While everyone knows the words “introvert” and “extrovert”, I’m surprised by the misunderstanding of the terms. Many people have the following understanding:
introvert = shy nerd = bad
extrovert = cool dude = good
I’m very introverted, but contrary to what many assume I don’t dislike being social and I’m definitely not shy.
The truth about the difference between introverts and extroverts lies in how personal energy is used and gained. Introverts need a lot of recharging time to gain energy. Being out-and-about, especially in social situations, is draining. Alone time is the only way to get that energy back. Extroverts are the opposite in that they gain energy from social interactions. They thrive on the excitement of meeting people and doing new things. Being cooped up alone would be more like torture than quality downtime.
I need a lot of alone time. Taking in my alone time is like that first sip of a cold beer after a long week – it’s relaxation and relief and restoration. Not sitting in a dark cave staring at the wall, but somewhere comfortable where I can do other activities I enjoy. For example; Laying on my bed catching up on the internet counts. Going to the movie theatre all by myself counts. Even reading a book in a crowdy train counts.
In my adolescence extroversion was quite the “ideal”, and still is. At the time I strived to be an extrovert: party all weekends and socialise after work/school with friends or relatives. And bysides of all that I had to find time to complete my school and work to pay for all this, without ever take my necessary alone time.
Most of my life I thought there was something a little bit broken about me. That I wasn’t quite right. That if I could just flip out this part of myself everything would be a lot better. For living this way I’ve paid the price, the bucket ran over, the circuits flipped. It took me several years to regroup myself. During that time I’ve spend as much of my time alone, regaining the energy that I’d lost in the years before. I’ve lost contact with many of my friends, stopped playing my favorite sport, stopped going out partying. As strange it may sound I’m glad now that I took this time for myself.
Just understanding what being an introvert means and that it’s highly common is a relief. I can read up on it now. Find out how other people handle it. Explain it to people who don’t get it yet. There are parts of my job that require extroversion. That’s how it goes. It can be draining and it’s certainly an important part of what I do, but it definitely does not make me an extrovert.
Contrary to what many assume, I don’t dislike being social. I just don’t want to be social all the time. I feel like us introverts should make business cards we could leave behind at parties when we sneak out the back door without saying goodbye that just say “Google ‘Introvert’” on them. I also don’t want or need 100 friends. I need 2 best friends and maybe 5 really good friends. I don’t like big parties. I hate small talk. I need time to process before presenting my thoughts on something.
The reality is, most people take comfort in connections with other people, regardless of where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. That feeling of belonging and understanding that we feel when we connect with another individual is such a wonderful part of the human condition. But how and when we get to that feeling varies. I find my connection in intimate dinners and small social gatherings. Plans that are bookended by recovery time. Yes, recovery time. No, I’m not unhappy or anti-social…
…I’m just an introvert