I’ve grown up in a home with parents that are on the extreme ends of this spectrum. My dad is a wise, quiet, extremely intelligent man who can be talkative and expressive but prefers, or at least is more often reserved and happy to be alone. My mom is the opposite. The woman loves parties, people, always has stories to tell and can be heard laughing all the time. I love that about her, but I also love my dad’s peaceful and much more contemplative existence.
I had always thought I needed to be one or the other; I couldn’t be both and whichever one I was I needed to figure it out and then either be like my dad or like my mom. Problem: I am like them, I’m like both of them and therefore, unlike either one. I have individual tendencies that I ignored for a long time as I struggled to fit into a definition of myself that didn’t fit.
Growing up I believed that I was an extrovert and that I needed to be hanging out with friends ALL THE TIME. I continued in that philosophy in high school and early college but as I began to progress in my education I realized that I preferred the quiet sanctum of the library to the noisy social areas on campus. I’d rather be inside, snug and secure amongst some cherished books than outdoors with . . . people.
Talking to a friend I told him, “Well, when I’m at school or work I can be extroverted but when I get home I’m introverted”. He said, “Molly, that’s not how it works, you’re introverted all the time but you’re able to socialize and enjoy it – the difference is that people drain you rather than excite you, but you can still like talking to them” – in other words, being an introvert doesn’t mean I have to be stuck in a library all the time or that I should be an extremely socially awkward person. Thank goodness!
It’s taken me many years to come to the conclusion that I am an introvert; but I am learning that I am not my dad’s version of it. I am a blend of both my parents and while I lean much more strongly into the introverted spectrum I’ve realized that I’m allowed to feel like talking, socializing and going places – it doesn’t mean I’m being fake or insincere, it means I’m actually being more real, more ME than I’ve been before.
I see some of the differences this way,
You might be an extrovert if:
- people energize you and make you feel alive
- the idea of solitude is terrifying to you, you’d rather be with some good friends or out for a spontaneous evening of fun
- you have many friends that are easy to keep up with and small talk doesn’t make you cringe
You might be an introvert if:
- people drain your energy instead of replenish it
- you enjoy times of solitude and seek them out as a treat for yourself
- you are imaginative, perhaps romantic and probably sentimental – these are signs of your inner-self at work and parts of us that most extroverts I know don’t really access.
What are you?
If you still have questions about introversion or would like to know more about how it is being discussed in the media today check out this video link: Susan Cain: The power of introverts. The book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking also by Susan Cain (yes, the speaker in the video link) is available at your local bookstores and ready for you to peruse. She has some absolutely fascinating information and statistics on introversion and extroversion and no matter where you fall in this spectrum, her information will help you to understand yourself and those around you in a deeper and more insightful way.
So, be honest with yourself, where do you fall in this spectrum?
Has accepting this been difficult of you?
How do you appease your introverted/extroverted needs?