This may come as a surprise to many people who have met me in person, but I do not consider myself an extrovert. At least I don’t anymore.
As a child, I found it easy to make friends in any situation. As an adult, I can be very talkative and outgoing, especially in the right setting. Any of my friends or family knows that it’s often impossible to shut me up once I get going. I love to tell stories, and I love to hear a room full of people laughing at my jokes and one-liners.
It’s because of these personality traits that it’s taken so long for me to accept the fact that I am actually more of an introvert. For quite some time, it has felt like a personal betrayal and an outright lie to call myself anything other than extroverted. I heard scoffs from those aforementioned friends and family whenever I tried to tell them otherwise. Somehow I always find myself thinking of this long-told story from my childhood.
When I was learning to talk, I constantly babbled in a language all my own. In fact my parents do not even know what my first word was because of all my babbling. Sometimes I would throw back my head and randomly laugh at a presumed joke I’d just told. At other times I’d stop in the middle of a monologue to wait for one of my parents to answer me. Then without warning, I dropped the babble all together and went directly to full coherent sentences (hence, the unknown first word). This could never be the backstory of an introvert, I told myself, feeling shameful to even think that way.
The older I became, however, the more I felt anxious and uncomfortable in group gatherings, even ones where I knew most, if not all, of the people attending. The lead-up to the event would be almost unbearable, though the gathering itself would be no problem at all. The worst part would be the ride home, or the next day, when I’d think of all the silly things I said that I was sure no one understood or actually thought was interesting. I was convinced I had been the laughing-stock of the night.
These are not the thoughts of an extrovert.
My brain couldn’t find a way to make sense of this. So I did what most adults do— I ignored the nonsense in my brain and kept going as if everything was A-OK.
Recently, I was listening to Aisha Tyler’s podcast Girl On Guy during my morning commute. She was having a lovely and highly entertaining chat with Jesse Tyler Ferguson when she mentioned an article called The Introvert Brain. In the article, the author explains that introverts, at the core of the definition of the word, feel more energetic and recharged after being alone, whereas extroverts get that same energy from outside sources (aka other people).
My mind exploded right there on the sidewalk.
Everything suddenly clicked into place. I thought about those past events where I felt the most uncomfortable, and I realized that they happened when I didn’t get a chance to be by myself and “charge up” my energy. This didn’t mean that I don’t like being around people; it just meant that I need that time alone to be my truest self. I no longer feel like I’m lying to myself. It’s simply who I am.
So yes, I am an introvert. And yes, I’d love to come to your party. Just leave me alone for a little while. I’ve got to recharge.