An Open Letter to Introverts Who Feel Broken

dear introvert open letter to introverts

Dear introvert,

I see that you’re hurting. And I think I know why. Like so many of us quiet, sensitive souls, you feel broken. You see yourself as that beat-up old stuffed teddy bear with a missing eye, and limp limbs. You aren’t puffed up and outgoing like the other bears. Your personality seems dull in comparison to theirs.

Somewhere along the line, someone told you that they had the magical cure for your brokenness. They told you that the antidote to your pain was to put on a new personality – one that was shinier, more talkative, and more enthusiastic than your true self. They told you to do more and feel less. While you’re at it, stop thinking so much for goodness sake!

You took their medicine, and I guess you know what happened next.

It seemed to work at first, but it had strange side-effects. The harder you tried to be up and on all the time, the more exhausted and empty you felt. When overwhelm set in, you began shutting down, and pushing people away. This made you feel even worse.

“Why can’t I just relax and have fun like everyone else?” you asked yourself, as you checked your watch for the tenth time. What you were really wondering was …

“Why can’t I just be an extrovert? Life would be better – I would be better – if I could just fix my personality.”

Needless to say, the extrovert’s quick-fix for introversion never works. And it’s not because it makes you exhausted and irritable. Or because it eats away at your soul. Or because it forces you to live life on someone else’s terms. These are all consequences, but they are not the true reason why trying to fix your introversion doesn’t work.

The real reason is that you can’t fix what isn’t broken. You are an introvert. You like people, but sometimes you like your alone time more. You think deeply, and choose your words carefully. You enjoy different pastimes than the extrovert down the street.

None of the above makes you a bad person. In fact, there are billions of other people who share your preferences.

So, let’s try a different approach, shall we?

Let’s try on a little self-acceptance for size. Instead of trying to fix or cure, let’s celebrate our strengths. For the longest time, I saw my quietness as a fatal flaw, a sign that I am not friendly, or feminine enough. Now, I see it as just another piece of the intricate mosaic that is my personality.

Alongside my quietness, there is also intuition, wisdom, and an ability to read between the lines. Sure, I speak slowly and pause often, but I am singing on the inside. Those who matter can hear my silent song.

They’ll hear yours, too.

What about you, dearest?

Have you ever felt broken as an introvert? Did you try the extrovert’s quick-fix? And what did you learn in the process?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Lots of love,

Michaela-Signature

45 Comments

  1. I needed to read this so much today… A genuine masterpiece Michaela, as always!
    *insert dancing minion gif here” 🙂

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    • Glad it was timely for you, Marko! 😀

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      • I also am doing the jazzle shrieber dance whatever that means…im just so happy. That silent song business had me in tears too. well done !

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  2. Thank you Michaela,

    I enjoy reading your posts and have started to impliment somethings into my life like taking more time to just be still and in solitude. Im enjoying being alone more and find it very relaxing now that ive got to grips that it is perfectly okay to need time and space away from all the noise.

    Im also doing more of what I enjoy without worrying about what others think.

    Feeling at peace and today is being very kind to me indeed.

    All The Best.

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    • That is so good to hear! I’m happy that you’re learning to enjoy your space without guilt, and that today is being kind to you! xo

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  3. I love your writings. I do believe some may think introversion is a problem and see a person that is quiet as having a problem. I like the way I am and have no desire to be pressured into being anything else. I love my introversion although I am working on my confidence but believe building this will make me happier in my introversion skin. To be more confident in who I am without the need to feel I have to fit in anywhere but moreso just to be me and be happy with that.

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    • Thanks for sharing that Carolyn. Simply to be happy and confident in your own innie skin is a great goal. It’s one I’m always re-committing to. 😉 xo

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  4. I would like to make comments but, the only way I do is by pen and paper and sent by the US postal service (snail mail). What I need is a mailing address to send my comments to you. I can explain why with pen and paper but, not with a computer. thank you

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    • Hi Chuck, I don’t give out my personal mailing address, but you can reach me by email through my contact page. 🙂

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  5. Thanks for all the inspiring words! I’ve felt broken and I’ve tried the extroverts cure also and let me say that it’s not comfortable at all. Thank you for making me realize that I should love the way I am.

