Introverts have always gotten a bad wrap.
That’s because they’re associated with a myriad of negative connotations. They’re called arrogant, aloof, loners, reclusive, anti-social, strange, awkward, and the like.
Some of these personality traits can seem a bit on the dark side to some, but you have to get to know an introvert more intimately to understand why they come across the way that they do.
Why do introverts have that “doom and gloom” aura surrounding them? Are they simply misunderstood?
Well, it’s complicated, but here are ten reasons that might shed some light on their “dark” side.
1) Teamwork doesn’t make the dream work—for them
Extroverts are energized by people, while introverts are inspired by ideas.
They abhor the idea of spending hours in noisy meetings “full of extroverts spouting off half-formed thoughts,” says psychologist Liane Davey. It drains their batteries and they just don’t have the patience for it.
Introverts like to think things through on their own rather than brainstorming in a room of clashing opinions. It’s not that they think theirs is the best idea, but they’re definitely of the “this meeting could have been an email” kind of persuasion.
Of course, to the boss, this might seem like they don’t want to participate or don’t care about other people’s ideas. In reality, they don’t see meetings as very productive. They see them just as a way for people to air out whatever is on the agenda.
Introverts would rather put their energy into being efficient. Teamwork distracts from that and they hate being in the presence of people they don’t like.
They also don’t like the idea of having to sell themselves.
2) They overanalyze anything and everything
Whether you’re overthinking the off-hand comment your partner made about your side of the family, or the constructive criticism your boss related to you in an email, no doubt this is one of the dark sides of being an introvert.
The thing is, this one might be untreatable, says Tina Roumeliotis from Introvert, Dear—an award-winning community for introverts.
According to one study, researchers determined that the introverts they studied actually had higher levels of electrical activity in their brains than extroverts.
“It didn’t matter whether the introverts were resting or doing a task,” says Roumeliotis. “They all showed more brain activity than extroverts.”
3) They would rather be all alone
This isn’t a negative trait to have: lots of people enjoy their own company and love being by their lonesome—but this is perceived as being antisocial.
Introvert might even go as far as to label themselves as such.
“Being around others is tiring for them, [and] they need time alone in order to regain some of their energy,” says Carol Bainbridge at VeryWellFamily.
“Being alone also gives them a chance to think and figure things out uninterrupted.”
It might seem like some kind of dark, strange character flaw to want to spend the majority of your time alone. But the reality is that introverts prefer to preserve their energy for things that are important to them.
4) They can be hard to get a hold of
Speaking of anti-social, introverts don’t live and die by their phones. They might forget to charge it on the weekend or leave it at home while they go for a long hike.
Or they take their sweet time getting back to people and don’t subscribe to hustle culture.
Introverts also rarely initiate conversations—in text, and especially on the phone where they would have to, you know, actually talk.
5) They don’t really live in the real world
It’s no dark secret that introverts prefer to live in their imagination. Here they’re in control and they can create an inner world to their heart’s delight.
They also live in their heads for more practical reasons.
“An introvert will often compare old and new experiences when making a decision, which slows the processing down but leads to carefully thought-out decisions,” say Liz Fosslien and Mollie West from QuietRev.
“This means that introverts have an active dialogue with themselves and usually walk around with many thoughts in their minds.”
They might get a lot of flack for daydreaming and not paying attention. They don’t mean to shut the world out, it’s just that their inner lives are so much more enthralling.
6) They are almost always a little (or even a lot) anxious
We’re not saying that if you’re an introvert that that automatically means you must have anxiety.
But statistically speaking, introverts have a tendency to be more anxious than ambiverts or extroverts, says Yadirichi Oyibo from Diary of an Introvert.
“This occurs because we’re more in our shells and tend to be concerned about letting ourselves out.”
This is particularly true in social situations, says Oyibo. “If an anxious introvert manages to have few social interactions, they end up worrying about how they acted or if they handled things well.”
This can be subtle or overt.
In overt situations this can look like struggling to breathe, sweating, or reliving over and over a situation that happened months or even years ago.
7) They might wear a mask in public
Not literally, of course, although for some introverts that might be an idea.
We’ve talked about how introverts aren’t into the social scene.
Another “dark” aspect of their personality is that they come across as something of a mystery.
That’s because they don’t like to talk about themselves, or offer up information, especially to people they barely know or who they aren’t close to.
They’re also slow to trust, so they think twice before revealing anything about themselves.
“If you’re frequently described as quiet or scheduled, it’s most likely that you’re a controlled or prevented introvert,” say the people at MeanIntrovert.
“People who come under this classification often tend to be less outbound and a lot more reflective than various other introverts.”
They say that if you’re a controlled or inhibited introvert, you may feel like you need to put on a mask when you’re around others.
“This can be exhausting, and it is necessary to keep in mind that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being withdrawn.”
8) They have a habit of making fun of themselves
There are layers to peel back on this one.
There are a number of reasons an introvert might be self-deprecating.
One is that this way they can turn the attention away from exposing a deeper part of themselves. Keeping it “surface” and lighthearted can be easier for them to endure.
The deeper discomfort is of being ridiculed or rejected.
So they feel they may as well beat others to the punch.
This can be a way of reprimanding, belittling, undervaluing, or disparaging oneself, says the team at Patience Gunbona. “[It’s a way of] being excessively modest. It can be used in humor and tension release.”
Introverts might do this in social settings because they feel a sense of imposter syndrome and believe that they don’t belong. Of course, this can come from low confidence and self-worth.
9) Their eyes aren’t exactly the windows to their soul
We mentioned how introverts are innately mysterious.
But it’s not just what they don’t say. They are also hard to read. They don’t wear their heart on their sleeve.
Are they sad? Angry or annoyed? Happy? In a silly mood? There’s really no way to tell from looking at them.
This is because introverts don’t like to let their emotions show and are extremely guarded about them. They don’t like to seem vulnerable.
10) They can be pretty pessimistic
It’s true that introverts are the most optimistic of people.
Especially when it comes to stressful situations, they don’t see how positive outcomes are possible, says Cliff Harwin from Highly Sensitive Person Publishing Company.
“They usually find the worst case scenario,” he says.
They’re the ones who might believe that they’ll be passed over for the promotion, or that the person they want to ask out romantically will automatically say no.
You don’t have to feel depressed if you resonate with any of the above “dark” traits
There is nothing wrong with having the above “dark” traits; being an introvert doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you.
For example, English actress Emma Watson once said in an interview that people often applauded her for not being a party girl—especially in such a party-loving industry like Hollywood.
Watson felt like there was something wrong with her because she wasn’t extroverted like other people in the industry.
With time, she realized that there was nothing wrong with being introverted and she was happy with who she was.
Tuning into your introverted nature can help you become the person you were meant to be.
Actress Scarlett Johansson—an introvert who rarely gives interviews and avoids social media—says that her favorite actors are those that are enigmatic and exude an air of mystery.
“They never make the more obvious choice in terms of the projects they do or who they work with or their craft.”
So why not embrace your dark side?