What’s an introvert? How does introversion affect us at work and play? In our friendships? In our search for meaning and happiness?
I’ll explore these and other timely questions about introvert life in this column, as an introvert entrepreneur, artist and journalist.
Want to ask a question? Just use the email below.
P.S.: Even if you don’t think of yourself as introverted, you may find some helpful info here. Why? Because, to paraphrase Ben Franklin, we assume our differences divide us only to find we share common ground.
Today’s introvertastic question: What’s an introvert? And isn’t it the same thing as being shy?
The quick answer: Introverts aren’t shy by definition. But shy people definitely can be introverts.
If this sounds like a chickens and eggs situation, I hear you. But honestly? It’s more about murky branding. And Latin.
The roots of the word are key
Let’s start with the Latin: The “vert” in introvert comes from the Latin vertere, which means “to turn.”
“Intro,” as you may have guessed, is Latin for inward or within.
To turn inward. Hmmm. Are you picturing a turtle pulling its head back into its shell? Or perhaps, a peanut worm. These invertebrate bottom dwellers possess an “Alien”-style neck that zoologists call a “retractable introvert.” Retractable, like those pens with the little button on top that makes their ink-infused points appear and disappear. Introvert because inwardly mobile.
A spineless worm that hides its head. Not the kind of mascot we’d choose to represent awesome selves, do you agree?
The good news is?
The peanut worm’s introvert has to do with its anatomy. So, unless you can pull your head and neck down into your chest cavity until it touches what yoga teachers politely call your root chakra, the peanut worm does not accurately illustrate you.
More good news? A more accurate introvert mascot would be our brain’s prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that considers things. Focuses our attention. Ponders consequences.
A study by Randy Buckner, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Harvard University, has found the prefrontal cortices of introverts contain larger, denser gray matter than average.
This denser gray matter creates more internal pondering power. Kind of like a computer with a bigger processor — and lots of self-awareness. (It also offers more room to worry. But let’s not worry about that right now.)
Thinking just looks quiet
To the outer world, it’s true an introvert who is actively thinking can appear quiet.
And yes, shyness also can appear quiet.
But, that doesn’t mean an introvert who is happily ruminating about the meaning of this thing, the consequences of that thing and their possible interconnections to some other amazing thing is feeling shy.
There’s potentially a party going on in their head. But for now, at least? They’re the only person who’s been invited to the party.
Startle this thoughtful introvert out of their happy place by asking them to speak up on the spot in a business meeting or social gathering? They may wish they were that peanut worm. And act like one.
But that’s a story for another day.
Have a question about introvert life? Write to email@example.com
Sharon Glassman is an introvert lifestyle journalist and creator of Smile Songs gifts. She is also a Longmont resident.***
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