antisocial. And there’s that, “But introverts are in their heads too much.”
Yes, we get gratification from our own thoughts and feelings, but this definition somehow makes us sound as if we DON’T get gratification from interpersonal relationships as well.
We do. In fact, we probably value and tend to crave it more than others do.
A fellow introvert mentioned in a forum the story of how his extroverted family members (though they don’t know it) labeled introversion as a “cop out,” making him feel guilty and implying that claiming to be an introvert provides a way out from social events and overall social participation: an excuse to be self-absorbed.
Needless to say, the thread was soon filled with expletives, angry emoticons, and a rant about how extroverts can then use extroversion as an excuse to talk nonstop […and annoy people].
What Others Need to Understand
The image and myth of a self-absorbed introvert perhaps stemmed from our need for quiet and alone time. As much as we would like to spend time with people, we just need to retreat and recharge when external stimulation becomes too much.
Unlike our extrovert counterparts who can think, talk, and do everything all at once, we prefer to take time to think how certain experiences affect us.
It’s Self-Reflection, Get It?
This is what is called self-reflection, and introverts are kings and queens of it. Opposite to what others say, our ability to self-reflect enables us to be more understanding of people and situations, allowing us to be more empathetic.
We take a step back not just because it’s part of our nature but also because it helps us see examine our feelings, thoughts, and actions. Self-reflection allows us to learn from our mistakes and not repeat unwanted and unhealthy behavior.
And We’re “Others-Absorbed” Too
So in truth, we’re more like “others-absorbed” than self-absorbed because we take the time to understand and process how events and situations affects us and other people, allowing us to give sound and practical solutions to problems and help people see what they may be too blind to acknowledge.
Self-reflection is good and healthy, but not easily recognizable and so it is misunderstood and labeled unhealthy and selfish.
As what Marti Olsen Laney perfectly pointed out in her book, The Introvert Advantage:
“It’s ironic that introverts are considered self-absorbed when often one of psychotherapists’ major tasks when working with new clients is to help them develop the ability to be self-reflective.”
Have you ever been accused of being self-absorbed? Or have you ever thought that you were self-absorbed? Share your experiences and help other introverts learn are simply beings self-reflective!
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