I wonder if introversion is sometimes confused with social anxiety.
I’ve heard people describe their introversion as shyness or difficulty being around people or reluctance to make new relationships.
But to describe it in that way is to misunderstand introversion. Introversion isn’t about social comfort as much as where people get their energy – how we recharge our batteries. Introverts recharge by being alone. Extroverts recharge by being with people. “Ambiverts” recharge by being alone or being with people.
I believe that when such people are trying to describe their introversion they are actually describing their social anxiety – fear of being around people; fear of being rejected; fear of being humiliated. The former is part of their temperament; the latter is part of their heart and mind.
Both introverts and extroverts have social anxiety (believe it or not). The danger for introverts is that they dress up social anxiety as introversion thereby opting out of social openness, gracious hospitality, and kingdom witness with their neighbors. The casualty is not only missing out on the mission but also the formation of God driving fear out of our hearts with God’s perfect love.
The truth is that I know some +10 introverts who are some of the most fruitful evangelists, church planters, and public speakers on the planet. Their introversion is an asset rather than a hindrance for their work.
Cards on the table: I’m an ambivert. I consistently test in the middle of the introversion – extroversion scale on Meyers-Briggs. I usually lean a bit to the extroversion side. This might surprise those who know me – that I’m not more extroverted. My wife is actually more extroverted than I am, and she is less “up front” and “in the center” than I tend to be.
All that to say, I don’t have an agenda to shame introverts. I have too much introversion within me to do so! And I realize that it’s an extroverts’ world – lots of introverts are pressured to act like extroverts. I’m not suggesting that.
I’m simply wondering if we would be more available to joining God in God’s work in this world if we – both introverts and extroverts – paid attention to the social anxiety that inhibits us in relationships. I think we would be.
How do my musings compare with your experience of temperament and social anxiety?