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Shy or Introverted or Highly Sensitive in the Arts – Part 3

[Continued from Part 1 and Part 2.]

Emma WatsonEmma Watson on being introverted:

“People say things to me like, ‘It’s really cool that you don’t go out and get drunk all the time and go to clubs,’ and I’m just like…I appreciate that, but I’m kind of an introverted kind of person just by nature, it’s not like a conscious choice that I’m making necessarily. It’s genuinely who I am.”

She refers to the book ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain, and notes it discusses how “if you’re anything other than an [extrovert] you’re made to think there’s something wrong with you.

“That’s like the story of my life. Coming to realize that about myself was very empowering, because I had felt like, Oh my god, there must be something wrong with me, because I don’t want to go out and do what all my friends want to do.”

Those quotes are from the interview article I Want It to Be Worth It: An Interview With Emma Watson by Tavi Gevinson, Rookie mag.

[Also see article Shy and sensitive and drinking at parties.]

Emma Watson’s quotes are also used in the article 16 Outrageously Successful Introverts (by Laura Schocke, The Huffington Post), which includes a slideshow: “6 Things You Thought Wrong About Introverts” – that lists some common stereotypes, such as “introverts are socially awkward loners who abhor large crowds and just don’t like people very much. An introvert may not be a particularly friendly or happy person, but… they’re smarter and more creative than the average extrovert.”

One slide says, “It’s important to note being an introvert doesn’t innately make you a loftier, or more innovative, thinker. Extroverts are, of course, often incredibly intelligent and creative; there’s just a good chance that their best ideas happen while they’re in a more reflective, or introverted, mindset.”

Another slide comments on one of the mental health challenges for inner-directed people: “Most introverts don’t connect solitude with loneliness, unless it becomes excessive. That being said, although introverts do not innately have more depressive personalities, they do tend to spend more time thinking and analyzing — and if this turns to ruminating, it could potentially lead to depression.”

That idea is supported by author Sophia Dembling : “There’s a definite link between rumination and depression. Because introverts do like thinking and being alone, we need to keep ourselves in check.”

[See links to her blog The Introvert’s Corner and book The Introvert’s Way on the Resources page – link at bottom.]

Introversion and extraversion are complementary

Albert EinsteinIn her article The Gifted Introvert, Lesley Sword (Gifted and Creative Services Australia) notes, “Western civilisation today is dominated by the extravert viewpoint. Extraverts are more vocal than introverts and are more understandable than introverts.

But introverts “form the majority of gifted people,” she notes. “Moreover, it appears that introversion increases with intelligence so that more than 75% of people with an IQ above 160 are introverted.”

She adds, “Introversion and extraversion are personality types: two complementary ways of operating in the world. People have both introversion and extraversion in their personalities  and so are not limited either to the inner world or the outer world.”

Creativity coach Jenna Avery quotes Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative:

“It’s not a rule by any means, but many creatively gifted people tend to display a natural tendency toward introversion. Perhaps the isolated nature of a lot of creative work is what calls many of us to our chosen profession to begin with. We love to get lost in the process of moving big conceptual rocks.”

Avery explains, “To be clear, while not all introverts are sensitives, all sensitives are introverts in the classic sense of the word ‘introversion’: meaning that we recharge our energy by having time alone.”

Those quotes are also used in one of my books – see excerpts at: Being Highly Sensitive and Creative, with more quotes by multiple writers.

Johnny Depp“A little outside”

“I’m able to express better the feelings of those who are a little outside. I don’t consider myself an outsider, but neither completely integrated in the society… Tim (Burton) and I share this kind of sensitivity, this way of understanding or not understanding the world.” Johnny Depp

From post: Sensitive to Anxiety and Depression.

This feeling like an outsider is something I think many of us who are introverted and highly sensitive have felt, and it can be compounded by experiencing shyness.

Charlie Kaufman is one of my favorite screenwriters: “Being John Malkovich”; “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”; “Adaptation” and others.

The bio on says he is “introverted then [in high school and earlier] as he is now, Kaufman nonetheless appears to have been well-liked by those who knew him, though there’s little doubt he felt like an outsider.

Charlie Kaufman“Always very smart, he was a good student but not outstanding. He was anti-establishment, so school was not his priority, and he spent all three years in the TV Company (an elective for the study of TV production) and in the drama club.”

