Robert Pattinson, Salvador Dalí, introversion, shyness and sensitive people
Shyness, introversion and high sensitivity may overlap with each other, but they are distinct personality traits.
Elaine Aron, PhD, notes, “Shyness is learned, not innate. In fact, 30% of HSPs [highly sensitive people] are extraverts, although the trait is often mislabeled as introversion.”
So by her reckoning, 70% or so of sensitive people are introverted. Of course, like any trait, there are degrees and levels and sometimes we may feel and act introverted – but at other times or places, extraverted – such as many shy or introverted actors or musicians are when they are performing. (For more, see the Highly Sensitive Persons site.)
Actor Robert Pattinson has said, “I’m sort of introverted. I mean I always think I’m introverted and then I find out from people that I’ve told them literally everything about my life within about two meetings so I can’t be that introverted or I could just be really shallow.”
He commented about portraying surrealist artist Salvador Dalí in Little Ashes (2008): “I didn’t want to get stuck in pretty, public school roles, or I knew I’d end up as some sort of caricature.
“Playing Dali has been a complete turning point for me. It’s the first part I’ve had that has required really serious thought. I became completely obsessed with Dali during the filming, and I read every biography I could get a hold of. He was the most bizarre, complex man, but in the end I felt I could relate to him. He was basically incredibly shy.”
Was Dali shy?
“The only difference between me and a madman,” Dali once said, “is that I am not mad.”
He was born in the Spanish fishing village of Figueres, nine months after the death of his toddler brother–who had also been named Salvador. His fellow students at the Madrid art academy later described Dali as “morbidly shy.”
Nevertheless, he stole his beloved Gala away from her poet-husband Paul Eluard, and embarked on a life he rightly called “one tragical sequence of exhibitionism.” (From YOU'RE LOOKIN' SWELL, DALI... CONSIDERING - Newsweek.com .)
What is introversion?
In his Atlantic magazine article Caring for Your Introvert – The habits and needs of a little-understood group, Jonathan Rauch explains a bit about the distinction between introversion and shyness.
“What is introversion? In its modern sense, the concept goes back to the 1920s and the psychologist Carl Jung. Today it is a mainstay of personality tests, including the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say “Hell is other people at breakfast. Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.What about shyness?
“Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially “on,” we introverts need to turn off and recharge.
“My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn’t antisocial. It isn’t a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: I’m okay, you’re okay—in small doses.”
One summary is provided by Carol Bainbridge at About.com:
“Being shy has little to do with being an introvert! Shyness has an element of apprehension, nervousness and anxiety, and while an introvert may also be shy, introversion itself is not shyness.
“Introverts are more concerned with the inner world of the mind. They enjoy thinking, exploring their thoughts and feelings. They often avoid social situations because being around people drains their energy. This is true even if they have good social skills.
“Introverts make up about 60% of the gifted population but only about 25-40% of the general population.”