Introvert in an Extrovert World

You walk into a classroom and see students in groups of three or four, talking animatedly with one another. Glancing in the corner, you see a student quietly sitting by himself, simply observing the others, his thoughts and emotions impossible to read on his expressionless face. Immediately, the first thought that comes into your head is that this student is probably just shy, a problem which can be cured over time. It wouldn’t even cross your mind that this student might just be differently social. We all know people like that student.

People who aren’t interested in the trivial matters of succumbing  to social small talk.  People who don’t mind being alone since it helps them think. People who’d prefer to have deep one-on-one conversations rather than the trivial rubbish of who’s dating whom, or what the weather’s like, or what was on TV yesterday or what grades you’re getting. People who can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience but seem awkward and out of place in groups. People like that student – people like me – are called introverts and we are misunderstood and consequently oppressed in today’s ignorant extroverted societies.

First off, it might help if you knew what introverts and extroverts actually are. An introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people for long periods of time. An extrovert on the other hand, is a person who is energised by being around other people and feels drained if he/she is alone. Introverts are rechargeable batteries; they can last for some time before they need to rest in order to recharge. Extroverts are like solar panels. For extroverts, being alone, or inside, is like living under a heavy cloud cover. Solar panels need the sun to recharge; extroverts need to be out and about to refuel.

In a world where extroversion is seen as the norm, introversion is seen as some sort of problem which can be overcome. Society does not understand that introversion is a psychological temperament of the mind and has absolutely nothing to do with shyness. How do you deal with something you can’t quite understand? Something complicated like a Physics word problem. Normally, individuals like you and me would try our best to understand it by asking questions and doing research. But how does society react to introverts? Does society try to understand the differences between extroversion and introversion? Of course not! Seeing it as a problem, society will try to change introverts to become more extroverted in an attempt “fix them”. Realistically, this is just plain stupid. You don’t go to your exam and re-write the question so you can answer it easily. Like I said, you try your best to understand it and answer it. Individually we know this and yet in society, we lose our individual ideals and become ignorant followers of a widespread misconception. Consequently, this leads introverts to think that something is actually wrong with them. They themselves will succumb to the pressure and try to change into the ideal person; the extrovert society so desperately wants them to be. The bias towards extroverts is particularly evident in schools.

Today’s schools are constructed solely for extroverts because we are constantly encouraged to work in groups rather than exercise individual growth. Although group work builds valuable skills, the extent to which group activities are encouraged in school is, in fact, laughable. For example, reading a paragraph and answering two questions has to be done in groups of three or four. And even then, it takes 15 – 20 minutes to complete such a mundane task. At the end of the day, what we subconsciously learn is that reading and answering a few questions is obviously too much work for just one person to handle. Consequently, we learn to become extremely dependent. And believing that every student is extroverted and that some are just shy, most teachers will often pick on the quiet students to answer questions in their pathetic attempts at drawing the students out, desperately hoping that these students will gain confidence and actively participate more, fundamentally failing to fully realize that these students don’t actually have any self-confidence issues and are simply introverted and not shy. Too associate shyness with introversion is just plain ignorance.

We’re told that to be great is to be bold and to be happy is to be sociable. We live with the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious and comfortable in the spotlight. In a biased society that prizes the bold and the outspoken, introverts are perceived as shy extroverts. We are not all painted with the same brush. We are all different. We are all unique. A fact that we all know about yet choose to forget or simply ignore. I’m not saying introversion is better than extroversion. Not at all. Extroversion or introversion is neither right nor wrong, better nor worse. They both complement each other and society needs to understand this. By valuing and appreciating each other’s strengths and weaknesses, only then can we advance. Although humans are instinctively social creatures, we aren’t all social in the same way; some of us are differently social. We are not all painted with the same brush; I’m an introvert and I’m proud of it. We are not all the same, and we shouldn’t try to be either.

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19 thoughts on “Introvert in an Extrovert World

    • Zaeem Siddiqui says:

      Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been kind of busy. Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you liked it! Out of curiosity, are you an introvert or an extrovert?

      • Hey, no probs at all! Have been reading more of your posts, and I must say they are all great.

        Let me resolve your curiosity, haha 🙂 In terms of MBTI, I’m an INTJ. But I would also classify my personality as an INTP because although I prefer establishing systems and decisions, I am comfortable with ambiguity and spontaneity.

        Do you think that any aspect of the INTJ spectrum doesn’t describe you completely well?

