Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Why being an introvert helps me pursue my artistic ambitions

Introversion by Teodora Totorean

If I am persuaded to attend a party or a social event, I am always the quiet one.  I prefer to watch instead of getting involved and I prefer to listen instead of talking. To me, the alternative to fancy dress, team games, and drinking competitions is reading, contemplating and thinking.  The good news is that I am never bored; the bad news is that people find me strange.  It seems that I am part of a decreasing minority of introverts and seeing that general opinion dismisses this type of personality, makes me question its very normality.

Jung divided people in two basic psychological types: introverts and extroverts. While the first type is more interested in its own world, the second type directs its psychic energy towards the outside world. Introverts are quiet, reflective and cautious while extroverts are outgoing, sociable and often frank.  Jung bases the two types in biology as they are a reflection of two ways of adapting to the environment: by increasing self-protection to the detriment of fertility and by increasing fertility to the detriment of self-preservation. It is not hard to guess which one is which.

From school and work environments to reality TV shows, there is a tendency to favour extroverts as if this type is directly proportional with success. Parents hope that their introvert children will eventually grow out of it and employers push their employees to come out of their shell. Working in a team, brainstorming, socializing are three constant requirements that everyone should adhere to. But is this synonym with “thinking outside the box”? The answer is no. Some people do function better in their shell and SusanCain, the author of the book Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking suggests that companies should accommodate such people.
 Her conclusion based on the latest research is that spending some time alone for thinking could lead to higher productivity. Einstein, Newton and Picasso are just a few names to prove that “Eureka” moments come from isolation and dedication. 

As the dynamic of society seems to lose patience with the quiet ones, whether introverts or just shy, they never failed to feed the psychologists’ interest. While some researchers are trying to prove that shyness and introversion are two different things, others argue that being shy could be an illness. In the mean time, the loners of our society continue to paint, write and innovate.  Being introvert is not just normal, but desirable in certain circumstances.

So moving on to the other extreme, what do extroverts bring to the table apart from being loud? First of all they have good communication skills, something considered crucial in today’s work environment. They talk before they think and express their opinions openly, therefore people get to know them quicker. They thrive in sales positions, they are charismatic and they love being surrounded by people.  Jung also said that the two types tend to reject one another so an introvert will find an extrovert annoying and an extrovert will never understand their opposite’s need for contemplation and reflection. The paradox is that from Jung to the most recent researchers, they all stated that people display characteristics of both types but only one is dominant. Some researchers go as far as affirming that creative people have both traits simultaneously.

It seems that when people dismiss each other based on their personality types they are in fact denying their own hidden side. And it is this very side that could emerge and take over at some point in the future, like in Jung’s story about the churchwarden from Modern Man in Search of a Soul (Routledge Classics) . After a lifetime of religious and moral fanaticism, suddenly this man began living a life of excess, squandering a great part of his fortune. 

As for me, I continue to be an introvert and enjoy the “me time” when I get to paint, write, walk, contemplate, meditate or just daydream. 

©Teodora Totorean - text and images 


  1. Dear Teodora
    I really like this piece. I don't do much of that kind of socialising either , though I do believe in communication and community. I like to stop and talk to people and hear their stories. In parties I don't know what people are talking about. They don't seem serious about the world, that isn't to say I don't enjoy myself. I do. A life lived from the outside in, instead of the inside out seems to me a very strange incomprehensible life.

    1. Yes, I know what you mean :). Thanks for your comment.