From a young age, I have been introspective, and reflective. I have always enjoyed my own world more than anyone else’s, and feel uncomfortable – bored even – when I am not in it. In my own world, I am comfortable, safe, and at peace. I have been reflecting on this lately, and have come to realise that Introversion is not a weakness, or a fault. It is a -multi-faceted, nuanced, and unique way of life.
I am an INFJ on the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator. This personality type is reportedly the rarest on the planet, with only 1% of the population falling into its category. The letters in this acronym stand for Introversion (I), Intuition (N), Feeling (F), Judgment (J). Sylvia Plath was an INFJ, as was Charlotte Bronte, and many other writers that I look up to, and draw inspiration from.
As an introvert, I tend to be more inward focused – I am normally wrapped up in my internal thoughts and feelings, and do not enjoy, or seek out external stimulation. Living inside my head is easier, because my inner world is as animated and vivid as the outer one. I am more reserved, and introspective than my extroverted counterparts, and find that alone time, or quiet time with family allows my mind to decompress.
When I am with other people, I often feel overwhelmed, and experience sensory overload. In a crowd I also experience a feeling of disconnectedness, and am left feeling drained and socially burned out. This is often referred to as the “introvert hangover”. It’s a common misconception that introversion is shyness. While some introverts are shy, they often find conversation easy and enjoyable. What they struggle with is how draining it can be to socialise, and how important it is to recharge and re-energise afterwards. I don’t have any trouble socialising or chatting to people, but my battery dries up pretty quickly. For this reason, introverts relish being alone, or experiencing quiet moments. I feel good when I am alone, or with family. In my introverted comfort zone, I find contentment, solitude, and freedom.
According to Carl Jung, introverts are happy alone, with rich imaginations and artistic tendencies. They often stand apart from society, and are misunderstood. Introverts are often seen as withdrawn because they are internally focused. They make their decisions based on their internally established thoughts and beliefs. This is why they are often artists and writers. The Gifted Development Center writes that “Introversion correlates with introspection, reflection, the ability to inhibit aggression, deep sensitivity, moral development, high academic achievement, scholarly contributions, leadership in academic and aesthetic fields in adult life, and smoother passage through midlife.
As a child, I was told I was an ‘old soul’. This is probably because introverts tend to be natural observers. We take in information, and think before we speak. We are analytical and reflective, often looking for the deeper meanings or patterns behind what we see. Because of this, introverts can come across as wise, even from a young age. I spent a lot of time on my own, with my own thoughts, and have always been rather philosophical. I like to reflect on things, and have always been told that I am “too intense and serious” and an “overthinker”. Feeling things too deeply, I have been told, is my problem.
Always more comfortable in a quiet space with a book, or pens and paper to write, as I grew into my own as an adult, I assumed that I was just ‘bookish’, and preferred to be alone because the things I liked to do were more solitary activities – reading and writing doesn’t usually take place in a group. I now know that it’s the other way around – I do not choose to be alone because I like these solitary activities. I am naturally drawn to solitary activities because they fit better with my personality, and they allow me to remain in my introvert comfort zone.
I also prefer to be alone or in small, meaningful groups because I don’t enjoy meeting new people, or socialising. My family jokes about my lack of friends, and counsellors over the years have asked why I have no interest in creating, or maintaining relationships with others. I always thought it was because I had a steady partner, children and am close with my mother. I felt, and continue to feel, that I don’t need any other relationships. What I did not know until recently, is that the main reason for this is probably my introversion. I struggle with the draining aspect of being around people. It’s a common motif that writer’s don’t like people (consider writing You Tuber Jenna Moreci’s t’shirt design: “I’m a Writer. I Hate People.”)
What I’ve come to realise is that it’s not because I’m a writer, it’s because I’m an introvert. Becoming a writer was a way for me to remain in my comfort zone, doing thoughtful, reflective, creative work in a setting which I could control. I connected with people minimally, worked in my own home space, and at my own pace. The idea of being around people is tiring to me, and I desperately crave solitude in my everyday life.
A common writer, and introvert problem is being better at writing words than speaking them, and it’s one that deeply resonates in my life, and work. I prefer to communicate by email when possible, as my thoughts are better and more accurately reflected when they have been written down, than when I try to express them verbally. Writing gives me the time I need to reflect on what I want to say, and how I need to say it. It allows me to craft and edit my feelings before I have to articulate them. It is this that drew me into writing as a career. Introverts prefer the inner world of creativity and imagination, which is why introversion is a natural characteristic of writers. The writing process gives me the time I need to think and organise my ideas. I think, in a way, my brain processes words all day long, and writing provides the much needed outlet for these.
In addition, like most INFJ’s, I am extremely goal driven. “Hi. My name is Taryn and I’m a personal growth junkie.” A few years ago I wrote a piece for Massive Magazine about ‘achievement addiction’. It focused on serial students (like myself), for whom no achievement is ever enough. I also have an insatiable appetite for learning and knowledge which has kept me at university for almost a decade. I now know that this passion for fulfilling my own goals is tied up with my introversion. Introverts are more concerned with making themselves happy, and prefer to spend their time working/pondering on ideas and concepts which they find important. Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton were introverts. Just sayin’.
I’ve also learned that introverts thrive in the introvert equivalent of a mancave. When my husband converted a shipping container into an office for me two years ago, it finally gave me the little cave of solitude that I had been needing in my life. It was fitted out with wall to wall bookshelves, as well as my ‘scholarly collectables’ (graduation bears, university merch etc.) This space became a haven for me to recharge my batteries and come back to life. I found myself increasingly looking forward to my time in this space, where I could read and write freely, and where I could draw strength and creativity from my bookish surroundings. The year that this office was set up, I was more productive, and well rested than any other time in my life. Sadly, the shipping container was converted into storage last year, and upon reflection, I realise that reshaping this office space in my life needs to be prioritised, because I draw inspiration and joy from it. After a long week, or day, an exciting Friday night is one where I can curl up in my own writer’s room in solitude, working on my current writing project, or researching things that interest me.
I am also very future focused. I have always had 5 and 10 year plans which I re-evaluate constantly. To see all of the things I am focusing on in the future, just take a look at My Impossible List. In reality, my ‘old-soul’ side thinks more like a 90-year-old than the 30-something I am. I spend a lot of time pondering and reflecting on my life, and how I will spend my time. I actually spend a lot of my time wondering what my life will amount to, and how I can make it all count. I’m a dreamer, but I’m also a doer. And, once I have decided I want something – you had better either help, or get out of the way.
Though most people view labels as restrictive, I have found the INFJ, and Introvert labels to be rather freeing. There is great comfort in understanding why you are, the way you are, and I have found that the more I read about my personality type, the more I resonate with it, and feel understood. The best part of understanding your personality is that things that didn’t make sense, suddenly do, and it’s almost like your entire life is illuminated by the light of this new understanding. Suddenly, everything that I am makes sense.