Soul Searching: Are you shy or introverted?

"It is wisdom to know others; It is enlightenment to know one's self." 


In this post I want to talk about a psychological topic that is not very well understood by most people, namely the difference between shyness and introversion. Being an introvert myself, I know what it feels like when others misunderstand my behaviour as shy or aloof and I cringe when my introvert friends try to make themselves act more 'extrovert' in order to fit social norms. At the same time, people who are truly shy should know that, unlike introversion, shyness is not something they were born with and that it can definitely be 'unlearned'.


- Shy people suffer from a lack of confidence in social situations and a fear of what other people think of them. - A certain level of shyness is natural (pretty much everyone feels nervous about speaking in front of a large group). Shyness only constitutes a problem if you feel seriously inhibited and avoid situations even if they are really important. - Shyness can be situation-dependent, e.g. some people are only shy in group discussions or one-on-one situations. - Both introverts and extroverts can be shy. Actually, shy extroverts tend to suffer the most because they need a lot of social contact, yet are scared of it at the same time. - Shyness usually stems from past experiences (you aren't born with it), and can definitely be reduced with the right techniques.

If you want to be less shy you need to: increase you confidence + retrain your emotional responses

You can do this by 1. Exposing yourself to the situation you fear (exposure to something lessens the intensity of your response to it). 2. Setting yourself goals and achieving them one-by-one, to build confidence. 3. Reminding yourself of positive experiences and your abilities. 4. Building a good support system (friends, family, etc.). 5. Visualising the scary situation beforehand and practising what you will say and do, so you feel prepared.


- Extroversion and introversion are dispositional temperaments on a continuum that describes how we derive our energy. - Introverts are energised by spending time alone, while extroverts are energised by socialising. - Introverts relate to life through their own ideas, impressions and feelings and judge themselves less in terms of the values of others. - Introverts enjoy socialising, but get drained quickly by situations that involve big groups of people and generally prefer small groups or one-on-one situations.

How to be an introvert in an extrovert world

About 75% of people are extroverts and our culture rewards mainly extrovert qualities like 'getting out there', being talkative and outspoken, being 'social' or being good at team work; all of which require extra effort for introverts.

Some general tips: 1. Realise that being introverted is not a weakness but a part of you. 2. Conserve energy before social events and take breaks (e.g. by going outside for a few minutes with one close friend). 3. Prepare your thoughts before meetings and discussions. 4. Play on your unique strengths (being able to concentrate and work alone for a long period of time, your imagination, striving for depth instead of breadth, being an independent thinker, etc.).

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