In my very first video, I talked a little bit about my introversion. I didn’t really know what direction this channel would go back then, but I think it’s more clear to me now. Like many of you, I’m a Stoicism enthusiast. Lately, I wondered if there’s a connection between my fascination with this ancient philosophy and my introverted personality. Here’s what I think.
In a world that celebrates extroversion, being an introvert isn’t always easy. The strengths of introverts are often overlooked. Seeing the charismatic chatterboxes rising to the top, the strong silent types sometimes frustrate themselves due to the constant lack of recognition.
But what introverts are masters at is spending time alone. And what’s hands down the best way to utilize our solitude? Right: immersing ourselves in philosophy.
Looking at Stoic exercises, no matter if it’s the negative visualization by Marcus Aurelius, journaling or remembering that we’re going to die, I think that most of them are solitary practices in which we actually detach ourselves from life and the outcomes of it. We need a degree of introspection to execute these exercises, and most introverts tend to have strong introspective capabilities. So, when it comes to the practical sense, I think that Stoicism and introversion go well together.
Some introverts, however, have to tendency to live like hermits, isolating themselves from a noisy world that just can’t keep its mouth shut. I admit that I’m quite prone to this myself. I can spend days without talking to a single person and be perfectly fine.
Like many introverts, I do need my alone time to recharge my battery. I love relaxing my mind by walking alone in nature and the idea of excluding myself from society – even if it’s temporary – often crosses my mind.
However, Marcus Aurelius thinks that we don’t need to, literally, run for the hills to find inner peace. He said:
People seek retreats for themselves in the countryside by the seashore, in the hills, and you too have made it your habit to long for that above all else. But this is altogether unphilosophical, when it is possible for you to retreat into yourself whenever you please; for nowhere can one retreat into greater peace or freedom from care than within one’s own soul.Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4-3
Instead of isolating ourselves from the world, we might actually want to practice our power of silence in the midst of people. Many people talk just for the sake of talking and say a lot of nothing about things they don’t know anything about. So, in a room full of blabbermouths, is there a greater strength than the ability to be silent? Epictetus tells us how it’s done, and I quote:
Be for the most part silent, or speak merely what is necessary, and in few words. We may, however, enter, though sparingly, into discourse sometimes when occasion calls for it, but not on any of the common subjects, of gladiators, or horse races, or athletic champions, or feasts, the vulgar topics of conversation; but principally not of men, so as either to blame, or praise, or make comparisons. If you are able, then, by your own conversation bring over that of your company to proper subjects; but, if you happen to be taken among strangers, be silent.Epictetus, Enchiridion, 33
While we shouldn’t isolate ourselves, Stoic philosophers say that we shouldn’t hang out with the wrong company either and engage in vulgar language, like gossip for example.
This means that we might want to be selective in our choice of friends and avoid negative people that bring us down. So, when there’s no decent company available, it’s better to be alone.
Because in aloneness, there are plenty of virtuous things to do, like working on things that reduce human suffering. Or maybe less ambitious; staying away from things that are harmful.
Introverts tend to be the silent listeners of humanity and the ones tend to think and reflect a bit more on life events than their extroverted counterparts. A danger of this is that we overthink and, perhaps, analyze other people’s opinions too much to the point we build up anxiety.
Stoic wisdom can counterattack this by molding our uncontrolled sea of thoughts into a sharpened sword of rationality, so our reflective capacities become our asset instead of our enemy. This way we can, for example, deal with difficult people in our heads, without even saying a word.
Here’s a quote by Marcus Aurelius to show you want I mean:
When another blames you or hates you, or people voice similar criticisms, go to their souls, penetrate inside and see what sort of people they are. You will realize that there is no need to be racked with anxiety that they should hold any particular opinion about you.Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9-27
So, do you think Stoicism is a suitable philosophy for introverts? Or are you an introvert Stoic yourself? Please, let me know in the comment section.