The Misunderstandings of Being an Introvert

I was born an introvert, probably inheriting it from my mom who, as I recall, was a very private person. Compounding the introversion was my extreme shyness, a maladaptive behavior reflective of feelings of inferiority and abandonment.

The two are sometimes mistakenly viewed as synonymous when, in actuality, they are quite different. The only thing they have in common is the outer appearance of being quiet. An introvert person can confidently speak and be leaders. A prime example of a non-shy introvert was Mahatma Gandhi. Shyness can be managed through therapy or other modalities, whereas introversion is genetic, an integral part of one’s personality.

It took many years of therapy and psychic visitations to conquer my shyness. When I took the Myers-Briggs personality test I scored as the maximum introvert on the introvert/ extrovert scale. As the leader of a company pioneering the way in changing nursing homes, it was often requested that I speak before groups. This was never an easy thing for me but most of the time, once I got going, I went with the flow. I was never even sure how the words were coming out of my mouth or who was speaking them. When I was on I would startle myself, saying things in ways I had never expressed before.

Introverts and shy people are greatly misunderstood by the public. Many see them as arrogant, aloof or having feelings of superiority. Nothing could be further from the truth. Outer appearances belie the desire to be quiet or be alone.

Bob Dylan, an extreme introvert himself, summed up this reality in a verse from his song “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar”:

Try to be pure at heart, they arrest you for robbery.
Mistake your shyness for aloofness, your shyness for snobbery.
Got the message this morning, the one that was sent to me,
About the madness of becomin’ what one was never meant to be. 

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