I have always thought of myself as an extrovert, and I think that people who know me would agree. I am quite social, usually, and go crazy when I don’t see “my peeps” often enough. Is that different, though, from being recharged by said peeps? Is it possible that I’m more introverted than I thought I was, and that while I love my friends and my family and spending time with people in general, I just need to be alone sometimes? I never thought this to be true. Further… is it possible that these needs change over time? Once an extrovert…. not… always… an extrovert?
So here’s the deal. I’m in Alberta. The Sunshine Province. I kid you not, the sun has shone every day we’ve been here. This is a new thing for me in the winter, as hailing from Southern Ontario, we bring new meaning to the term “Fifty Shades of Grey” (and a much safer meaning, at that..). I’m visiting my step-family. My Mom and Step-Dad are here, along with my Brother, all of whom I love dearly. I’m staying in a house with 2 of my 4 step-sisters, and one of their fiances, along with my aforementioned parent/step-parent combo and my brother.
That’s a lot of people, together.
Add to this, we are game players, most of us. There is rarely a moment of doing nothing before my Step-Dad goes “So, who would like to play a game?” I love playing games. But I have spent many of those times in the past week sitting on a couch with my nose buried in a book. I don’t want to, nor can I handle, constant exposure to people. And many of the adventures have involved the other two sisters from other parts of the city joining in. The trip to the zoo was my folks, my brother, one sister, a friend of hers, and a different sister’s fiance. Tomorrow we’re going to Lake Louise (excited! I’ve never ever been!) … in two cars… with all four sisters, the fiance, the brother, and the parents. It’s going to be amazing.
But here’s the thing… tonight I was at a Christmas Party with my ENTIRE step family. The Aunts, the Uncles, Grandma, the Cousins…. for a girl who’s only ever had 2 first cousins, on my Mom’s and Dad’s sides combined… the step family sure changed things. We did a family photo and I believe we counted 27 people. It’s a lot of people. But insert funny moment, here… as we’re trying to cram everyone in close enough that we can take the picture successfully, someone says “This is all Grandma’s fault!” to which Grandma wittily replies, “I’m not sorry!” and the proceeding picture is of everyone busting a gut. Epic, Grandma. Epic.
So for someone like me, who has spent her entire life holding firmly to the belief that she’s an extrovert and thrives on communication with the outside world… let me let you in on a little secret. I took a book to the party. I didn’t read it, but I had it just in case. But not only that, I hitched a ride back from the Christmas Party with one of my sisters and left the rest of everyone else behind and am now sitting in a completely, totally, blessedly empty house, writing to anyone who will read (the only way I truly express myself, when I’m honest…). I have surprised myself. Do our introverted/extroverted needs change as we age?
What would that be influenced by? Is it my own fault because I live alone and spend the majority of my not-at-work time alone? Or is it my fault because I spend all my at-work time SURROUNDED by people that I can’t escape, because I have to teach them things, and when I have me-time, I now all of a sudden want it to truly be “me-time?” I’m confused by this new side of myself that would prefer to leave her entire family behind and come back to a completely empty house and blog, then read. It’s not really me. Or is it?
I did a personality test the other day, because we were curious. My brother did them too. I wanted to see how accurately these online questionnaires could pin-point my little idiosyncrasies – the things that make me who I am.
I came out 51% extroverted and 49% introverted in a Myers-Briggs type test. Does that even work? How does someone who is 51-49% split recharge? Well, let me tell you my thoughts.
Sometimes, I need to be around people. The rest of the time, I need to be alone. And I’d say it’s a pretty even split, which is why while I was a little surprised to see such an even divide in the numbers by this personality assessment (which I take very little stock in, because it was free, and doesn’t know me at all…), I also wasn’t totally surprised, because it makes sense.
So I guess I’m asking, in this 1000+ word ramble about how I could be a draw down the middle of the intro/extroverted city line… does anyone else feel like this? Like they can’t really call themselves one or the other because sometimes they want to be in a room full of people, but other times they want to run screaming and hide and not come out for hours (days) with a book and a laptop? I mean… is this ‘conflictedness’ normal? Or am I really that strange? Am I strange for even having to ask? Haha, by the definitions I found above, the very fact that I want others’ input on my intro/extroversion levels leans me more toward the extrovert side, but whatevs, I’d lean myself there, so that’s fine :p
To be honest, I kind of forget where I was going with this…. OH! I remember… I should really plan these posts out like I used to plan out essays.
There are two very direct places where my level of intro/extroversion has been a key factor in my life.
1. My career choice. I got into teaching as a sold-out extrovert knowing that I’d always be surrounded by people, that my job was to educate those (albeit, young) people, and that I’d get to talk talk talk, that’s my job, people have to listen or they don’t really do that well in my classes. This is reflected very clearly at report card time. These aren’t the only reasons I got into teaching, but I enjoy those things about my job. I’ve seen the intro/extroversion debate at play concerning the workforce a lot lately, mostly in discussions with my dear brother, who is more of an introvert for sure. He sent me this talk by a woman who said she always hated school because it’s all “group work, group projects, etc.” and she just wanted to read, and work by herself. She went off to Camp for the first time and took a stack of books and was shocked when she had to participate in a bunch of cooperative activities, the very first of which was to cooperatively, with her cabin-mates, create a group cheer that they’d repeatedly scream out in front of all of the other campers. She just wanted to be alone, and there wasn’t time for that. Now don’t get me wrong, neither she nor I are mixing up introversion with shyness, but there are similarities between the two. I want my readers to understand that I know the difference. Just like I understand the difference between extroversion and obnoxiousness, but in my case at least, they occasionally go hand-in-hand :p.
Anyway, I digress. This talk continued to discuss that we live in an extroverted world. If you want to do well in sales, in corporate positions, etc… you should be extroverted. Or at least… enough so that speaking to large crowds of people, working in groups, and pitching your ideas are areas where you can see yourself thriving. Schools used to be set up for factory life. Children were all lined up in rows, as if they’d be working on an assembly line, they worked independently, they didn’t do group work or collaborative thinking activities. For the extroverted kiddos back in the day, that must have sucked. But now, we have swung the pendulum the opposite direction. Now, we arrange our desks in groups. We let kids “Think Pair Share”, we make them work together… whether they like it or not. This prepares them for corporate business life where those skills are a must. The extroverts are thriving, and my introverts are so quick to come to me privately and quietly plead “can I work on my own?” Yes, my little introverts, of course you may. Go, flourish, be who you are.
2. My dating life.
I had never really considered the implications to the extrovert vs. introvert question until I very briefly dated a self-professed full-out introvert in the spring. He asked me how I’d see this panning out… but in the spring I think I thought I was more extroverted than I actually am… if that makes any sense. He wanted to know how I thought I saw it working that he recharged being alone, and I recharged being surrounded by people. He processes everything in his head, and doesn’t need to talk out problems or decisions, and my Mom has been privy to every decision I’ve ever made that was more complex than “what do I make for dinner”… and even then, sometimes she gets phone calls… because I need to process and think out loud, to someone else. Would we have worked? I will never know, but I hadn’t given it any thought until he asked me.
So, my readers, I will ask you. What do you think? Do any of you fall close enough to the middle of the Intro/Extroverted Line that you confuse even yourselves?
I will end with this:
If you have a spare 20 minutes, watch this talk. It’s by Susan Cain, it’s the one I referenced above. It’s called The Power of Introverts.