I spent years thinking that I was an extrovert. It’s hilarious to think of that now, when I haven’t made plans in over two weeks, and I get most excited by ticking another book off my To-Read List. But I used to think I was an extrovert, so I acted like one.
I suppose I can’t really blame people for mistaking me for an extrovert, as I fell into the same trap. But then I discovered my introverted roots, or rather I finally admitted it to myself. I am a total introvert at heart, someone who will always prefer reading in bed to going out, and who has to plan days between social events to regain my energy.
But I’m an introvert who can enjoy a house party. I’m an introvert with many extroverted friends. I’m an introvert in disguise, also known as an extroverted introvert.
We can’t simplify the world into just introverts and extroverts, as there is so much space between those two narrow categories. So instead, I like to consider introverted extroverts or extroverted introverts, of which I am the latter.
And here’s how you can tell if you’re one too.
Introverts tend to be more susceptible to their environment than extroverts. This is because extroverts refill their energy in social situations whilst introverts often spend it. Additionally, introverts are more aware of their surroundings and take in stimuli, so they can feel overwhelmed more easily.
A key sign of being an introvert, or an extroverted introvert, is that you respond quickly to environmental factors. For example, you relax easier when you’re alone, you get stressed more rapidly in a busy store, and you tire faster at a party.
You’re taking in so much at once, collecting all these little clues and trying to adapt to the situation like a good little extroverted introvert, that you react more quickly to your environment.
To describe the difference between introversion and extroversion, people will often say that extroverts are energised by seeing people whilst introverts are drained from it.
But this is a very simplified description, as many of us experience both sides of it. For an extroverted introvert, certain people can energise us whilst others drain us; it’s just about working out which do which. We’ll find some social situations invigorating and enjoyable, whilst entering a specific party could make us enter fight or flight mode.
Whilst extroverts may have this to a certain degree; it’s far more common in extroverted introverts as we represent both sides of the scale.
Some extroverts enjoy being alone, but many will try to avoid it if they can. They don’t enjoy being alone the same way that introverts do, so it’s primarily for rest or work rather than pleasure. But introverts thrive in alone time; it’s often their happy place.
I love sitting down with a book. I enjoy going for walks or watching a TV show on the weekends. I like to spend my time on craft hobbies or working on my writing. Whilst I do enjoy seeing people and need social interaction once in a while, it doesn’t measure up to my golden alone time.
An extroverted introvert isn’t afraid to be alone and will actively seek it out, but will find some balance by introducing social situations. They can do well in both environments but naturally lean towards time alone or in smaller groups.
When I do choose to see people, it’s always with an escape plan in mind. I often prefer going to someone else’s house, as then I can leave at any point. I know I should be able to suggest someone leaves my place, but I do find it difficult. This helps me to avoid social depletion as an introvert.
When I’m going to any social situation, I’m already calculating how long it will likely be in my head. It’s not that I don’t want to see the person, but rather I just want to know what to expect and feel prepared. It’s an introvert thing.
So if you go into social situations with a potential escape plan then you’re likely an extroverted introvert, e.g. saying you’ve got an essay to finish, an early morning tomorrow or something else to do. It shows that whilst you enjoy social settings, you need them in a limited capacity, and so you’re ensuring that happens.
You’d think that an introvert looks for the easiest conversation subject and thus engages in the dreaded small talk, but you’d actually be wrong. Most introverts detest small talk with a burning passion. It just feels like a waste of everyone’s time, like a polite pleasantry we’d all rather skip - similar to having to kiss your great aunt on the cheek when you see her.
Extroverted introverts usually prefer to just dive right into the conversation. They want to skip the shallow waters and instead find out what makes you tick, what you really care about. This might seem odd as it leads to a lengthier conversation, but it’s almost like making the social situation worth it.
For people who struggle more in social environments, it’s easier to do what feels natural rather than fool around with social etiquette. It’s easier to strip things down bare and have a genuine discussion.
This one isn’t reserved just for introverts, as it seems that many of us are growing uncomfortable in crowds as we get older, particularly post-pandemic. It feels like we used to slip seamlessly through crowds, and yet we now grow sweaty and anxious in them, often resorting to irrational anger as we escape the situation. A crowd can be enough to ruin your day.
If this sounds familiar, then you might be an extroverted introvert, as they especially struggle in crowds. They can handle small group situations with ease but fill the room a bit too much, and they’ll be mumbling that escape plan and heading for the door.
I often get told off by my friends for being too nosey. I am guilty of asking too many questions. It comes from a good place, I swear. I’m simply fascinated by people. I’m fascinated by how they function and interact, by unique social situations and how people deal with them, and so much more. So when something comes up, I love to ask a bunch of questions to really get to the depth of the subject and understand it from every angle.
It’s likely tied to being a writer, for as soon as someone mentions an interesting way of meeting their partner, all I can see is a potential plot for my next novel. So I ask several follow-up questions to discover everything there is to know, until they uncomfortably ask if they’re being interviewed.
But I think it’s more than that; I think it also stems from being an extroverted introvert. I look at my extroverted friends and think, ‘How on earth do you function?’. Like honestly, how do they go to party after party. How do they talk to a bunch of strangers and not doubt every word? How do they handle huge crowds? They amaze me.
Extroverted introverts are fascinated by other people because we’re trying to study them and learn how to mimic them. We wish to work in social situations, and so we’re constantly collecting clues. We feel comfortable when relegated to the role of listener, but we’re very active listeners who will keep a conversation going whilst ensuring the other person takes the lead.
Whenever I tell people that I consider myself to be an introvert, they’re always shocked. They simply don’t believe me. A lot of this is due to our outdated rhetorics surrounding introverts, as we assume they won’t leave the house or can’t hold a conversation, and the rest of it is due to the fact that I can play the role. I can be an extrovert for a night, but I’ll be exhausted the next day and rarely enter the situation willingly. I had to learn how to recharge as an introvert.
One of the surest signs of being an extroverted introvert is when everyone in your life assumes you’re an extrovert, but you know that isn’t the case. Something inside of you knows that you’re an introvert.
And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what they think you are; what matters is what you know about yourself. If you feel like you’d rather be alone or in small groups, doing calmer activities and avoiding small talk, then you’re an introvert at heart. It doesn’t matter how you appear to others; introversion is about how you feel inside and how you react internally.
Being an extroverted introvert can allow you to dip your toe in both worlds and to adapt to any situation. But it can also come with an unjust sense of guilt, as if you can adapt to extroverted people and situations, why do you retreat into yourself? But being an introvert is just as valid as being an extrovert, and what’s most important is being true to yourself and what you need. Just because you can act like an extrovert, it doesn’t mean you should tire yourself out and ignore your introverted needs. Find the balance without feeling like you’re walking on a tightrope, and remember there’s never anything wrong with curling up with a good book and a cup of tea.
P.S. Looking to learn more about introversion and why the world needs more of us? I recommend checking out this book by Susan Cain, which helped me a lot!
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Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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