Sophia Dembling comments in her book “The Introvert’s Way” that “introverted movie stars like Julia Roberts tend to get famous when they’re in extrovert mode — acting, chatting it up on talk shows, making red-carpet appearances.

“Then, as soon as they can do so without risking their careers, movie star introverts retreat into a well-protected life, keeping tight control on who sees them when and how. Johnny Depp is a good example of this. When he’s not on-screen, he lives mostly out of the public eye.”

For several years (in the past) I wrote film production articles and interviewed many actors; especially on ‘major’ movies with big enough budgets, each of the main stars had their own private trailer to retreat to when not working. Not that any actor who has a trailer is therefore an introvert, of course, but I think Dembling’s comment is true about many actors maintaining a private, even reclusive, life when they don’t have to be shooting or promoting a movie.

Fluff and Listicles

Introversion has lately become a fashionable buzzword. There are many people who write about it knowledgeably, in the context of psychology and sociology, but there are plenty of examples of writing that is misinformed or dubious at best.

A recent HuffingtonPost article, for example, is titled “7 Signs Kanye West Is Secretly An Introvert.”

In his article 23 Signs You’re Secretly a Narcissist Masquerading as a Sensitive Introvert (on his Scientific American blog Beautiful Minds – ‘Insights into intelligence, creativity, and the mind’) cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman discusses that article, and others:

“If I see one more listicle about introversion, I’m going to cry. It started out with the fairly reasonable ’31 Unmistakable Signs That You’re An Introvert.’ Sure, many of the items on the list offered an exaggerated version of introversion, but there were some real gems that had a large grain of truth…”

dog-with-headphonesHe lists the article “22 Signs Your Dog’s An Introvert” which includes this image. Cute, sure – but the caption, in support of the article’s title, is “He often wears headphones with no music playing, in the hopes no one will try and talk to him.”

Kaufman continues:

“You’d think that’d be enough for a lifetime of listicles. But no…  they kept coming, mixing together many different traits under the general umbrella ‘introversion.’

“For instance, some lists include shyness-related behaviors, but it’s well documented that shyness is not the same thing as introversion. Shyness is more related to being anxious and neurotic. There are plenty of introverts who prefer alone time but really aren’t anxious or shy when interacting with other people.”

He notes that another “common misconception perpetuated by these listicles is that introversion and sensory processing sensitivity [the personality trait of high sensitivity] are the same thing”, and posts this quote from ’23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert’:

‘While extroverts tend to get bored easily when they don’t have enough to do, introverts have the opposite problem — they get easily distracted and overwhelmed in environments with an excess of stimulation.’

Kaufman explains, “Actually, sensory processing sensitivity is not the same thing as introversion. There are plenty of socially introverted folks who can deal with loud sounds and bright lights, even though they may get emotionally drained from too many superficial social interactions.

“Vice versa, there are plenty of socially extraverted individuals who get overstimulated by sensory input. A number of studies support that idea that sensory processing sensitivity is much more strongly linked to anxiety (neuroticism) and openness to experience than introversion.”

In his book Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined Kaufman refers to a fascinating and “clever experiment” by Darya Zabelina and Michael Robinson, who “had college students imagine either that their classes had been canceled for the day or that they were their 7-year-old selves in the same situation. 32 Participants imagining themselves as children came up with more original responses on a test of divergent thinking, and the effect was particularly pronounced among introverted participants.”

Anchorman - the movieA final quote, from my post To Be More Creative, Be An Introvert, by science journalist Winifred Gallagher:

“The glory of the disposition that stops to consider stimuli rather than rushing to engage with them is its long association with intellectual and artistic achievement.

“Neither E = mc2 nor Paradise Lost was dashed off by a party animal.”

To be fair, much creative work is also accomplished by people who are more predominantly extroverted – and this quote could as well refer to the trait of high sensitivity.

People – perhaps especially creative people – are complex.

See long list of Introversion Resources (articles, sites, books).


Shy or Introverted or Highly Sensitive in the Arts – Part 3

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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Emotional Health Resources - Programs, books, articles and sites to improve your emotional wellbeing.

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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2019). Shy or Introverted or Highly Sensitive in the Arts – Part 3. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Mar 2019
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