If you had known me in middle school and high school – especially if you didn’t spend any time with me outside of school – you would’ve assumed I was incredibly shy. That wouldn’t really be an incorrect assumption. I was quiet, had a lot of social anxiety, and certainly didn’t speak up in class – ever.
Then I grew up a little. It was a gradual transition, but from college onward, I began to open up more. I began to let me supertalkative self come out, and now I can’t point to a single person who would label me shy or quiet. So you can imagine how they react when I say I’m an introvert.
“But you never stop talking,” they say. “You don’t seem shy!”
That’s just it: I’m not (necessarily) all that shy. Sure, sometimes I clam up when I’m surrounded by strangers, and I still don’t know how to begin a conversation with someone I don’t know. I still have a touch of the social anxiety mixed in with all of my other crazy. But I’m not shy. I’m introverted. There’s a difference.
I’m an introvert who loves people. I have a lot of friends and I get along with most people. At work, I’m known as one of the loudest in my department (my voice carries, what can I say?!) and even though cold-calling makes me feel nervous, it doesn’t make me actually come across nervous.
But at the end of the day? All I want to do is go home, sit on my couch, and not talk to anyone. I puzzled over this for awhile, wondering why most people get excited about after-work happy hours, dinner plans, having a friend over to watch a favorite TV show – and why it feels so much like work to me. Why would I have to mentally prepare myself and build myself up to meet a friend for dinner or a glass of wine? I figured that visiting with friends is something I do for fun, so it should be relaxing after a long day at work… right?
And then somebody said something that made a lot of sense: you know if you are an introvert or an extrovert based on the way you recharge. Do you relax and recharge by spending time with people… or alone? I didn’t hesitate before saying “Alone.” Getting together with friends after work feels like an extension of the work day because, for me, it is. I thrive on time to myself, even if it’s time doing nothing of substance. Give me a few hours to sit down, read some blogs, catch up on my DVR, or read a book, and I’m happy as a clam.
The introverted part of me would probably prefer every night to be full of “me time,” but that’s not realistic for my life – or the part of my personality that likes having a social life. I’m still working on finding the exact balance. It’s hard to explain to people who love social interaction that you need time alone to recharge; I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard “You’re okay with staying in on a Friday/Saturday/traditional drinking holiday/etc.? You need to get a life!” I’ve heard it for years, and it’s only in my old age that more people are starting to understand – but more because they’ve outgrown the party scene and prefer dinner parties at home.
We extroverted-introverts are a misunderstood bunch. I’m kind of like your favorite electronics: I can be a ton of fun, but only after I’ve spent time in “OFF” mode, recharging the batteries. (And, apparently, thinking up stupid-yet-kind-of-effective metaphors.)
What about you? Are you an introvert or an extrovert – or some sort of mix of the two?