Most Introverts Apparently Want To Be Extroverts

Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor By Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
Kelly Gonsalves is a sex writer and editor. She received her journalism degree from Northwestern University, and her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at The Washington Post, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.

Photo by Clique Images

Introversion is having a moment. While in the past we introverts were forced to keep up the constant facade of enjoying social gathering after social gathering, today’s long-needed embrace of the principles of self-care and wellness has finally allowed us introverts to proudly own our identities, regularly pass on invitations to events we dread, and fully enjoy the sweet, sweet bliss of alone time without anybody’s judgment.

Yet for all the introvert pride emerging in recent years, the fact still remains: In many western cultures, it’s still an extrovert’s world. Case in point: A new study in the Journal of Happiness Studies polled nearly 350 adults and found a whopping 96 percent of them view extroversion as the more “socially desirable” trait. About 54 percent said they wanted to be more extroverted than they were, and 82 percent said they felt they needed to display extroverted traits more than introverted traits in their daily lives.

Those numbers suggest introverts might not be as open about their identities after all. Apparently there’s a difference between what we need and what we want: Introverts may need alone time for various personal reasons, but it’s possible they want it only because they feel they need it. (Other recent research actually suggests they may not even enjoy that alone time as much as we think they do.) What introverts want, according to these findings, is just to be more extroverted.

Now if you’re an introvert, you’re either going to react to these findings with “oh hell no” or with “well… yeah.” Regardless of how it makes you feel or whether you agree with its results, the point of the study isn’t to further prove extroversion is the best thing since sliced bread. The takeaway here should simply be to recognize how our environment might be influencing how authentically we’re able to express ourselves and how accepting we are of our own personality.

“Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are,” writes Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power Of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. “Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”

One final finding of the study was that how authentically an introvert is able to present themselves in their daily lives affects their well-being, and that connection is mediated by how much they believe extroversion is the superior personality trait. In other words, it’s important for introverts to see the value in their identity in order to live it with authenticity and find joy.

Our current culture might grant more social and economic benefits to people who are more bold and outgoing, and perhaps it’s worth embodying those more bold and assertive traits in certain situations to access those benefits—but that doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently better about being extroverted as opposed to being introverted. Introverts contribute a different set goods to society, such as introspection, empathy, and vulnerability—all qualities that aren’t really rewarded in the workplace or elsewhere in society outside of interpersonal relationships. But that doesn’t make them any less valuable.

"We make a grave mistake to embrace the Extrovert Ideal so unthinkingly," Cain writes. "Some of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions—from the theory of evolution to van Gogh’s sunflowers to the personal computer—came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there."

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