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Shy or Introverted or Highly Sensitive in the Arts

Many actors, writers and other creative people are considered shy or introverted, or identify themselves as one or both. These are not the same thing, of course, although many people may talk about others, or themselves, as “shy” when they are perhaps introverted. More on the distinction later.

But why would Introversion fit so well with creative expression?

Psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung identified it as a core personality trait, and The Myers & Briggs Foundation page “Extraversion or Introversion” describes qualities for Introversion: “I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.”

J.K. Rowling-in-cafeOne example of these qualities: J.K. Rowling – who notes on her website that she first had the idea for Harry Potter in 1990 when she was traveling alone on a train: “I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea before. To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one…”

She added, “I did not have a functioning pen with me, but I do think that this was probably a good thing. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, while all the details bubbled up in my brain…”

[This photo is also used in my post: J.K. Rowling on creative imagination – which includes a video clip from her Harvard Commencement Address.]

“I always try to be myself. Ever since I was an introverted kid, I’d get on stage and be able to break out of my shell.” Beyonce Knowles

“I’m actually very introverted. I’m very shy. I’m very emotional.” Fashion designer Tom Ford

[Both the above from Introverted Quotes – no attribution is given, so you’ll have to presume they are correct.]

Tom FordMore quotes by Tom Ford:

“After just being in New Mexico for two months, I realized that I could really work from anywhere. I am really a loner after all; I am really not a social person.

“Because of my job people think I am out every night, but I really hate all that. I am somebody who likes to be alone and see some close friends. I am a shy and introspective person.”

From post: Tom Ford: I am really a loner after all, The Talks.

Kim BasingerKim Basinger: “As a child, I was very shy. Painfully, excruciatingly shy. I hid a lot in my room. I was so terrified to read out loud in school that I had to have my mother ask my reading teacher not to call on me in class.” [From post: Is it a disorder, or just shyness?]

“Because I’m such a shy person, having to live it out loud in front of everyone has made me a stronger woman, so much stronger, that it’s been a gift to me in a way.”  [From post: Dealing with fame – or not.]

[Kim Basinger is among a long list of famous people who are reported to have suffered from anxiety. See article: Celebrities with anxiety and panic attacks.]

In her article 16 Outrageously Successful Introverts, Huffington Post editor Laura Schocker includes the quotes by Rowling, and an anecdote about singer Christina Aguilera being interviewed by Gaby Wood for Marie Claire magazine, who noted “Besides being petite, she is, it seems, shy. She tells me that she has always been ‘intense and introverted’ and that, as a result, she’s felt like an outsider her entire life.”

This sense of being an “outsider” as shy or an introvert is probably based in part on how much our culture emphasizes extroversion and sociability, plus commonly reported statistics over the years that introverts are in the minority.

But the article Percentage of Introverts declares: “The real number based on the first stratified random sample by the Myers-Briggs organization in 1998 showed Introverts 50.7% and Extroverts 49.3% of the USA.

Shyness or Introversion or Both?

Barbra StreisandOn her blog Quiet: The Power of Introverts, author Susan Cain notes Bill Gates is an introvert, but not shy, and Barbra Streisand, who famously suffers from stage fright, is a shy extrovert.

Cain notes, “Shyness and introversion are not the same thing. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments.

“Some psychologists map the two tendencies on vertical and horizontal axes, with the introvert-extrovert spectrum on the horizontal axis, and the anxious-stable spectrum on the vertical. With this model, you end up with four quadrants of personality types: calm extroverts, anxious (or impulsive) extroverts, calm introverts, and anxious introverts.”

Cain is author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D., M.F.T., is an author, researcher, psychotherapist and authority on introversion. In this clip from an interview (for the Mensa Education and Research Foundation) she talks about introversion versus shyness.

Dr. Laney has on her site a long list of “famous introverts” including:

Joan Allen, actress
Harrison FordCandice Bergen, actress, writer, photographer
Ingrid Bergman, actress
Ellen Burstyn, actress
Glenn Close, actress
Audrey Hepburn, actress
Helen Hunt, actress
Clint Eastwood, actor/director
Harrison Ford, actor
Tom Hanks, actor
Steve Martin, all around talented guy
Noah Wiley, actor
Emily Dickinson, poet
Bill Keane, cartoonist
Gary Larson, cartoonist

Helen Huntand many others – see more in my post:  Marti Olsen Laney on Introverted Advantages.

“I think I’m a weird combination of deeply introverted and very daring. I can feel both those things working.”

Actor, director, writer Helen Hunt – from post: The Creative Personality: Both Extroverted and Introverted.

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> Continued in Part 2.


Shy or Introverted or Highly Sensitive in the Arts

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2013). Shy or Introverted or Highly Sensitive in the Arts. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Sep 2013
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