How much introspection is unhealthy for an introvert?
Today’s question is from Veronica. She’s an introvert and she’s feeling like she’s being criticized for being too introverted by some of her more extroverted friends. She asks:
“In your experience, how much is an unhealthy amount of introspection for an introvert?”
This is a fantastic question because we introverts are often criticized for opting for fireside reading instead of going to the pub and all that good stuff! So thank you, Veronica, for asking this question. It is a pleasure to answer this.
The very first thing I want to say is that introverts and extroverts need different amounts of introspection because of their natural wiring. Just because we’re introverted doesn’t mean we need to just be introverting. Just because extroverts are extroverts doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be introverting or introspecting in their time. We all need different times in the inside as well as in the outside world.
Fantastic question Veronica! If this helps you, you might even want to forward this on to your extroverted friends. It might make a little bit more sense to them coming from somebody other than yourself because sometimes we can feel like we have to defend our position, whereas normally - and I have said this before- most relationship challenges come from misunderstandings and miscommunications. So if it helps you to use this video, by all means go ahead and use it and forward it to your friends.
There are a lot of positives in introspection. I’m going to cover 4 today.
1.The first of the positives is that you’re pretty good at Pros and Cons, and covering all the bases by asking yourself “What are the facts here? What are the things that I need to take into consideration before moving forward with any kind of decision?”
That’s a positive. For example, one of my clients was creating a really complex piece of work, a course they were creating, and they had to bring together not only the learning that they wanted to impart to their students, but they also needed to bring in enough humour to make it interesting and palatable. They also needed to bring in a timeline for that course in order for it to be in small enough, bite-sized chunks for it to be consumable, that a person could be able to take it in and utilise it and actually use those learnings. That was something I helped that client with. What they did a lot throughout the process of creating that course was going into that introspection to figure out “Does this piece of information fit here? Does this actually help them go from what they already know to the next piece of information that they need to acquire in order to follow through the whole process?”
If you’re very introspective and you have certain parts within your cognitive capabilities, particularly Inward Facing Thinking, then you’ll be really good at this.
2.The second thing that is really good is tapping into what feels authentic to you. Instead of being at the receiving end of the world and other people’s agendas, if you’re introspective or you have Inward Facing Feeling within your cognitive capabilities, what you’re able to do is to tap into “Is this truly authentic to me? Does this feel like the best usage of my time? Do I need to do this in order to feel complete within myself?”
What we tend to do if we don’t have Inward Facing Feeling capability we tend to go through life jumping into different things without having that checkpoint within us to ask “Is this actually what I want to do?”
Another of my clients struggled massively with this because they didn’t have that capacity to introspect on a feeling level, and what happened was they just kept going from one profession to the next, to the next, to the next, and these professions were all about what other people wanted her to do. When she realised that she doesn’t have to do that, that the most important point of reference that she has is her own and how she feels about it, she was able to really move into her own direction to become the leader of her own life, so to speak. That the capacity to understand what feels authentic.
3.The third positive with introspection is having the capacity to understand complex constellations of information and how those pieces of information relate to each other. Highly introspective people can be very innovative and can be really inventive. You might come up with ideas which might never have been thought of before where you can bring one piece of information together with another piece and make it into a new discovery or, even if somebody else has also thought about it, a discovery that expands the shared consciousness in the world.
That's quite an etheric way to try to explain that! Let me give you an example: I’ve been doing all kinds of different pieces of work as a professional person, leading up to this point of what I’m doing now. Each one of those things brought an element that allows me to now do this job a lot better. For example I had a career in classical and orthopaedic massage and pain management, and when it comes to mentoring people I have the capacity to understand that if their body is not flexible their mind isn’t flexible either. So if somebody is in a lot of physiological pain, they cannot take in and implement information or learnings from what they’re studying. In the Integration Mentor Program for example, where people are a part of becoming mentors themselves, teaching the 4 People Within®️concept to other people in their corner of the world, that is very important! But also, for everyday students of the 4 People Within®️, of healing, of development, and particularly the Myers-Briggs model, the more loose and flexible we are in our bodies, the more loose and flexible we are in our minds, and the more we’re able to take in and implement.
4. The final really positive thing about introspection, to my mind, is that being introspective allows you to create deliberate habits, meaningful traditions, and a memorable legacy because you stop to really think about the actions that you take. You stop to sense what is going on around you and what is important to you. Take me as an example: I don’t have Inward Facing Sensing in my immediate cognitive stack. I have to learn that in order to utilise it as a tool. So, that form of introspection, I don’t personally excel at. I’m working on that to get better at it. What that means is I can get swayed by what’s coming my way instead of building those habits that actually create success in my life and bring me closer to my goals. I tend to say “I’m going to try this, and this! This is what’s going on now, ok, I’ll just partake in that!” as opposed to sticking to the habits that will help me create my success. I’m also not big on traditions such as people’s birthdays. I’m not big on my own birthday! I have to be really careful that I don’t forget people’s birthdays. Those are the kinds of things that you can benefit from with being introspective if you happen to have that Inward Facing Sensing faculty in your immediate capability.