      • Zaeem Siddiqui says:

        I think it’s almost impossible to be 100% anything. I’m probably 95% INTJ and 5% random or something like that haha. One thing people say about the INTJ is that they are atheists but I’m Muslim so that doesn’t really match with the INTJ image. But I’m told that I do the whole “emotionless robot with a complete lack of social skills” thing rather well 😛

      • Even though I haven’t met you in person, I’m sure you’re not emotionless :). Everyone feels emotions..It’s just that us INTJs tend to justify and control emotions – which usually leads us to displaying minimal ‘expressions’ that are part of the society’s norms.
        Hmm..I haven’t heard about INTJs being mainly atheist before… That’s interesting to know… Perhaps people assume that because INTJs are expected to be analytical and rational, and religion is associated with cultural and emotional aspects of human beings. I myself am a Muslim and an INTJ – so there you go another myth busted :P. I do believe in an omniscent supernatural power guiding/ observing/ testing us (aka God). But as a rational person, I also realise that we need to use our intelligence to make distinction between religious/spiritual practices versus cultural/man-made ones. What’s your thought on rationality and religion?

      • I find the emotions thing to be particularly annoying since I always need to exactly what I’m feeling and why I’m feeling it. I know it’s impossible to fully understand emotions but that doesn’t stop me from trying :). Religion plays a massive role in one’s life, as does rationale. You need to understand the historyu and the “why” behind religion to truly appreciate it’s beauty instead of blindly following it. I think there’s a balance to be found between religion and rationality which Islam fills perfectly. One thing I’m particularly interested in is the concept of morality. What some people find morally unacceptable, others would find morally grey. I find it fascinating how important it is for people to justify their actions, whether it’s only for themselves or for other people’s sakes.

        While it’s pretty useful, I think the whole MBTI has led to massive stereotypes since it tries to compartmentalize human beings into perfect categories. 16 types is hardly enough for billions of people. Each one is unique and completely different from the other. That’s why there are more people who break the stereotypical INTJ than people who are completely like the “perfect INTJ” model. Fascinating stuff.

      • Your reasoning behind the relationship between rationality and religion is quite right.
        Earlier morality was an interesting topic for me. I was very perplexed by the various levels of moral standards worldwide, and the injustice and inequality it creates. But I stopped thinking about it as it is such a subjective topic, and the inability to come to globally accepted set of standards anytime soon kind of upset me. MBTI is a great tool, especially for the analytical and rational minds as it helps them figure things out more clearly. But as you very correctly said, it is not a perfect form of classification (I know this person who got teary by reading their ‘type’ description as some aspects clearly didn’t match their real personality). Definitely fascinating stuff though. Looking forward to more of your such INTJ ramblings :)!

    • Zaeem Siddiqui says:

      Thanks. Haha, I’m pretty sure that if there weren’t online communities and forums, people would never find introverts lol. We are a tough bunch of people to find. INTJs even more so. How did you find out you were an INTJ? Did you take the test?

      • Aalia says:

        Yeah, I took the test. I used to think I was “normal” and those who enjoyed small talk and boring subjects were idiots (how humble of me). As I grew older I found that I was actually the weird one, and got curious as to whether there was anyone else like me at all.

        You’re right, I totally wouldn’t have found another INTJ in regular social settings. Why would they have come to a place like that anyway? I’m still working on expanding my social circle a bit, with people I actually enjoy spending time with.

  1. Aalia says:

    To be honest, it wasn’t just random curiosity. It was mostly because I got married and my marriage blew up in my face because I couldn’t tolerate my exhusband. (Needless to say, marriage was never a topic that interested me before that time, so I never bothered to learn what made a marriage work other than physical attraction).

    You probably have a long way to way before those issues come up, but I might as well give you some type of heads up.

    Good luck 🙂

    • Sorry to hear about your marriage not working out :(.

      Have you met any INTJs in real life? I’ve only met one INTJ (I asked him to take the test since he had no idea about MBTI) after I realised that we both had the same characteristics and rather strange sense of humour. (Once, there was a lecture about Senior Citizens and how our community was helping them feel younger. The presenter (a really old guy) began talking about “youthanizing the old people to help the community” and we were the only two in a room of 1000 people who burst out laughing since we thought he meant euthanizing 😐 ).

      Either way, it’s great that you’re expanding your social circle but I’m sure it must be absolutely exhausting! I always call people acquaintances rather than friends because they’re just people I know while friends are something a bit more important. It’s better to have a few close friends rather than a tonne of acquaintances, I find.

