I used to identify very strongly as an introvert simply because I was shy. There’s more to it than just being shy, but as a young girl, that was the easiest indicator to work with: I was afraid to talk to people, therefore I was an introvert.
In college, when I took on some leadership roles and made some excellent lifelong friends, I began to discover my extroverted side. I spoke in front of large groups a couple times and didn’t die. I bossed around whole fraternities while trying to practice Greek Week events. I even taught belly-dance to several dozen students over the course of three years. I didn’t particularly enjoy some of those activities, but I’m glad I did them because they proved to me that I could. Having survived that and proven that I do in fact have an inner extrovert, I don’t really know which I am anymore.
There are times when all I want to do in the world is curl up with a book and some tea and a quilt, which is pretty solidly introverted. But there are other times when I want to get a big group of friends together and go get drinks or something, which is pretty extroverted. I know almost no one is 100% introvert or extrovert, but I feel pretty 50/50 sometimes, which is odd, and makes things difficult to plan. My extroversion is very spontaneous, often following a long quiet bout of introversion.
I read one indicator of whether or not you’re more introverted or more extroverted is how comfortable you feel in small talk, and given that I’m super awkward when it comes to small talk, this has led me back to believing that I’m very introverted. Another indicator is how you recharge: by getting some alone time, or hanging out with a group? Even this one is tricky: I like going to parties, but once I get there, I’m way more likely to tuck myself into a corner with a good friend to talk about books, instead of mingling with acquaintances and playing games.
Another thing that’s clarified my self-identification as an introvert is my fluctuation in style. Some weeks I’m decked out in colored tights, skirts, boots, and big jewelry, knowing but not really bothered by the fact that it’ll get me noticed. Other weeks, I really just want to fall back on jeans and a shirt and cardigan, the kind of clothes that won’t get me noticed. When I do that, though, I feel like I’m somehow letting my inner extrovert down – that when I care about whether or not people notice me, I’m not walking my “what other people think doesn’t matter” talk.
But sometimes, hey, I don’t want to stand out. The spotlight makes me uncomfortable. I need to retreat to a safe space of innocuousness (is that a word?) for a while.
The problem is knowing when to come back out. If I spend too much time trying to be invisible, I’ll get used to it. I’ll pay less attention to the things I need to do because I’ve gotten used to my comfortable little zone where just showing up is okay. When I get to that place, I need to make the effort to be visible again, to make myself matter, to start putting in more effort, even if it scares me.
Which is how I restarted this blog, reconsidered my wardrobe choices, and wound up helping plan my church’s women’s retreat. I was comfortable, and I was getting bored. It was time to boot myself in the rear and make some changes, even if some of those changes (especially planning the retreat) scare the hell out of me. Sometimes experiencing – and surviving – the scary stuff is good. So, while I still don’t really know whether I’m Team Introvert or Team Extrovert, I think it’s safe for me to sign on with the introverts – provided they don’t mind when I abandon my book for happy hour or a Portland excursion every once in a while.