Are You Burned Out Because You’re an Introvert?

I’m an introvert–there I said it. When I say this to my friends they say, “What? No! You’re outgoing. You can’t be an introvert.”

Myth #1: A shy person may be an introvert, but shyness is not an attribute of introversion.

Understanding introversion has helped me so much–to know my boundaries, limitations, and not feel guilty about choices I need to make to keep myself functioning at an optimal level.

Supposedly, the population is only made up of about 25% introverts, and the rest extroverts, which essentially makes it “an extrovert’s world”. Therefore, introverts are grossly misunderstood.

It’s important to understand yourself or those you know who are introverts and it’s equally important to understand extroverts, and the difference between the two. It goes a long way in helping us express empathy to one another, and recognizing how we most optimally function.

What’s the difference?

In a nutshell, extroverts get their energy from people and activities, while introverts become easily drained by too much of those things. They get their energy from “down time” wherein they think and ponder and plan and ruminate.

It is actually said that introverts have an over-sensitivity to dopamine, the neurotransmitter that relays signals from the nerves to the brain. Extroverts need more adrenaline and stimulation to feel “happy”. Introverts will shut down from too much stimulation and need long periods of “down time” to recover from it.

My brother is an extrovert. He can’t have enough parties in a week, enough company in a day or enough athletic events in a year.

I can only do a party every now and then and need my company spaced out and I love quiet. Two social events in one day? Forget it. That’s asking the moon. He wants to live among people and sights and sounds, I like solitude, controlling how much interaction I have with the outside world. He cannot wrap his brain around that and I can’t imagine the constant stimulation that is his busy life. We get that about each other…I think.

Extroverts love busy; introverts can become irritated by the sound of an exhaust fan.

Introverts love to think, and are very inward-focused. They relish quiet. They don’t necessarily like being alone–they love to share their thoughts and dreams–and they can get lonely.

Myth #2: Introverts dislike people. No they don’t. They just don’t like a lot of people for a long time. They enjoy one-on-one interaction, focused conversation, and can be overwhelmed, after a while, among groups. People are draining to them because they are taking in so much information at one time and need to get away to process it.

Myth #3:  Introverts don’t like to talk. Actually, they love to talk, but not in a chatty kind of way. They love to discuss deep things and can be easily exhausted by small talk for too long. Actually, many introverts are quite out-going. But that energy only lasts for a short time and then they feel a deep need to retreat and recharge.

And some introverts are very quiet, not shy, but reflective and introspective.

Myth #4: Introverts are boring.

Well, maybe they are to you. But they aren’t bored. They love to think, dream, write, plan and solve problems. This, to an introvert, is heaven. Introverts appear to be doing “nothing” a lot of the time, but sometimes they are doing way more than meets the eye…all inside their heads.

They like sameness, routine and are rather fearful of change. This can be a problem, but it’s real all the same.

The two things in my life that have rocked my introverted world is having nine children (remember, “people make us tired”) and having my steady, calm, sameness yanked out from under me in the storm two years ago. But these are good things, to stretch me out of my comfort zone and make me completely dependent on God’s grace. It’s all good.

It should be noted though, that your family members, with whom you are very familiar, are not as draining as being around people with whom you are not quite comfortable. Sometimes, a mother can recharge simply with a quiet walk, or a short drive, or a bath.

It takes all kinds to make the world go ’round! But recognizing some of these qualities in each personality will hopefully help us to be more considerate.

There is a warning: I cannot use my introverted tendencies to excuse me from doing things that may feel out of my comfort zone, just because “I’m wired that way”. Sometimes we have to do hard things because we need to do them.

However, understanding your personality–especially if you are an introvert–will help you set healthy boundaries around your life. Because the majority of people are more extroverted, society tends to favor those traits. It’s important to realize that an introvert isn’t flawed in any way and actually possesses many positive traits specifically as an introvert. But if you don’t understand it, you may feel guilty for not “being more extroverted”. If you feel constantly exhausted and over-stimulated, perhaps you are doing too much and not giving yourself enough recharging solitude…an exercise that makes you best-equipped to handle life.