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  6. Thanks to you and your amazing articles I don’t see introversion as a problem anymore. On the contrary, I feel proud of my quiet ways, and infinitely more calm and happy in my own skin. I can explain myself better and understand my needs better as well. Thank you for that! 🙂

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  7. I have always felt like I was broken or like something was wrong with me because I am an introvert. My mom even used to tell me I was backwards and needed to try harder. Thank you for your writings, I am 41 and finally starting to feel that I’m OK and there is nothing wrong with me.
    Sincerely,
    Brandi

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  8. Thanks for this beautiful letter. So vulnerable … I especially like the image of the tired Teddy. Such a tender and vulnerable message. So true and obviously resonates for many of us.Thanks for these beautiful words and message Michaela.

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    • My thoughts exactly, thanks Michaela

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  9. if only i had your information when i was growing up. I’m totally cool with myself now but in grade school, felt like an outsider and couldn’t figure it out. Could you please teach this to schools THEY NEEEEEEED it !!!

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  10. Very timely. Coming out of my third crash into major depression, stemming from the anxiety & stress of trying to “be up” or “be on”. It truly is exhausting.

    Thank you for your encouragement to just be the best me I can be without betraying me.

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    • Hi laura. I’m laura too. 🙂 I’ve struggled with depression on and off my whole life. Knowing what I know now I truly believe it was caused by being an introvert living in an extroverted world. I have felt like there is something wrong with me my whole life. I get it now but after many years of the same records playing in my overthinking head well I still struggle. The demands I have put on my self for thinking I was just a selfish person is actually really sad. Still to this day I can’t get my family to realize my needs. Mainly the need for SOLITUDE. You know that down time that rejuvenates the mind and the soul. Hope you don’t mind me responding. It’s just hard to believe there are other introverts out there who understand because I personally am surrounded by extroverts. And IT IS exhausting. Take care of yourself Laura.

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    • Yes I find the stress of having to ‘be up’ and ‘be on’ especially exhausting. Especially when I am doing it for my son. I find Christmas the most difficult as that is when you are supposed to be most ‘up’ and ‘on.’ But really any holidays and even weekends exhaust me. I feel like a failure.

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  11. I have always felt invisible. The only time I tried the extrovert thing was when I was drinking. Always thought that was the true me, That it could only come out when I was drinking. Still feel invisible.

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    • Exactly the same. I feel as though I can’t socialise with people unless I am drunk because sober I must be too boring.

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  12. Michaela, I am so grateful to have found you and your writings!

    the parallels are amazing and the messages timely … thank you and keep sending out your thoughts, feelings, observations, experiences, etc

    much appreciated

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  13. Hi, I have been kind off into the fantastic world where I can suddenly start to understand what and why I am me, why I’ve always felt kind of “different” – I don’t like that word in this setting, because I understand that among many it could sound like if I see myself as in any way netter or even more worth and also that I, in my own eyes, did see myself as one who has more the right to live my life – I do use it here, cause I have a feeling that you wil understand.. I have also thought about living it out, so to speak, by joining a webinar or something, but atleast I found my inner strenght and decided to say “Hi, my name is Monica, happy to find you guys!”!
    I have been trying to fix myself sooo many times that I have comed to realize that No matter what, I am stuck with me, and that is ok, I don’t need to be understood, called weird or told I should simply do this or that, meaning outgoing activies witch includes spending hours and hours together with people who actually ENJOY this kind of sosialising and I am sooo not good at this! 🙁 It drains me for any energy and I often need hours and days to get back to ME. Now, I have lead a life that has thought me some hard lessons, I still haven’t found my way to cope but I feel like ut could happen sometime soon. My beliefe is that my life broke down because a serie of things not beeing what it seem, bad luck, bad choises, my family and the issues we have, but maybe most of all joining what I thougt was “my people”, meaning those who did not judge me or make fun og me beeing me, at the same time in my life I had an eager to not be a part of my it. I needed some kind of getaway, and I thught I’d found my escape from reality when I met Mary Jane and my snowball started rolling… This way I got in touch with what people like, well, most people I guess, could consider a bit frightening maybe, hanging around in parks and sometimes on streetcorners… Now, looking back, I had no choise – even when they too started asking what I was doing there, that I was to “straight” (as we say in Norway) and I should get off this carousel while I still had a chance, it was to late, I care for people and I already was to attatched to those I willingly let into my heart and my home – after I got my own rental apartment of course…). I was, this is at least 25 years ago, already to damaged to see me as a special human with some rare qualities and a good heart, if I hadn’t gotten my getaway trough smoking weed I would probably not been alive today. Because I didn’t understand or see the bigger picture, and I therefor led a reckless and hazardious life, not caring about my own safety and wellbeing. I willingly let others use me as their doormat on a rainy night, I showed (still I struggle…) little or no self respect and this behaviour also led me to where I find myself today – no close friends that I know of, no respect from my surroundings, afraid to be social, I am even scared to leave my apartment most days. Not because me being lazy or not friendly, but because I am to scared to meet someone I know, my experience, my guts and everything tells me what my heart can not handle; I am not accepted, my socalled friends laugh behind my back, and I have not once gotten angry enough to speak my mind. No wonder they think I’m stupid… Had I known a bit earlier that I am supposed to be like this, I might be weird and strange but the world could use what I have to give, when I find my folks, Who respect and care for me, who does me good and lets me do what I enjoy doing – caring for everyone, taking of those who can not care for themselves, this gives my days a deeper meaning and now… Sorry to take so much time and space, now I realized I must change my ways… What I was saying was had I known earlier, beeing a introvert is different than I knew, it’s great and it is horrible, but it is ok!! Sending my love to you, Michaela, for opening my eyes and to anyone else who read this. <3''

