By: Miranda Lapides
I am an introvert; there’s no doubt about it. I used to feel bad about it too, like whenever I left a group hangout to go relax in my dorm and be by myself, or when I chose to have dinner with Netflix rather than a friend (how else am I supposed to catch up on Breaking Bad?). I used to associate my introversion with shyness, therefore not accepting it positively until I learned the distinction between the two terms.
The dictionary definition of introversion is “the direction of or tendency to direct one’s thoughts and feelings toward oneself.” This is a part of it, but when comparing the term to its opposite, extroversion, it’s all about “recharging.” Introverts gain energy through solidarity to balance out the energy spent in social situations while extroverts recharge through social situations. Therefore, introversion is said by psychologists to be a motivation because wanting to socialize with others or wanting to be alone depends on the amount of socializing that just took place.
Shyness, on the other hand, is defined as “feeling nervous and uncomfortable about meeting and talking to people; tending to avoid something because of nervousness, fear, dislike, etc.” Unlike introversion which is more of a motivation, shyness is a behavior in that it is biological. It is a minor form of social anxiety disorder. I could get into more detail but that’s a whole other article.
The main point is that taking a break from socializing is not the same as fearing it. Not every introvert is shy and not every shy person is an introvert. To study introversion and shyness, psychologists Jonathan Cheek and Arnold Buss administered a questionnaire measuring shyness and low sociability to college students and found a low correlation between shyness and low sociability.
The two can definitely overlap, though. According to Carl Jung, introverts “have an inward flowing of personal energy…The introvert is usually happy alone, with a rich imagination, and prefers reflection to activity…the introverted attitude includes a tendency to be shy.”
When the two overlap, it is easier to overcome shyness than change an introverted personality. For example, I used to be a much shyer introvert. Today, I am an introvert who is only slightly shy at first then eases into conversations and gets comfortable with them quickly. After a while though, my introversion kicks in and I need to take a break from people. I just need some time for myself to read or surf the Internet until I have enough energy to socialize again. I used to think this was because I was a shy person until I learned this is not the case. Shyness and introversion can overlap, but at the end of the day, they are two different terms and should not be used interchangeably.
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