I am going to break the news right off the bat, I already know I am attempting something impossible. I know that I cannot perfectly define the word introvert and I do not think you can either. In fact, I do not believe anyone on earth can, nor do I believe anyone on earth ever will be able to define the word introvert.
In fact, I believe whoever first introduced the word introvert, which I understand to be the wellknown Carl Jung, into the dictionary did not define the word perfectly. I he knew well what he was doing and made a very thoughtful attempt, which I am sure is a more helpful definition than what I could have written, but I still firmly believe even his definition is not perfect.
I give these technicalities because I believe it is important to know that you and I, just like Carl Jung who first introduced the word introvert into the English language, are merely trying to communicate together to describe and understand people and their behaviors. We will never perfectly be on the same page, but I believe it is important and valuable that we continue trying.
Merriam Webster Dictionary defines introvert this way:
: to turn inward or in upon itself: as
a: to concentrate or direct upon oneself
b: to produce psychological introversion in
: a shy person : a quiet person that does not find it easy to talk to other people
When I see Merriam Webster’s definition, I find myself focusing on the phrase, “to turn inward or in upon itself.” That is definitely an action, a verb. So, how does that help me better understand the word introvert?
It certainly helps, but I want to take some more time to look at it in another way. I think it helps to look at the opposite definition, or a synonym. So, I am going to change the wording of the definition that will give me a definition for the opposite of introvert, extrovert. One opposite definition would be, “to turn outward or out towards others.”
Okay, I think that is clear. So, in a period of time, let me say, 5 seconds. In five seconds, I have a chance to do one thing, and it is either “to turn inward or in upon itself,” or “to turn outward or out towards others.” Let me say, I looked inward, because that is what I normally do, so I introverted.
Let’s keep going. Now, I have two periods of time, or 10 seconds.
I want to stop right now and tell you something about myself. I am a numbers guy right now as the title suggested. I work at an investment management company during the day and I mostly focus on financial planning for individuals and families. So, I tend to think of problems, etc in numbers, percentages, fractions, etc.
Okay, back to defining. Okay, so now I have two periods of time, or 10 seconds, and I have the ability to do two actions. I normally look in, so I both times I acted by “turning inward or in upon myself.”
Let’s keep going. Now I have three periods of time, or 15 seconds, and I have the ability to do three actions. I normally look in, but I sometimes look out, so two times I acted by “turning inward or in upon myself,” and one time I acted by “turning outward, or out towards others.”
I would love to keep going, but I do not want to bore you, so, I am going to get to the point.
Let’s imagine a bizarre scenario together. Let’s say I was only given those three periods of time, or 15 seconds to live. That is all I had, just 15 seconds to live. I was born at the age of 25, and I am going to die at the age of 25 and 15 seconds. If I only live to be 15 seconds old, and that gave me time to only do three actions, those three actions are really going to define who I am. Those three actions are going to carry a lot of weight in as to what my identity is.
Now for the conclusion, the best way I know how to roughly define introvert. If everyone on this planet was given 15 seconds to live, and they could only do three actions in those 15 seconds, I think an introvert (noun) in this scenario is the person who “turns inward or in upon itself” either two or three times out of three. Likewise, I think an extrovert is a person who “turns outward or out towards others” two or three times out of three.
So, all of this to say, I think it’s a numbers game. I think being an introvert or an extravert comes down to a thorough, lifelong analysis of the total actions a person takes in their life. I know it is unrealistic, but if you could break down all the actions in a person’s life into either an introverted action or an extraverted action, I would simply define an introvert as a person who engaged in more introverted actions than extraverted actions. Likewise, I would define an extravert as a person who engaged in more extraverted actions than introverted actions.
If 51%+ of your actions throughout your day are introverted, than on that day I consider you an introvert.
If 51%+ of your actions throughout you Labor Day weekend were extraverted actions, I would consider you to have been extraverted that weekend.
If 51%+ of your actions in the month of August were introverted actions, than I would consider you an introvert for the month of August.
If 51%+ of your actions in the year 2014 were extraverted actions, than I would consider you an extravert in 2014.
If 51%+ of your actions since the year 2000 have been introverted actions, than I would consider you an introvert since the year 2000.
I think of the definition of introvert as a numbers equation. I personally believe balance is very important. So I personally strive to be balanced in my extroverted and introverted actions, because then I think I will be mentally and emotionally at my healthiest if I do. I cannot prove that, that is personal intuition. I personally started an introvert, and I would still consider myself an introvert. I am determined to be the healthiest person I can be, so I do not want to always want to be introverting, I want to be balanced. I want to experience more of what extraversion feels like too. I believe it can be done, and that is what I am journeying towards.