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  14. Like most introverts, I learned in grade school that my personality was wrong. People labeled me as standoffish (according to my mom), and as weird. I was also the nice, quiet girl who was supposedly hard to get to know.

    Many kids saw me as an easy target for abuse until they knew from experience that I would fight back physically. Verbal harassment came later. It’s not always obvious like physical bullying.

    Our (western) culture sees it as a good thing if we aspire to get attention, because after all being outgoing is confident, right? 😉 Meanwhile, to be satisfied with being “bookish” and studious is boring and plain. Tongue still firmly in cheek, I can say that I “just had to put myself out there” and “open myself up” to be a normal person, like everyone else apparently was.

    I guess that I did the extrovert’s quick fix in college, especially in my junior year at main campus (Penn State) where the population was a great deal more diverse than the little town where I was raised. I did make friends. My grades suffered though. I was full of anxiety even though others couldn’t see it. I couldn’t concentrate. So much of the negative conditioning I had messed me up.

    It WAS nice to have friends who largely thought that I was cool, though a few didn’t really get me. I haven’t really worked out why I cared so much what those people thought who didn’t understand me. In college, the academic tendecies that I had should have bloomed.

    The end result in my opinion is that I never felt like it was o.k. to be reserved, thoughtful and so on UNLESS I was also outgoing. Switching between the modes was not easy.

    Honestly, I feared being left out and/or overlooked, so I became the shallower extrovert more and more.

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    • P.S. I do have some empathy, especially for my mom trying to get me to change my personality. I still have difficulty accepting my personality, and I certainly have not felt like I am finding it to fit in the workplace or in my personal life, save for in my spare time. My hobbies are pretty much solo hobbies and almost always have been.

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  15. Michaela, call the fire department because you are on fire!!! 🙂 You are just pumping out one amazing article after another…. You are just a wealth of inspiration to everyone. Talk about making connections. This is what it looks like when an INFP is in a flow state, in case anyone hasn’t seen what those with this personality type can do with their mad Ninja Literary skills. You are such a hard worker with a tender and open heart, just adorable and strong. 🙂

    #SuperIntorvertwoman

    Sorry for bragging, (not really) I just see you as someone to brag about in public. 😉

    I keep forgetting to answer questions, lol Well, my problems seemed unique, I’d talk when I need to be quiet, or I’d be quiet when I was expected to talk, I had 4th world problems I guess. Sometimes I was an alien among aliens, I didn’t make sense to myself let alone introverts or extroverts, often I felt like I had a stamp on my forehead that read
    “Quarantine” I had friends, quite a few in fact but I still often felt alone growing up. I never however had a problem liking myself or accepting myself for who I was, quirkiness and all. Others found me either amusing and facetious, or outright bizarre, asking “where the F$%K that came from?” was a common saying by others. One thing I did though was know I had a choice in who I was to be everyday I awoke from my slumber, and knowing that the only person in this world I’m competing with is who I was yesterday. I was lucky I think to have good people around me and good mentors.

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  16. It’s been hard to fight the stigma (and there is a stigma) when on a nice day people will describe you as quiet, or shy, and on a bad day, weird 😉 My toughest days were in high school but as I grew older I think I just stopped caring what people thought. I do take refuge in nature, dogs, and literature. I am happy to have found your Facebook page, though. Reading your posts has been encouraging. Our role in books and movies hasn’t been very positive. And how we are seen and diagnosed behaviorally through the scientific lens has not been favorable either. We always seem to have something “wrong”. I do believe that by holding each other up, the old “weird” can become the new “interesting”. Even, perhaps, respected and desired. Personally, I think we’re kinda’ cool 🙂 Thanks, your work is needed and valued.

