Introvert – ‘A shy, reticent person’. Oh, how that definition is flawed. We’ve been taught that the introverted/extroverted scale is very much one or the other, black or white, with ambiverts lying dead centre in the middle. When, in fact, we can embody traits from both ends of this spectrum and display them in different ways depending on our personal makeup.
Growing up I have always been described as extroverted, even now I have no trouble speaking in a crowd, sharing my feelings and have not once been described as ‘shy’. But go a little deeper than the term ‘shy’ and we find a whole host of other introverted qualities, most notably a need for my own personal space in order to recharge. I have little need for constant company and have lost friends due to my lack of regular communication. Large social gatherings drain me both emotionally and physically, I have learnt to survive in these situations but by no means thrive, and it is only through years of listening to what my mind, body and soul really want that I have come to embrace my introverted personality.
Some people have begun to refer to me as an ‘introverted extrovert’ whatever that may mean. The truth is that you can apply labels to yourself all you want but only you truly know what you need to be happy. The trouble comes when other people label you without taking the time to get to know your strengths and weaknesses.
To be introverted has been assigned negative connotations, whereas to be extroverted has been assigned positive ones. Introverts are considered timid, unable to communicate and quiet, whereas extroverts are hailed as confident, bold and capable of handling difficult situations.
For me, the first step to embracing my introversion was to stop trying to mask it. I learned to leave social gatherings when I had had enough and to plan my weeks around time alone to re-charge. At first, people looked at me a little oddly when I proclaimed that I would be leaving early as I had reached my social capacity, but in time they learnt that I would be in charge of my own evening and not be swayed by what social convention dictated I should be enjoying.
For some people, it was hard to understand why I would leave a social gathering to be at home on my own, just in the same way that at times it’s hard for me to understand how my colleagues and friends can spend night after night in the company of others.
The other step to embracing my introversion was to stop thinking about it. Which seems pretty ironic having written this post. When I first started researching introverted and extroverted personalities I became obsessed with finding myself the perfect label that would finally describe me. I bought books, read endless articles and took countless tests in an attempt to find a label to explain my behaviours. I found many that applied to me in one way or another but none that summed me up perfectly, and I’m finally ok with that. Which is why my final step to embracing your introversion is to stop referring to yourself as one.
Whether you see yourself as an introvert, extrovert, mix of the two, or something in between you possess a unique set of skills that should never be downplayed. Labels cannot define your worth so don’t give them the power to.