 

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38 Responses to “Are You Burned Out Because You’re an Introvert?”

  1. Holly says:

    Kelly, this is excellent. For years, I would have considered myself an extrovert because I’m not shy and I do enjoy being around people – I actually get lonely when I’m alone for extended periods of time. However, I am worn out after large gatherings and the part about small talk really hit home. There is NOTHING that tires me out more than small talk. Thanks for posting this. It will help me to be more understanding of others.

    You are such an inspiration to me and I am so joyful for the new life you will soon be bringing into the world!

  2. Annie D says:

    Have you read Sophia Dembling’s book, “The Introvert’s Way”? LOVED IT. It’s like she rummaged around in my brain and wrote down everything she found there and explained it to me. Sooooo freeing to understand why I was happy in my quiet life at home, not needing a lot of social interaction (a friend accused me of isolating myself – with three children and homeschooling, yeah, I guess I am and it’s ok!)

    Thanks for this post!

    • Word Warrior says:

      I haven’t read that book, but I’ve read lots of other stuff, and different excerpts from books on introversion. It’s true: your reading it going, “That’s me! That’s exactly how I operate!” And it is freeing.

  3. 6 arrows says:

    “They [introverts] get their energy from “down time” wherein they think and ponder and plan and ruminate.”

    That’s me! In fact, I could copy and paste just about everything you wrote here and say, “Yep!” 🙂

    I seem to need a lot of alone time: reading, playing the piano, going to bed after everyone else does, getting up before everyone else does. Hmmm, maybe that’s why I’m sleep deprived 😛

    A few months ago I read about the INTP (Introverted iNtuitively Perceiving Thinker) personality type, based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and that really opened my eyes to understanding who I am, and why I function best the way I do. It’s a pretty uncommon personality type (only about one to two-and-a-half percent of people fall into that category), but reading at the following link helped me understand better not only myself, but the personalities of my family, too, not all of whom are like me. 😉

    http://www.intp.org/faq.html

    (Hint: at the link, scrolling down about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way gets you to the information about what all the letter combinations representing the various personality types mean. I think it’s helpful to start reading there first [beginning with section 3]; then what’s above it makes more sense.)

    Anyway, loved this post! Lots of validation about embracing who I am and not stressing about failing to be someone else whom God did not create me to be.

    And now it’s time for this introverted mom to face the day; two young ones just woke up. And it is good. 🙂

  4. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for this excellent post! I think recognizing introversion is especially important for mothers. I homeschool and carried my babies with me everywhere. As an introvert, that was just about all the people time I had in me! Yet when I was a young mother I was constantly afraid that I wasn’t “doing enough” or supporting my church community enough. I was anxious and over-extended with church-sanctioned social activities. Whew. So glad I stepped off that merry-go-round.

    • Word Warrior says:

      Isn’t it amazing how guilty you can feel for not “doing what everyone else does”? I have found that the Body of Christ takes all parts too 😉 including someone who might be better at writing a letter or sending a card or some other thing rather than heading up the nursery. And that’s OK.

      • Annie D says:

        Intercessory prayer was invented for introverts!!

        • Lindsey says:

          That made my heart sigh. Seriously. I always feel like I’m not doing “enough” and not sure if that’s God convicting or the enemy’s lies. Nonetheless, I’ve been coming to realize that I do pray quite a bit more than most people as I’ll just see someone somewhere and pray for them. I do this all day everyday without even thinking. I am realizing that this is a gift from God and I should own it. Thanks for saying what you said. It really reminded me that God does use me even when I’m not even thinking about it.

          Side note: I’ve been reading this whole introverted business on blogs I frequent lately. If only 25% of the population is said to be introverted then why does it seem like so many homeschool moms are?! Just seems weird to me. I hate labels but if I’m being honest I think I’m an introvert. I’m definitely not an extrovert!

  5. Darcy says:

    Wow! It’s nice to hear an explanation of how I am! I often tell people I’m an introvert, but they just don’t believe me. It’s comforting to know that not only are there other people like me out there, but have all this information in one place to share with others. I will be posting a link to this on my blog for sure!

