Can we please stop treating extroversion as the default and introversion as a defect?
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

As we all know, there's a wide range of personalities out there. Some of us have tons of friends and acquaintances and love to spend our free time socializing. Some of us have a cadre of companions, but prefer cuddling up on the couch with a cup of tea and our own company. Many of us find ourselves somewhere in between, enjoying spending time with other humans and also needing our alone time.

We've come up with labels for these different personalities—the social butterflies are extroverts, the social hermit crabs are introverts, and those who flip back and forth are ambiverts. Extroverts get their energy from being around other people. Introverts charge their batteries in solitude. Ambiverts need both.


There's nothing inherently wrong with any of these personality traits, of course. People are who they are. Where we run into trouble is when extroverts are portrayed as the default or ideal, and introverts are seen as defective.

This is what happens. All. The. Time.

Let's say your friends invite you to go out on Friday night, but you're wiped out from a week of people-ing. You don't want to disappoint anyone, but you'd honestly rather sit at home and watch a movie by yourself. You might be open to inviting one good friend who you know won't talk during the film, but that's it. Going out to socialize with a bunch of people—even people you know and love and enjoy spending time with—just sounds draining.

RELATED: 10 comics explain what it's really like to be an introvert.

That's a pretty standard introvert scenario, but it can cause consternation in extroverts who don't understand why going out isn't a stress release for everyone. Responses from "Is everything okay?" to "What's wrong with you?" get tossed at the person who feels fine but just needs some down time. No, I'm not depressed. No, I'm not mad at anyone. No, I don't hate people. I just need to be alone for a while to let my batteries recharge.

Part of the reason society automatically views introverted habits as problematic is because there is some overlap with habits of people experiencing depression or other mental health struggles. Isolating oneself can be a sign of something wrong, but that doesn't mean it automatically is.

And what's interesting is that we almost never see extroverted habits as signaling something wrong. Someone who goes out and socializes regularly is simply seen as fun and outgoing. Rarely do you see anyone say, "What's wrong with you that you don't want to be alone?" or "What feelings are you avoiding if you have to be around people all the time?" Our society values sociability and rewards extroverts—not only with opportunity (extroverts have a clear leg up when it comes to job interviews), but also with the emotional benefit of the doubt. Wanting to be around people is seen as healthy. Wanting to be alone is a seen as a warning sign.

And then there's the emphasis—or overemphasis, perhaps—on talking in our society. Westerners value "speaking your mind" and the public sharing and debating of opinions has been a hallmark of Western civilization since ancient times. If you go out to any public place in the U.S., you'll see people talking—a lot.

People converse everywhere, of course, but a year of living in Japan showed me that being with other people doesn't automatically mean constant talking. In our culture, silence feels awkward and people feel the need to fill the empty space. In Japan, friends chat, but there's no weirdness in silence and no expectation of small talk with strangers or acquaintances.

Small is very much a part of American culture, but that doesn't mean it comes natural to all of us. For introverts, small talk is often painful, and can make us feel like we don't fit in within our own culture. But again, making small talk is valued as the norm and people who struggle with it are seen as defective. Nevermind that perfectly healthy people from other countries have to learn the art of American small talk, especially those who come from countries where it's not only uncommon, but inappropriate to chit chat about unimportant things.

RELATED: We Can't All Be Extroverts. Just Ask This Once Painfully Shy, Famous, Talented Introvert.

My introverted husband once took an Uber after a long day of working with people. He got a negative review from the driver, who simply wrote, "Not much of a conversationalist." This was a person my husband paid to drive him someplace—why the expectation of chattiness? I have no doubt that my husband was courteous—he's never not courteous—but he was quiet. And for wanting to sit in silence and think instead of shooting the breeze with a stranger he'd likely never see again, he was seen in a negative light.

Thankfully, awareness of the value introverts bring to society is slowly growing. There's no shortage of quippy memes and comics and tweets about #IntrovertLife. We have articles explaining how some habits of introverts can serve as healthy examples for everyone, as well as books like Susan Cain's "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking." But we still have a ways to go in changing societal perceptions of extroverted vs. introverted tendencies.

Let's embrace the positive aspects of all personalities and honor what each individual brings to the table—even when that means a table for one.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."