      • Aalia says:

        I’ve never met another INTJ that I know of. I can think of 1 person who might have been, but she couldn’t care less about it, so I didn’t press the issue. Actually, I found out that I was an INTJ 3 years ago, but I didn’t see how the information would be of any help to me at that time and I ridiculed my friend for even showing me the test 😀

        You’re right, it’s totally exhausting trying to meet people. I have loads of acquaintances and a few good friends. My exhusband was in the “friends” category, but I only realized after marriage that just because I can hang out with a dude for a few hours and have a good time does NOT mean I can have him around me as much as he wanted. For the most part, I like being a loner.

        On the other hand, if I just lock myself in my room, I may never meet someone who’s need for emotional support and companionship is as low as mine. At this point, I’m cool with the idea that I may never meet anyone I can tolerate, but the important thing is to “tie my camel” and put my trust in Allah, so I’ll keep trying.

        Out of curiosity, did you ever wonder what being an INTJ would mean for your future relationships? I mean, I know you’re in high school, but perhaps you would have thought such things through.

      • I never really put much thought to the matter, to be honest. Like you said, what will happen will happen and all you need to do is put your trust in Allah. Insha’Allah, it will all work out for the best but I’ll worry about that when I get there. Or whatever the equivalent of worrying is for an INTJ 😛

  2. Aalia says:

    lol, you sound like me from a few years ago. Enjoy not having to worry about another person’s feelings for some time 🙂

    Please keep updating your blog when you get the chance. It was fascinating to read. I was particularly amused about the “youthanizing” story, I’ve found myself laughing my head off at totally the wrong moments too. And I’ve found that a lot of people get offended that I laugh so much, because they think I’m laughing AT them, as opposed to the hilarity of the situation.

    How is knowing that you are an INTJ of any benefit to you at this point? You already know your own strengths and weaknesses, skills and talents, so it won’t help you get to know yourself better. And among other people, well, you won’t make friends with people you don’t like anyway, so you don’t really need to change your behavior.

    Or was it just interesting to know that there were others like you?

    • I was always the odd one out in most groups since I didn’t talk much and just observed the others. I connected more with adults than I did children my age since I often found them to be immature and rather annoying most of the time. It didn’t bother me at all since I preferred it but I was still curious as to why I was different. After a bit of searching, I found out about the MBTI and immediately took the test to find out I was an INTJ. The MBTI helped a lot because it explained EVERYTHING. It explained everything about me I had wanted to understand. I found out about introverts, how some people are just wired differently and how it was OK to not need constant social interaction etc. Finding out that there were others like me was pretty cool as well; it felt nice to know I wasn’t alone. Knowing what I am gave me peace of mind and I just love learning about anything and everything I possibly can.

      The next step for me is getting other people to understand how to deal with an INTJ since most people are ignorant about introversion/extroversion and the whole MBTI. This has led to huge stereotypes and massive misconceptions. That’s the main reason I started this blog. That and the fact that I really enjoy writing. I’m actually working on a whole post about INTJs but it’s taking time since I need it to be absolutely perfect.

      I’m glad you like the blog! I really enjoyed reading your comments as well. 🙂

  3. Aalia says:

    “Knowing what I am gave me peace of mind”

    Yup, me too. I kept trying to change my personality to make my ex happy, but in the end I just had to admit there were some things that were simply inherent. I’m glad you’re so comfortable with being different and I admire the fact that you took the time to found out why.

    I think it’s awesome that you’re trying to bring awareness to the issue of introverts, and INTJ’s in particular. Like, there’s an actual goal to this blog, as opposed to being whatever happens to be in your head on any given day. That wouldn’t be a bad reason for a blog, but I respect it more because there’s a higher purpose to it.

    If you don’t mind my asking, what type of knowledge are you currently looking for? I mean, you do have a limited time on Earth, and if you go around trying to absorb everything, then you’ll end up with bits of stuff but no expertise on anything. So is the search for knowledge driven by curiosity or is it a means to an end?

    • Yeah, I get what you mean. The whole “jack of all trades and master of none” idea. It’s more curiosity-driven than anything, I suppose. If I find something I’m passionate about, then I’ll try to gain as much knowledge about that as possible and try to help people while I’m at it. Like Android, for example. I’m trying to learn as much about it as I can (apps, tips, tricks etc) and I post stuff here to help people out.

      I suppose its not a quest for knowledge but for understanding.

      You asked a very thought-provoking question haha. Thanks 😛

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