    I have often asked God why He made me a mother of 9 (soon to be 10) when I crave quiet and solitude so much. I still don’t know why except for maybe the fact that I needed to learn how to be more extroverted because my husband is definitely an extrovert.

    A funny thing happened the other day–I asked my husband if I could go to a friend’s home business demonstration because I knew there would be less people there than at home. Plus, I had a quiet drive there and home. I think my husband has also learned that just going grocery shopping by myself is a relief to me because even though I am among many people in the store, I’m not directly interacting with most of them and it helps give me some of my quiet time.

    I sometimes wonder if I am expecting too much “me” time, but in reality, it isn’t “me” time I’m looking for as much as it is the quiet.

  6. Kelly L says:

    This is really helpful understanding my daughter! When she was 9, I was trying to encourage (OK, maybe push) her to go talk to some people because she was alone at a HS event. She told me she didn’t feel like it and she was OK being alone. Then she said “Mom, I don’t have a problem hanging out by myself, you are the only one that cares about that.”
    Well then. She likes her group of 8 girls, has sleepovers and group gatherings, but she is always tired afterwards. Now I can understand!

    Do you think it is possible to be both or change from one to another?
    I love having people in our house, we tell our church to use us for housing whenever they want for housing guests. I love having parties and people over for dinners. I used to start to freak out after awhile in large groups or parties, but I have found I do not anymore. We are the household that frequently has groups of tweens/teens over and I actually love it. I wonder if we can change or if it is that whole “dying to self” so my only child can hang out with her friends.
    Has anyone else changed from one to another?

    • Laura says:

      I can understand that! When I was in high school, I had few good friends, and being a good student, spent hours on homework…I also did things that required no one else…draw and paint, play violin, read voraciously etc…and would be alone so much of the time…Then when I went to college, I slowly got so used to people being around that by the time I was a senior, I was doing my homework in the lobby of our dorm, just to be around people! When I got married, suddenly there was no one around anymore! We always figured I would stay home, so I never worked outside the home/or ministry(when my hubby pastored), and have been home since…THe bad part is that while I enjoy our 4 kids, (and hope for more 🙂 ) we have one car, currently, and when hubby goes to work, we are stuck, unless we walk! So we do walk for errands quite a bit around town, but as our church is 11 miles away, and we are new to this region, the last 3 years have been lonely for me… It is fun and encouraging to be around people…though I can enjoy alone time, too if I have an occupation that is something that needs sit down, quiet, focused attention (like sewing or artistic painting/drawing)… But strangely, if I don’t know where I fit in a crowd, I get sort of panicky… We took (years ago) a group of kids at our church to a big autumn gathering with a bonfire and hay ride and I had no part of the planning of it…I wasn’t a kid, but wasn’t really a “leader” and on the way there I had a mini-panic attack! So strange how we morph over the years, isn’t it?

  7. Kristen says:

    I’m an introvert, too. When I was single and living alone, I could come home from teaching on Friday night, not talk to anyone till Sunday morning church and be completely happy. I have a very rich inner life. , or I did, until I had kids, lol. Now I have no “inside time” and it’s hard. But, it’s life and this is a season.

  8. laura says:

    Wow! This described me a “T”! I often need to retreat in order to recharge–and I usually use nursing the baby in solitude as an excuse! I have to do this even when I have a house full of people, am at a party, etc. And, my husband says I am horrible at small talk. It is SO draining! But, I will launch right into deep discussions. Great insight, Kelly!

  9. Brenda says:

    Good read! I’m so glad that introverts are beginning to be a little more understood! The only way that I differ is that I tend to enjoy groups more than one on one interaction. Being in a group takes pressure off of me to hold up a conversation! I really like to fade into a corner and “participate” by observing and listening to others. When I have something valid to say then I’ll chime in but useless chatter is meaningless to me and I am SO not good at it- which equals much discomfort when it’s expected. Many of us are introverts but we don’t look, act or feel the same way in different circumstances. Now that I’m pushing 40…I have finally made peace with who I am and have come to the conclusion that I’m not broke 😉 Getting older and wiser isn’t all bad…

