What does an introvert look like?

-Alexia M. Larcher

Everybody knows how to spot an introvert, right? If you paid any attention to cultural depictions of introverts, you would say that introverts:

  • wear glasses
  • are clumsy
  • are thin
  • are pasty white
  • wear plain and unfashionable clothes
  • have skin problems
  • have bad posture
  • look boring

In short, you are looking out for some sort of version of Bill Gates. Dr. Laurie Helgoe, author of Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, found that both introverts and extroverts consistently described the physical appearance of introverts using some of the terms listed above. However, she also found out that introverts used much more colourful words when they were simply asked to describe themselves.

We think that some people are more likely to be introverts because of how they look; however, introversion and extroversion relate to how the brain processes information. When scientists compared PET scans between extroverts and introverts, they realized that normal thinking, for introverts, involved more areas of the brain and included the frontal cortex, which is responsible for long-term memory and planning. It’s one explanation for why introverts get so tired when they socialize: they become quickly overstimulated with all the cues needed to sustain face-to-face conversations. And if we can define modern life in one word, it would be “overstimulating”: public transit commutes, loud music in coffee shops, heavy traffic, crowds, parties, shopping malls, cubicle parks and meetings all day, constant chatter, music festivals in parks, flashing advertising, apartment block neighbors, packed restaurants, construction noise and neighbors renovating in their backyards.

Eventually, we all have to leave our homes to mingle, to work, or to see our families and friends. We’ll share some tips and tricks on how to use your strengths as an introvert to be able to handle the more common situations you might face.

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