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  17. Keep sharing your insight, Michaela. We introverts so need to hear this. As a child/teenager in the 50s and 60s I was often told “you are such an introvert” and it was NOT a compliment. I definitely thought something was wrong with me. Wish I’d had your understanding back then. Now as a thriving, joyful, fulfilled 65 year old I am sooo thankful for the life insights introversion has gifted me with. Thank you for reaching out to introverts. Looking back I wouldn’t be anything else. You are a blessing!!

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  18. Thank you for everything you share. It is uplifting and helps me realize that the feeling I have of something being wrong with me isn’t wrong. It is just who I am! I have always been labeled as a snob and a cold person because I am quiet. The extrovert way just leaves me feeling bad. I am also an INFJ.

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  19. I grew up in between two sisters who were so much alike and I was the oddball in the middle. They were extroverts, very outgoing, and very coordinated and athletic. I was the introvert, very shy, reserved, and very uncoordinated. While as a child, I hated being different, I have now come to accept who I am. I have one issue that I struggle with and am wondering how to resolve it. All my life, whenever I was asked to give my opinion, I was always too shy to respond and would always remain passive and just follow the leader. Now, I have begun to express my opinion but because people are so used to me going along with them, they don’t take me seriously and if I have a different opinion, they often see me as being defiant and rebellious. It seems that I have to work twice as hard as an extrovert would, just to have value seen in my opinion. How can I get people to take me seriously and has anyone else experienced this?

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    • Wow, Kim! I feel like that a lot lately.

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  20. Wow! Nice truth there. I keep trying and then I wonder what people think about me, I mean when everyone else is smiling or having funny small talks. People also keep commenting on my silence. Well, this brings my morale down…
    Thank you,

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  21. I understand that it’s okay to be quiet, but I’m very sensitive to the way other ppl feel uncomfortable around me because I can’t seem to follow the social Script. I alienate ppl I would really like to get to know. Some ppl I feel okay with but others I lose the ability of speech. I’d like to say ‘look, I’m not crazy I just have no words today, but you go ahead and I’ll just nod along’, but not everyone is equipped to cope with that level of awkward honesty.

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  22. There is a little theory I have it seems to make sense to me. Someone once told me that there are people who create their own energy (introverts) and those who take it from others (extroverts).

    For instance an extrovert is perfectly fine being alone, and being lonely is practically unheard of. Being alone is relaxing and energizing.

    For extroverts they frequently feel lonely and NEED/Crave human contact. And thus derive their energy from others.

    (NOTE by energy I’m not referring to magical forces and such, just the amount of “brain stamina” you have. Studying for a test? Uses brain energy. Feeling mentally exhausted from concentrating all say on work/school. Brain energy. It’s the reason introverts are often mentally exhausted from talking to certain people.)

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  23. Thanks Michaela, for your truly inspiring articles and emails that have been landing in my inbox since I joined your group. I too am feeling happier with my introverted self.

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  24. Hi Michaela,

    Another thing which I found interesting from your email including this link. That you felt groggy after your weekend’s activities. I can relate to that!

    On a Saturday my husband and I go over to take his elderly father out for a ride in the car and we go to the supermarket to buy groceries for him. he stays in the car while we go inside to do the shopping. Being a Saturday the shop is always busy and the car park is also busy. By the time we get home I am completely exhausted and was putting it down to getting older! But now I’m beginning to think that it is partly due to the introvert part of me being overwhelmed by so many people. I have to have a quiet afternoon to recover.

    Interestingly Father in Law is a complete extrovert. Alan says he should have been on the stage as he always needs an audience! He has a member of the family visiting him every day and a carer every morning. But if he hasn’t got someone keeping him company ‘all the time’ he thinks he’s lonely. When he hears that I have spent the day on my own doing things around the house or going for a walk, he says “Good Lord!” as if that is really strange. I think he would like it if I went round every day to keep him company, like that’s going to happen!

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  25. This made my day. My stugfle was that I wanted to be like those who were outskpoken and seemed to draw attention. I tried that and I fell flat. Jokes were not funny. I didn’t make sense at all. People didn’t get the point of what I was saying. So I decided I will be quiet unless I have something to say or I’m asked to say something. If I do, fine. If I don’t, fine.