  10. Erica says:

    I must be an anomaly as I find myself flip-flopping from introvert tendencies to extrovert tendencies! I prefer solitude after a day of a houseful. I NEED time to recharge and collect myself. BUT on the flip side I also enjoy time with others in a group setting. I’m the one who “wants” to invite people over – go to places around groups – and be around a variety of people. I find myself capable of basically adjusting to whatever situation I find myself in. Be it by myself or with a ton of people. I am ok with lots of chit chat and nonsense talking, but I also enjoy those in depth really deep discussions. Yet, at the end of it I do occasionally need some time where I can unwind and relax, normally after a day full of running from place to place. It is generally only when I am tired. I use to be a total introvert when I was younger, but a calling to be a youth minister led me to force myself to get up in front of groups of people and it could be possible that I went outside of my comfort zone so much that it has rewired me to be able to handle both situations?!?!?

    On the flip my DH is most definitely an introvert! He dislikes even going to family homes on the holidays and is best when it is small groups of people that we know well. I can recall many MANY times when I literally had to twist his arm to drag him along with the rest of us to gatherings we wanted to attend that he could care less about going to. NOW I know WHY! I can now appreciate how he is built and instead of forcing him to do things I think I will start to back off and let him take the lead in letting me know if he can handle it or not. In fact I feel pretty bad about forcing him to do things in the past. I may need to spend a few moments tonight asking his forgiveness on this.

    It’s funny really because 20 yrs ago when we met we were the exact opposite. He was dragging me to parties & get togethers with hundreds of people, while I wanted to be alone and just around a few close friends. Of course, we have also switched roles in that I am the stay at home parent while he works now and years ago he stayed home while I worked. Possibly staying at home creates such huge amounts of cabin fever that I feel the NEED to get out of the house, whereas he’s out all day every day and now he just wants to stay in and have quiet when he’s not working.

    Maybe I need to spend some time reading up on BOTH so that I can understand my entire family better since we all seem to be an eclectic mix of people in one household. I guess I had never really bothered to think about it. But now I realize that this probably can affect my children & their schooling & social lives.

  11. Ponder Woman says:

    I’m definitely an introvert! For a long time I was confused because I believed the myths about the introverted personality type. I thought that since I love a good, deep discussion I must not be an introvert after all. I also love to spend time with people. But not too much time. The small talk? EXHAUSTING! LOL.

    Anyway, thanks for writing about this. This introvert is off to have a walk about town and run some errands, mostly because she’s thoroughly stressed from the lack of quiet the children have been causing. 😉

  12. Brandi says:

    This was great! I am 42 yo. It took me about 39 years to figure out that I am an introvert. I really always wondered what was wrong with me until I read Sally Clarkson’s definition of introvert and extrovert and I have been building on that ever since understanding why I feel the way I feel so often particularly now with a half dozen children. Great post, Kelly! When we understand ourselves better we get better at being who God created us to be and realizing when He is stretching us.

  13. Ginger says:

    This is very interesting. I’ve always tested as an extrovert and thought of myself as extroverted. If I go more than a week w/o social interaction with friends, I get depressed. But since having a big family (we have 9), I seem to be more and more introverted. Is it possible to change? Or maybe I just need a few minutes every few hours when nobody is asking me a question.

  14. Claudia says:

    Oh, Kelly, thanks for writing about this! There is sooooo much out there on this, and I did see one reader’s recommendation, but wondered if you could recommend any additional reading on introverts vs. extroverts? Someone mentioned Sally Clarkson. I’ll check out some of her stuff I haven’t read.

  15. shirley cox says:

    I read this post yesterday and woke this morning still pondering it and feeling more rested and hopeful because of learning something new about myself.
    I too recharge by spending time alone with the Lord and myself. My young daughter has a home business tutoring children and teaching cooking classes while living in our home. I always feel like I need to entertain the folks who come daily into our home and have been quite exhausted within my heart and body.
    Thank you for bringing this simple but needed truth to our attention. I intend to give myself some time and space to be renewed in the way I am created to be renewed while appreciating the fact that others can and do thrive on continual action and excitement.
    Blessings to you,
    Shirley Cox

  16. Mrs. B says:

    Oh Kelly!
    This is a wonderful post! I would love to share this with some folks in my life who will definitely appreciate it.
    I love the way you qualify the tendencies of the introvert by warning that we can’t use them as an excuse to stay in our comfort zone.
    It really is funny how just understanding a thing–being able to articulate it–kind of lifts a burden off one’s shoulders!
    Thanks again, Kelly!
    BTW-love the beautiful picture of the expectant mama! :-). Praying for you and your wonderful family!

