I like the way my sister describes it best. She is a career counselor at a large university. Her title and responsibilities are much more impressive than that, but that’s her passion. Helping students find their calling in life and she is very well versed in personality testing. (Go check out her blog!). She says to think of yourself as an iPod. You are down to 1% left on your battery and you need to recharge. Do you recharge by being around lots of people and action (extrovert) or do you recharge in solitude and quiet (introvert)?
I’ve always been on the extrovert side. As a child I loved people and parties and being the center of attention. In high school I was very social and outgoing. I was a bubbly and energetic cheerleader with no qualms performing at a pep rally in front of the whole school. I ran for class offices and served on committees and I was always where the party was. The more the merrier and my social calendar couldn’t be full enough. In college I felt a tiny shift. The sorority I was in felt a bit overwhelming at times and I stuck mostly with a small group of friends but I still had a very active social life. I could small talk with the best of them and be extremely charming when need be. In my 30’s I felt another shift. I wasn’t as comfortable around people I didn’t know. Once I got to know someone they would be surprised at how nice I was and easy to talk to because their first impression of me was sometimes stand-offish or even snobbish. My husband and I still entertained and went out a lot but I found myself hiding in the bathroom at times just to get a breather and regroup. The large groups felt stifling. I found my large circle of friends dwindling a bit and preferred a smaller group. I took a personality test at this point and found I was 50/50 introvert versus extrovert. I was teetering on the line and easily swayed depending on the day or my mood. I believe I officially made the leap to being an introvert in my 40’s. Small talk is torture for me, but a one-on-one conversation with the same person becomes meaningful and sincere. My job requires me to use every ounce of “extrovertism” I have left, so my free time is spent mostly on activities that don’t require company. I read, write, go the movies, walk. I crave alone time. I need quiet because my mind is so loud. I still do lots of happy hours and socializing but it’s almost always one-on-one or in a small group. I used to be an open book, but I do much more listening now and much less talking.
Most of us possess a little bit of each side to us but the research I’ve seen says that extroverts make up anywhere from 50-75% of the population. I believe that introverts are misunderstood by many. So, on behalf of introverts everywhere, this is what I want you to know. I’m definitely not shy, I just don’t always interact for the sake of interacting. When I’m quiet, I’m not mad or upset or depressed or pouting, I’m just listening…and I enjoy that. I have strong social skills and I enjoy socializing as much as anyone, but when the party is over and my extrovert friends want to keep it going, you will find me home in my pajamas. It’s not that I didn’t have fun or I don’t enjoy your company because I do, I just need to recharge. My circle of close friends may seem small to you, but I like it that way. They are made up of people who are loyal, compassionate and sincere. I do like to have fun! Sometimes it will be in the same ways my extroverted friends do and other times it may be in ways that seem boring to you. There will be times you find me on the dance floor with endless energy but there will also be times getting carried away in a good book sounds just as fun.
Some of my closest friends would be considered extroverts. We treasure each other for who we are and try not to take personally the things that make us different. My extroverted friends make sure I don’t become a hermit and lead me outside my comfort zone from time to time, while I rein them in and encourage them to slow down and take time for themselves. I might even get them to read a book or two!
I don’t know how long this phase of introversion will last for me as I believe you can transition from one to another throughout our many life stages. Looking back, I’ve probably been more “ambivert” (someone who falls in the middle of the spectrum) than either of the other two, but I also had a misconception that in order to be “fun” you had to be extroverted. But what I do know, it that today I’m an introvert and I couldn’t be happier.
What about you? Do you consider yourself an introvert, extrovert or ambivert? Have you found you’ve transitioned from one to another throughout your life? I’d love to hear what you think!