    I’m still discovering myself. Hehe.

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  26. This is great! I’ve been tormented my entire life for my “shell” and my personality (INFJ), by family members, friends, bosses, ect. It’s so great to finally understand that this is just who I am and it’s ok. I finally feel like I’m really ok after all.

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    • I’d echo the same Monroek

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  27. This hit home. I can read it over, and over, and over again. Thank you! It is such a good feeling to know that I’m not alone in these feelings.

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  28. spot on Michaela, lovely piece

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  29. Spot on Michaela ,

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  30. Hi Michaela,
    A huge thanks for helping me recover from the depression for being a failed-extrovert. I still get depressed time to time… but I feel much better than I previously was.
    I often use these lines from my favourite poem to encourage myself to go back to my original introvert nature… So I thought to share it here.

    Joy’s like a Lark that lives alone,
    Whose ties are very strong, though few;
    But pleasure like a Cuckoo roams,
    Makes much acquaintance, no friends true.

    Joy from her heart doth sing at home,
    With little care if others hear;
    But pleasure then is cold and dumb,
    And sings and laughs with strangers near.
    (From Joy and Pleasure by William Henry Davies)

    I love the entire poem, but this part is the best! Do give a read if you haven’t before.
    Love,
    Violet.

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  31. I am an INFJ. Thank you so much for your open letter! It has helped me to feel better about myself. Recently, a woman, who I had not seen for years, told me that years ago she did not like me because I was so quiet. She went on to say that she does not like quiet people because she doesn’t know what they are thinking which makes her nervous. Her words, which I have heard many times before in different configurations, cut like a knife. It is ironic that now she is my private painting tutor, she says she likes me and that I am one of her favorite students. I believe she feels this way because, in this one-on-one situation, she has gotten to know me. In a recent group painting class, a student said “Sharon sure is quiet down there on her end of the table”. Including myself there were only four of us in the room but she was speaking like I wasn’t even there, which mentally maybe I wasn’t lol! Some people can chat away while they paint but usually I have to concentrate to do my best work. Why do people feel free to be so rude and judgmental? My entire life I have felt cursed and broken with a quiet personality. Thank you for a fabulous site for introverts, I am so glad I found you.

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  32. Amen! 51 years old and JUST NOW accepting that…there ARE consequences for inauthenticity….just as that are equivalent consequenceses for being authentic. By now, even I know that the worst (greater of two evils) is the consequence garnered by lying; lying to myself and to others is the same…it’s all lying (still not sure if denial is the same thing…of is it just living in the blind spot until harsh reality sets in to blow the mind apart).

    I have tested as an INFJ since my 20s. Oddly, though…sometimes I now test as an ENFJ (progress in that now I’m more comfortable and less drained by socializing??? Maybe…or…perhaps just a fluke of mood, after all…INFJs ARE moody). I have felt like THE most broken person in the world. The shattering consequences of being SELF aware, and by and through that, Über aware of all human beings (that damn empathy is a torturing magnifier of feelings! Ugh!!!!).

    For 20 years, I’d found my Niche as a Hospice nurse. Changed fields late in life by going into prison health care. Want to talk about being an empath in an environment where common culture demands empathy be shut down? And what do you think an idealist INFJ empath does in that environment?

    Let me just say…I broke myself. I burned out completely…and the galvanization of ideals nearly destroyed my soul (maybe not THAT bad, but sometimes it’s hard to separate out what is mind and what is soul). The image won’t leave. I see evil everywhere now.

    And now…I intimately know the shadow of compassion…the required degree of truely what it means to “Sit with suffering” of my own making by and through my own choices (compassion: to sit with suffering…and shadow compassion is sitting with the suffering of your own making).

    I’m on the mend, my dears…and you all have my utter empathy. I feel your pain…and I know our collective suffering.

    It hurts to keep moving, but in that hurt, too…is compassion. Know you are, none of you, alone.

    Thanks for the venue of sharing.

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  33. I am new. This was the first article I clicked on.

    When I was young, 16-21-ish, I often wrote about “the gap between myself and my soul.” I always felt that I have always been living as a soul when comfortably hidden inside my head or alone with my piano, versus my portrayed person on the outside. I have been slowly closing the gap ever since. It does sometimes catch people off-guard when I speak as mysoul. But I am happy now because I am not afraid of who I am or stuck on the shaking bridge.

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