So, to my mind, those are the amazing things about introspection. Then there are things that are perhaps not so great:
1.When we rely on introspection too much, what tends to happen is that we stop becoming industrious and effective in the outside world. So we don’t get stuff done. For example, I have a client who is highly introspective and highly introverted, and they often have a lot of struggle and frustration around not getting their day-to-day stuff done, not getting to work toward the bigger vision they have. So, they have the vision but they don’t have the capacity to get outside of the thoughts and go out there and implement it. That’s something that happens, for sure, with people who spend ‘too much’ time in introspection. Whether it’s too much or not enough depends on what you want from your life. Nobody else gets to choose whether something is too much or too little for you.
2. The second thing that tends to happen with staying too much in introspection, if you want to create meaningful relationships, is that you don’t get to do that. If you’re spending too much time in your own thoughts and feelings you don’t share those thoughts and feelings with the people who are around you generally. So, with people who have Inward Facing Feeling, their feeling faculty is inward facing and they are more naturally focused on how they are feeling than sharing that with the outside world. INFPs and ISFPs in particular, who lead with that part of themselves, can have a lot of frustrations and hurt about not having meaningful relationships, not having people who actually see them and understand them as they are. When the feeling faculty is facing inward, which means that it’s not naturally shared with other people, it’s not something that allows us to then connect to other people.
Asking questions, such as “This is what’s important to me. What’s important to you?” can be challenging. Spending too much time in introspection around your own feelings stops you from taking action in the outside world to create those meaningful relationships because relationships don’t just show up. We’re all infatuated with people from time to time, we’re all sometimes thinking that a person is perfect until we have to start building that connection or love or trust with that person. Relationships are built when they are meaningful, they don’t just show up.
3. Another thing that you might miss out on if you’re doing too much introspection (from your perspective) is creating a hopeful future. Here’s what I mean: a lot of people who spend a lot of time in introspection can get depressed and can lose a sense of hope because they don’t see all the different opportunities that are out there in the world. I am very guilty of this from time to time. From 2017 I had some family based PTS (Post Traumatic Stress) coming up and I wasn’t able to function in the outside world because the hurt from my childhood came back and really caused havoc in my life. So I was forced to spend time in introspection to find my sea legs, so to speak. I wasn’t out there in the world seeing everything that was possible. My world view then narrowed to the point where I could only see what was immediately in front of my face. I couldn’t imagine the possibilities that could be there, I was focused on the possibilities I felt were the only ones.
Thankfully, I know that I have the capacity to pull myself out of that when it happens. When this is particularly destructive is if you’re not aware of what’s happening and you just keep zooming in. I would much rather work with a person who is aware of when they’re struggling and knows what to do about it than the person who just says “Oh, there’s no such thing as PTS. If you have that then there’s something wrong with you.” I don’t believe that, and I think that’s one of the reasons why I see the amazing parts of introversion and introspection that are there. When someone knows that what they’re doing is not conducive to the life they want to build, then they start to have the tools to know how to get out of it.
But, if you have one thing after another in life, like losing people or natural disasters, and that goes on for a long time we can lose a sense of possibilities out there and zoom in too much on the possibilities that we perceive. That might be a limited amount of possibilities.
4. Finally, if you spend too much time in introspection it might stop you from enjoying the here and now. Oftentimes people complain that they’re too serious, or have too many serious things going on and they don’t have the space to be fun and impulsive. That’s something that can happen if we’re too much in introspection and don’t share that part of us in the here and now. Something that can really work for introverted people is mindfulness practices because that’s all about here and now. That can ground us as introverts into our lives, instead of always staying in the inner world of our thoughts and feelings. We can, for sure, struggle with not being present enough to ground ourselves into our lives. Gratitude goes hand in hand with that because if we’re too distressed to be in the present moment then we can’t see the things we’re grateful for, we can’t feel gratitude for what we do have in our lives.
Those are the thoughts that came to my mind around this question. To answer the question you asked Veronica, my observation and experience is that introverts who feel like they are living a purposeful life, who are happy and have meaningful relationships, spend about 60% of their day in introspection and 40% in extrospection. It’s the other way around with extroverts. When extroverts feel like their on purpose, living their best lives and having meaningful connection with themselves and others, they spend about 60% of their life in extrospection, and 40% in introspection.
So, those are my findings around that. Thanks for asking that question and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please let me know in the comments what is your main takeaway. Are you one of those people recognizing that you might be spending too much time introspecting, and maybe that’s stopping you from having the meaningful connections you want, or building your purposeful life? If that’s you get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and well connect you with one of our certified Integration Mentors who can start asking you some questions, giving you some possible next steps, and some momentum towards the life you want for yourself.
Thank you for sharing this space and thank you for being a part of my vision for the world to be more compassionate and more effective. We can all have that!
I wish you a day full of wonder!
I’m Merja Sumiloff. I’m the Personality Decoder and I show my clients and people who come to me how to heal and grow your relationships without massive disruption to your day-to-day life.