  17. Word Warrior says:

    Mrs. B–“It really is funny how just understanding a thing–being able to articulate it–kind of lifts a burden off one’s shoulders!”

    This is so true. I’ve discovered this with a few other things too that just help you understand what you are dealing with and how better to handle it.

    Thank you, by the way!

  18. Every time I have ever take a personality test–whether online or from a professional counselor–I am never really strong an extrovert or introvert. It’s left me in sort of no-man’s land.

    Then I discovered the term “ambivert” This describes me exactly. I love parties. I love people. I am very social and outgoing and enjoy having people over often. I never say no to an outing or party. But, I also feel so refreshed after sitting all by myself in the garden. I can get lost in a book. And sometimes I just have to get away by myself–to the bookstore or park or wherever and just breathe and meditate.

    This must be why I am so easy to get along with. (LOL!!!!!)

    • Word Warrior says:

      Daja–you’re simply perfect, that’s all 😉

    • Erica says:

      Daja-
      THANK YOU for this comment. You have described me to a “T”…I thought, well maybe I’m just an oddball since I do tend to go both ways, but reading about the “ambivert” personality I know that it where I fit in too! I kept wondering how it was possible to be a little bit introverted and a little bit extroverted all at the same time. Now I see that it’s because I’m neither! 🙂

    • Kelly L says:

      That is so helpful, because I feel like both, too. Didn’t know if I was just the 1%, as usual!

  19. I’m an introvert just beginning to realize that I’m meant to be that way – it’s not a weakness I need to “overcome”. Very revealing for me has been the Gallup Poll’s “Strengths Finder” assessment (http://strengths.gallup.com/110440/About-StrengthsFinder-20.aspx). My son’s company uses it as an employee management tool, but when he told me about it, it sounded like something fun. Out of 34 categories, it tells you which are your top 5 strengths (not weaknesses, for a change.) His fit him to a T. So I took it – most revealing. I scored high on things like input (a craving to know more), learner, and relator (a few close, deep friendships built on trust.) It has a great deal of detail in the assessment – try it. It was even more revealing than learning I was an INTP (Introverted iNtuitively Perceiving Thinker), plus it has more feedback about the characteristics.

  20. Jane says:

    Shhhhh, I just heard a group of ladies who were talking about me!

    After being in a group of people I almost always find a excuse to use the bathroom..

  21. Laundry Lady says:

    Thank you for this. I’ve always been an outgoing introvert and my sister is a shy extrovert. Both do exist. My husband is a quiet introvert but I wouldn’t call him shy. He just prefers to listen rather than talk. It can be so hard as an introvert not to be seen as stand offish or stuck up because sometimes you need to be by yourself. There are times when the last thing I want is to haul my daughter to another play date(she is an extrovert) and make small talk with moms I don’t know very well.

  22. Amber says:

    This describes me to a T! Thanks :). I feel a little less alone in the world.

  23. Alicia Webster says:

    Great article. I am an introvert, but I am trying very hard to be extroverted for the benefit of my kids. It’s like pulling teeth though. I literally have to give myself a pep talk before attending any social occasion.

  24. Donna Hebert says:

    This is amazing! I finally understand my husband always saying he’s an introvert! Everytime he says it people laugh because he’s anything but quiet and shy and anti-social, BUT…..he can’t handle having people over all the time, he loves to sit quietly with no noise and just relax, especially after a large gathering. He jokes alot and says he’s doesn’t like people. This is eye opening. Thanks Kelly! Now I need to go give him the good news! 🙂

  25. Me says:

    I am an INTP, but not all introverts are. there are ISFJs, INTJs, INFJs, ISTJs, ISFPs, etc.

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