I have always self-identified as an introvert. Although now, I begin to find myself questioning whether or not the concept that any individual is either dominated by introversion or extroversion is even real. I’ve sat down to write this article multiple times now — each time realizing that I am slowly becoming less and less like the introverted individual I used to be. As a kid I was shy. I made friends easily because of my lifestyle and interests, but I was reserved in most social environments and even in front of my own relatives. I’m 26 years old now, and have evolved into a very different person than I was a decade ago. I would never identify myself as that rambunctious and outgoing individual in the room, but I love social interaction, and it certainly does not instill the same subtle fear I remember feeling a decade prior. Nowadays, I approach these situations with excitement. I enjoy meeting new people and typically engage in full and unique conversations with over 100 strangers a week in my current job.
“Let’s clear one thing up: Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people. We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.” – Laurie E. Helgoe
However, I still identify as an introvert, and my reason is simple: compared to any true extrovert who thrives and charges off social energy, I have a finite reserve. I use this energy wisely, saving it for friends and interactive settings. As much as I can fully enjoy these environments, when my social battery is running on empty, it needs to be charged. I accomplish this with down time. For me, down time comes in a variety of different forms but always serves the same purpose. Being an introvert is not necessarily defined by being in a constant state of social anxiety, but rather a satisfaction/necessity with solitude and tranquility. I am what current clickbait trends popularly define as the ‘extroverted introvert’. While I can enjoy interactions as much as the next person, they slowly drain my battery instead of charge it. As a general guideline, introverts often prefer to play the role of listener over that of the projector, and find enjoyment in absorbing the circumstances around them. I have my moments when this is very obvious as well.
From my own self awareness, I fully perceive many aspects of personality to be part of a spectrum. Often, poorly defined spectrums. Characteristics are commonly described by their extremes, and tend to be prescribed to individuals falsely. I think Carl Jung is correct in the sense that we all innately process information differently and that this largely affects how we develop our decisions. However, I believe that adjusting and learning new methods of processing is highly possible. I myself know that I lie somewhere slightly closer to the middle of the introversion-extroversion spectrum, although I was certainly situated farther toward the introversion periphery growing up. I don’t possess formal education on psychology at all, but I do have a strong belief that the nature vs nurture dialectic holds valid points supporting both views. I’ve known introverts who have grown to become highly social people, just as I’ve stood witness to the opposite process. I watched myself go through this transition as a kid and realize that communication is a skill, a muscle that can be trained just like anything else. With enough practice and overstepping of comfort zones, personal evolution is possible. My childhood interests forced me to be more social and it eventually just became normal. I do not believe that we are simply one way or the other. Time and practice, whether deliberate or not, will certainly contribute to a personal development regardless of intention. Being an introvert does not necessarily define us as a quiet people, it simply defines how we process (and/or progress), and how we are affected by an interaction.