All my life, everyone told me that I was a classic extrovert.
That’s because I’m a natural communicator. I love to exchange and share ideas, thoughts and opinions.
When something or someone interests me, I get really engaged and I can be a total chatterbox.
I also strive to be friendly and try to be warm to others.
It wasn’t until I reached my 30s that it finally dawned on me, I’m a massive introvert.
General misunderstandings about what that truly involves meant everyone had mislabeled me — and I just went along with it.
People’s idea of introversion doesn’t always match up with the psychology of it.
You could be in the same boat.
Let’s take a look at the signs you’re more introverted than you think.
1) You really like socializing, but it wipes you out
You can be outgoing AND an introvert.
I want to make that crystal clear because introversion is not a personality type.
It doesn’t give you a strict set list of personal qualities that you must tick off in order to qualify.
It is more than that, it is biological.
It’s about how you are wired, and the psychological impact that has on you.
As highlighted in Psychology Today: “Neuroimaging studies show different patterns of brain activation in introverts and extroverts, suggesting basic biological differences in the wiring of brain circuits.”
One of the most obvious signs of introversion comes down to how your energy levels work.
It takes introvert brains longer to process things than it does an extrovert, and that can be exhausting.
So you may find that all of a sudden you hit empty.
When this happens, it doesn’t matter how much of a good time you’ve been having, you feel wiped out.
2) You don’t get bored by being alone
Hopefully, we’ve established by now that being an introvert doesn’t mean locking yourself in your bedroom and never coming out.
But it does likely mean you’re perfectly at ease with alone time.
I remember once speaking to an extroverted friend about the fact that I lived alone.
“I could never do that”, she told me, “I’d be so lonely and bored”.
Being by myself has never felt that way for me. To me, it’s a sanctuary where I get to control my environment.
Perhaps one reason is down to the way introverts respond to dopamine differently. That’s the chemical in our brain that motivates us.
As pointed out by introvert writer and lecturer Susan Cain, both introverts and extroverts have the same amount of dopamine, but we don’t react to it in the same ways.
In a nutshell, what extroverts find rewarding, we don’t interpret in the same way.
We don’t get the same kick-out of external stimulus as extroverts do. So we don’t feel compelled to constantly seek it.
For us, the neurotransmitter acetylcholine is where it’s at. Like dopamine, it’s also linked to pleasure, but the difference is that it prompts us to turn inward.
So rather than get bored by a night curled up in front of the TV, it feels like heaven.
In fact, too much stimulation can quickly overload us.
3) You can get overwhelmed by too many sights, sounds, and smells
My biggest trigger is noise.
I simply cannot concentrate with any background noise. I have to wear earplugs to sleep, and in noisy environments (like when I’m taking a spin class or in a bustling cafe).
Research has highlighted how introverts can become more distracted by their environment.
Part of it goes back to what we just talked about, and how we deal with stimulus differently.
Another aspect is down to what I mentioned in the first point, about it taking longer for our brains to process everything we’re absorbing around us.
But if you find that you’re super sensitive to crowds, loud spaces, strong smells, etc. — it could be because your brain is wired in an introverted way.
4) You make plans, but later regret it
Every introvert has experienced the dread of:
“Oh god, I’m meant to be going out tonight”.
Sometimes we genuinely are in the mood. We’re looking forward to it, and we have a great time.
But other times, for no particular reason at all, we want nothing more than the other person to cancel.
Just the other day I found myself googling:
“Good excuses to cancel plans at short notice”.
I was going to a friend’s birthday dinner. When she’d invited me, I thought ‘Well, that sounds nice’.
Yet in true introvert fashion, by the time it arrived I quite simply couldn’t be bothered.
Side note here, yet often when we push those thoughts aside and force ourselves to go, we do end up enjoying it.
Right now it’s winter, so it’s cold and dark — that’s the first red cross. By 6 pm it may as well be midnight to me.
But in this particular situation, I know that part of my apprehension also was down to the fact I didn’t know anyone else who was going.
This brings us nicely to the next point on the list.
5) You’re not shy, but you can feel super awkward in certain circumstances
One of the biggest reasons I mistakenly thought I was an extrovert was down to this:
The mistaken belief that introversion is synonymous with being shy.
Sure, many introverts are also shy and quiet. But that is not a prerequisite of being an introvert.
I’ve never thought of myself as shy, but I’m well aware that I can be a bit socially uncomfortable.
It all depends on the circumstances.
For introverts, it’s usually meeting a lot of new people at once or being in large groups that we don’t like.
You may also notice that you struggle more when you’re running on empty.
You cannot find the social energy to function properly anymore, so you become withdrawn in the group (and run the risk of looking a bit weird).
6) You love to talk, but you prefer depth when it comes to both conversations and connections
Not all introverts are quiet or struggle for things to say either.
Yet, again, there is a difference between being shy and being an introvert (even if the two sometimes overlap).
Maybe you love talking but you prefer deep conversations.
Small talk has never been your thing, you enjoy jumping into those juicy topics straight away.
You’d much rather discuss the ins and outs of someone’s love life, the findings of an interesting study you recently read about, or the mysteries of the Universe.
That same depth goes for your connections too.
When it comes to friendships, you’d rather have quality over quantity.
You’ve never been interested in having thousands of social media followers, you’d much rather have a few true ‘rides or dies’ by your side.
7) You hate it when someone calls you (why can’t they just text?!)
In a weird way, receiving a call feels like it is putting you on the spot.
But it’s not just about getting calls, it’s about how you generally prefer to communicate.
Do you receive far more messages and calls than you send?
Does it feel like a pain in the ass sometimes replying to someone?
Do you have a hard time keeping up with all the latest social networks?
Maybe you find social media fun something, but it can equally feel like a burden and drain.
Then you may be more introverted than you realized.
Introverts are less likely to seek extra communication in the way that extroverts do.
8) You’re prone to overthinking which can stress you out
Introverts have a tendency to live more in their heads.
On the plus side, this gives them a richer inner world. They can be very creative and imaginative.
The flip side is that spending a lot of time in deep reflection can lead to overthinking.
If you’ve ever been plagued by this habit, you’ll know how self-destructive it can be.
It can be hard to stop.
Maybe that’s why studies have shown greater links between introversion and depression.
If you feel like you dwell on things, ruminate, and get bogged down in thought — underlying introversion could be a factor.
9) Your energy levels play a big part in planning your social life
There is a chance that up until now, you’ve not given this one too much thought.
I’m not sure I ever did before I realized I was in fact an introvert.
But you might find yourself a slave to your energy levels.
Whether you’ll make that party on Friday really depends on how you’ll feel when Friday finally rolls around.
Whilst other extroverted friends are like the Duracell Bunny and can keep on going no matter what, that’s not how it works for you.
You may notice cycles in your energy levels or certain triggers that affect it. Or it could seem random.
But either way, you feel a difference and it factors into how you plan your social calendar.
Does it even matter? Yes, I think it does, here’s why…
Of course, whether you are introverted, extroverted or a mix of the two doesn’t define you.
You are clearly so much more than that.
But for me, embracing my introverted nature was significant.
It helped me to pay attention to my energy levels and become more sensitive to them.
More than that, it allowed me to honor my own individual needs.
Whilst people kept telling me I was an extrovert, I’d feel guilty about not always acting like one.
I felt anti-social for wanting time alone, or weird for shutting myself away.
Appreciating that it was a part of my psychological and biological makeup felt like a permission slip to feel the way I did,
That ultimately was a sigh of relief and it let me become a more authentic version of myself.
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