By now if you haven't heard Carl Jung's popularized terms of the introvert and extrovert, you've probably been living under a rock.
These terms have to do with how we use energy. The basics are that the extrovert gets their energy (like filling up a battery) from being around and interacting with others. The introvert gets their energy from being alone and is often drained after having to interact. This doesn't mean that the introvert isn't good at being social it's just not their preference because it drains their battery.
Lately, I've found that this topic is on a lot of people's radars for relationships. What if your idea of a blissful Saturday is take-out and Redbox while your partner's fantastic Saturday is a trendy bar full of people, conversation, and music? This seemingly simple difference could cause stress and dissatisfaction for both parties if they plan on spending a life together. How you recharge your energy makes a huge difference.
The difference can also be pretty rad. Traveling with an extrovert is a whole new world of fun. One of my favorite parts about traveling with one of my closest friends, who's a solid extrovert, was that she endlessly researched places to go and things to do, chatting people up on the train while smiling her open-mouthed, welcoming smile. At one train station, she even started a signing conversation with a random stranger to see if her sign language would translate.
If it hadn't been for her, I definitely wouldn't have seen as much, eaten various foods, and met cool, new strangers. I wouldn't have taken little risks like wandering the cobblestone streets at night, bar hopping, or staying out till dark with people we'd known exactly one day. The introverted part of me would have pulled away from human interaction, favoring instead the quiet coffee shop, the restaurant I'd liked yesterday, the intimate conversations, and the hostel after dark.
I'm an introvert, which people don't believe when they first meet me because I can be loud, laugh a lot, and make conversation with everyone. The truth is that I've taught myself these things. I've developed extroverted traits because I used to be shy, think people were going to reject me, be mean to me, or think I was weird. (Social anxiety is a different topic I'll cover in another blog.) In high school someone told me they thought I was a *itch, until they first talked to me. It was true, I appeared snobby because I avoided the discomfort of conversation whenever possible.
In my early 20s my husband used to get mad at me because I'd be "so fun" when we were out and then "grumpy" when we came back home. After a night of gallivanting, I was exhausted. After "networking" events, I'd often get migraine headaches.
Since those days, I've learned about balancing my energy. I've learned that the more authentic I am the less I feel like I'm putting on a show, and the less it drains my battery. I've also discovered that when I'm curious about people and their stories, I feel as though I'm absorbing energy from the ether, or at least not being drained. When I'm excited to share what I've learned, such as in a class presentation, I get buzzed about sharing something new that you may not know, or haven't heard the way I'll say it.
The key is authenticity, aka being yourself, which boils down to ACCEPTANCE.
Our society is geared and even pushed towards extraversion. (Susan Cain's Ted Talk) There's open office plans, endless group work, and networking, because as we've all heard, "It's who you know," right!
Both introverts and extroverts are important and bring different wonderful things to the table. The problem lies when you're an introvert rejecting your introverted-ness.
As I spoke to someone recently, it was clear for both of us that she was a strong introvert. The problem was that she was in various terms telling herself that being an introvert was bad and that everything would be better if she was an extravert. She was causing herself a huge amount of suffering because she wasn't accepting who she was.
Here's a silly example but it makes a point. Joe holds a pink glazed donut in his hand. With the other hand he slaps himself in the face and says, "Bad Joe. Why can't you just be a donut?" Joe can't be a donut he's a human! Duh. But how much would Joe suffer if he insisted on being a donut?
Now for the happy news. Although you'll never be a donut (tear), skills are different. You can be an introvert who learns to develop extroverted skills. Skills can be learned if you want to learn them. Also it's important to remember that we're not one or the other. Traits and skills lie all along the spectrum.
1) ACCEPT WHO YOU ARE (Side effect -- you suffer a lot less):
The first part is accepting that you're an introvert, to yourself. It goes like this... Hi self...
- "I'm Z. I'm an introvert and that's a great thing."
- "I'm Susan. I'm an introvert and I like recharging my battery by being alone and reading."
- Or if you want to try it on tentatively, "I'm Joe. I'm an introvert and that's okay."
2) KNOW YOUR SHINY POWERS:
Usually, we want to be something else when we think that something else is better than us. Extroverts are seen more because they're louder and they're around, like bees, interacting with the hive.
When we're comparing, we can overlook the power that we have and the strengths that we bring.
Some of my favorite known and proven ways that introverts shine:
Introverts are fantastic listeners, make thoughtful decisions, spend more time in introspection, and are comfortable with silence and solitude.
For more knowledge and strengths of the introvert see the articles below:
Remember no matter who you are, whether an introvert or an extrovert, you can be a leader, a mover, and shaker. And skills can be learned.
*This article first appeared on zzocolante.com