When Carl Jung coined the terms ‘extrovert’ and ‘introvert’ in the early 20th century, he explained that the distinction between the two lies mainly in the fact that ‘introverts get exhausted by social interaction, while extroverts get anxious when left alone. Introverts need solitude in order to recharge, while extroverts draw energy from socializing.’ This means that I’m neither a typical extrovert, nor a typical introvert since I like socializing as much as alone time.
Let’s scan my life in the past few months to prove why I don’t see eye to eye with a Swiss to the core. You see, I have been taking more pleasure in solitary than social activities lately (which wasn’t really voluntary. I’m a mom, remember?) However, if I were given a chance to engage in any kind of social gathering, I would accept it unquestioningly. By this, I did not mean going out with my girlfriends for a coffee in broad daylight, where everything is familiar and safe. I meant more like hitting a bar or a disco totally alone after midnight, mingling, drinking gin & tonics, sparking up a conversation with bartenders and bouncers, dancing and chatting with total strangers (I didn’t say chatting them up, so stop moralizing! Even if I had, don’t look so shocked, Nigel!) No, I don’t feel guilty for saying this, which makes me an atypical mom, I guess. I just wanted to show you that I’m not afraid of social encounters nor am I insecure or shy. (Then I’m more extroverted, right?) Yes, I would surely be energized by being surrounded by lots of people for a change. But then, once the battery was depleted, I would rush back home to tuck myself in next to my boys. On the following day, well, I’d need a piece of my solitude back. In the days and weeks to follow, I’d be restoring my strength by turning inward. As a result, I’d be the happiest when alone, with my family or surrounded by a teeny-tiny, carefully chosen group of like-minded individuals. At the weekend, you’d see us having a coffee downtown, hubby and me (and our little prince). In the evening, we’d read something, watch a movie, or hold each other’s hands and keep silent.
When he’s chatty in the morning, which can be terribly annoying, he’ll respect my need (not my wish) to remain mute until after my first coffee. So, when I’m cranky or seem distant, don’t jump to conclusions, honey. It might just mean I’m not in a mood and need some time by myself in order to recharge, as all introverts do.
I have always been interested in having a talk with my own inner being, nurturing my mental space and maintaining unity with the self. When I get stressed out, this connection often breaks or gets lost and I can’t seem to find it, nor do I know where it’s gone. Sometimes it is only later that I notice it’s not where it should be. Luckily, I manage to get it back sooner or later, though it sometimes takes ages. I think it is essential we learn the value of talking to ourselves. However, I’m susceptible to engaging in deep, transcendental conversations with myself between 2 and 4 AM, the downside of these late chitchats being that once my night’s sleep is broken, instead of snoring like the rest, I’ll end up blinking while staring at the stars on the ceiling.
I’m generally outgoing. But not all the time. I love people. But not all the time. These days, I’ve been talking only when necessary, not because I want to draw attention to myself. I don’t talk for the sake of talking, as some extroverts frequently do. Remember a joke about the pet dog that, to his owner’s surprise, starts speaking one day? When asked why now, the dog replies he didn’t have anything interesting to say. Now, what does this have to do with our topic? Well, lots of people are prone to thinking that introversion is nothing but shyness or a lack of confidence. WRONG. Pensive introverts act pretty much like the dog, speaking only when there’s something worth the mention. Therefore, we shouldn’t confuse introversion with shyness. Interestingly, extroverts can be somewhat shy or insecure, which is not the first word you would normally associate with them, right? The thing is, shyness is all about fear. Even though extroverts talk all the time, they often times use their extroversion to hide what they’re afraid of or insecure about. Paradoxically, this might be precisely the thing they are apparently good at, such as fear of social encounters. Some of the fears many extroverts are facing are: fear of being misunderstood, fear of being misjudged, fear of not being liked, fear of not being accepted, fear of being rejected, fear of being shallow, fear of being perceived as shallow, fear of being seen as shy, fear of not being funny after all, fear of not being fun to be around, fear of confiding, fear of not being smart or well-read enough. So they talk and talk often about total crap because it’s expected of them and because our society loves outgoingness and cheap entertainment. Deep down, they want to belong and since human nature is based on interaction with one another, it’s kind of inevitable not to talk. So they do, sadly for the most part to hide their insecurity. It’s like with extreme sports. Giving boost to risk appetite is a way to overcome your fears. For example, people who are afraid of heights might engage in skydiving. A direct confrontation with what one dreads has proved to be an efficient way to come to grips with one’s anxiety and nervousness. Extroverts can indeed be shy and bound by their fears, often pretending to be what they are not. I also put an act every now and then when I want to hide some flaws but, unlike some chatty extroverts, I’ll withdraw afterwards to be alone and reconsider.
Alrighty then, so I’m definitely both extroverted and introverted and I believe the two could be quite complementary. In my case, this is not necessarily an either/or sort of thing. I like both and need both to recharge.
Finally, if you’re ‘only’ an extrovert and can’t stop talking, you generally lead a pretty varied lifestyle, using networking opportunities smartly and having more doors opened.
If, by contrast, you’re ‘only’ introverted, do not despair. It means you’re probably a clever clogs, deep and contemplative. Haven’t you heard? Introversion is the current meme du jour.