How to Be Comfortable With Being an Introvert (or an Extrovert)
We students are often exposed to a strange battle between introversion and extroversion. “Which am I? Which is better? Can I be both?”
We ask these questions because we’re so eager to understand ourselves (a lot of us don’t).
We cling to these labels to attain self-actualization. But in doing so, we actually create a crapton of debilitating misconceptions about introversion and extroversion that inaccurately explain how our minds work. And it’s a huge setback.
Let me tell you something: the hard facts are probably not what you think at all. In fact, they’re probably far more optimistic than you think.
But before we delve into that, you should know that there are lots of misconceptions.
The most prevalent misconception about introverts and extroverts is how they interact with those around them. Does the thought of public speaking give you sweaty palms and social anxiety? Do you really like to read? Boom. You’re an introvert. Here’s your badge of honour: a set of reading glasses.
Are you widely known as a party-hopper? Do you talk excessively? Do you have lots and lots and lots of friends? Boom again! You’re an extrovert! And according to the general consensus, you probably aren’t hard-pressed to befriend an introvert whose room is littered with tea bags and who mysteriously reminds you of Bilbo Baggins (but really, who doesn’t like a good cup of chai—or Lord of the Rings?).
“Do you really like to read? Boom. You’re an introvert. Here’s your badge of honour: a set of reading glasses.”
For some, these stereotypes have some truth to them. However, they apply to fewer people than everybody thinks. Behind the hubbub of news article propaganda and online self-assessment quizzes, there is a far more consistent and accurate explanation of how introverts and extroverts typically are.
Okay, here: let’s assess whether you’re introverted or extroverted. I won’t bombard you with quizzes that question your social proficiency, I won’t doubt your listening skills, and I won’t ask you whether you spend your Friday nights partying, studying, or knitting. Introversion and extroversion can be determined by one straightforward question.
Yep. That’s honestly it. All I need to know is how you recharge your hypothetical human batteries. And I’ll explain why.
Introverts refill their energy banks by spending time alone. The bank depletes after interacting with people for an extended period of time. On the other hand, extroverts acquire their energy from other people—they experience lower energy levels when they’ve spent an extended period of time alone.
Everything else that comes along with being introverted or extroverted is based on that one thing. I’m the first to admit that you can’t define your personality using labels and tests. That being said, you can use terms like “introversion” and “extroversion” to not necessarily describe yourself, but to understand how you can be the most productive, energetic, life-loving version of yourself as possible.
Not only should you be conscious of your own levels of intro and extroversion, but those of other people. It’s one of the golden keys to cultivating amazing friendships.
Some are wary of befriending introverts because they assume that introversion is synonymous with lacking social skills, but nothing could be further from the truth. To an introvert, being left to themselves is simply refreshing. You know, like a Sunday afternoon nap or a glass of lemon water. And introverts really appreciate it when people in their inner circle give them time to think instead of pushing them to make decisions on the spot. Respecting an introvert’s need for deep thought and alone time is imperative to making them feel valued and appreciated.
“Not only should you be conscious of your own levels of intro and extroversion, but those of other people.”
For an extrovert, unexpectedly talking to a stranger in an elevator or having a friend surprise them with a birthday shindig are pretty much heaven; they give extroverts the opportunity to recharge after what might have been an otherwise stressful day. After a gruelling study session or a solo drive on the road, extroverts will need to refill their energy banks by spending time with others. Friends who acknowledge their independence and don’t mind them talking (a lot) are priceless.
“But Grace,” you exclaim. “Both of those paragraphs kind of describe me. What does that mean? Am I an alien?!”
Take it easy. If you’re wondering why you don’t sit comfortably in either category, there’s a strong chance you’re an ambivert, someone who belongs between the poles of introversion and extroversion.
Because the two personality types aren’t black and white, it’s natural that some of us lie between them. Displaying a range of both introverted and extroverted traits, ambiverts appreciate and derive energy from interacting with people. After an extended amount of time, however, it becomes necessary for them to recharge via alone time and solitude.
Introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts are all valuable in their own ways, but it’s very rare—if not impossible—for someone to be 100% introverted or extroverted. They each possess unique, individual qualities that make them who they are. When we can understand who we are and how we behave, we’re more likely to understand others; for this reason, being in tune with yourself is so, so important. After all, if none of us are on the same page, how the hell are we supposed to relate to one another?
No matter what you identify with, know yourself and try your best to know others. There’s no good in being at odds with others over some lame personality differences. By getting familiar with ourselves, we can adapt to even our most polar opposites and create harmonious, respectful relationships with them. It would create a lot less turmoil in the world—and we’d all be better for it.