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An Introverted Extrovert?

The Fluid Nature of Personality and why Context is Key

An introverted extrovert, or an extroverted introvert… seems impossible! Introverts and extroverts are polar opposites, right? With introverts being the shy, book-loving, perhaps a little antisocial individuals and extroverts the loud party animals who love to always be the centre of attention. At least, that is what we’re told to believe… So how on earth can someone be both?

Firstly, we must understand what these terms actually mean. Contrary to popular belief, extroversion and introversion are not about being confident or shy but relate to where we get our energy from. A past psychology teacher of mine used the analogy of a robot. The introverted robot recharges its batteries by spending time alone and loses its energy by spending time around other people, large crowds in particular. On the other hand, the extroverted robot recharges its batteries by being around other people and loses energy from spending too much time alone.

Humans have a great desire to categorise anything and everything; it’s in our psychological nature. We are continually coming up with new labels, terms and ‘boxes’ for people to fall into. And I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, for it can give people a clearer sense of identity if they can relate to a term. However, it often gets forgotten that personality traits like introversion and extroversion are measured on a scale.

After asking some of my closest friends and family, the majority said I am an extrovert but with introvert qualities too. I love socialising, being on stage, going to parties and meeting new people. I can happily speak my mind in a crowd and easily make small talk with strangers when I’m out and about. However, I also find that after a certain amount of time around others, I crave some time to myself otherwise, I feel drained. I am equally as happy in my own company – whether it be reading, writing (like now…I’m currently in my bed and do not plan on seeing anyone for a good few hours), cooking, listening to music etc. Alone time is very important as it allows me to reflect. But then after a certain amount of time to myself, I find I have a need to socialise otherwise, I feel drained…it’s a constant cycle!

So, what does that make me? Somewhere in the middle of the scale, I suppose. The term ambivert refers to a person who has a balance of both introvert and extrovert qualities. So perhaps that’s what I am? However, I have been thinking a lot lately about how fluid our personalities really are; so many factors can influence certain personality traits. Context is key. For example, the environment and social situation someone is in can totally alter their personality. Perhaps in certain situations, you’re more extroverted and in others more introverted? Does it depend on the people you’re with? The time of day? Your mood? All these factors can quite drastically change your personality. For me, I know that if I’m out and about I’m generally quite extroverted, yet in a lecture theatre, I become more introverted. Or if I’m on my period, I crave more alone time and will generally not feel like socialising.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that not everyone who thrives in social situations is an extrovert, and not everyone who enjoys time to themselves is an introvert. People are made up of a mix of both and personality tests that tell you that you’re either strictly one or the other should be taken with a (very big) pinch of salt. To me at least, it seems that personality is fluid, and levels of extroversion are best looked at in terms of context – on a sliding scale.

Everyone has an inner mixture of introvert and extrovert and it’s important to be aware of this and to nourish both. Do you feel recharged spending time alone or with others? Can you think of any contexts when you’re more/less extroverted? Leave a comment and let me know!

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