Knowing the answer to this question will change your life

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

I’ve always been an introvert. I just didn’t know it. For many years I pretended to be an extrovert, dancing my way to the centre of the room, spending all my time with noise and people. Yet I’ve only recently really understood the definition of both words and the impact they have and how they manifest themselves in our lives.

It’s all about energy.

Where do you get refilled?  When do you feel at peace? Where do you get your buzz?  What brings you to life? I love cocktail parties and music concerts. I love meeting new people and learning how they live.  Having a house full of friends makes me so completely happy. I love serving my friends and family and filling my life with plans, but I only ever feel full or rested when I’ve spent time on my own. This seems like a paradox and it’s why I’ve been so confused for so many years,  unable to answer the question, unsure which box to tick. Was I an introvert or an extrovert?  To put myself into either box felt too final. I wanted to be both. I thought ticking one box would mean closing off the other box forever.

Travelling taught me to talk to strangers, to join in random conversations and help people I knew I would never see again. It taught me to force myself to be brave and to push forward and be confident. But it was in that noise and hustle that I also heard the most deafening quiet.  Quiet on deserted beaches, quiet in cafes on street corners, quiet in busy dorm rooms and a quiet within myself. I felt full and happy in this silence and that changed everything. I never thought I would be an introvert, but I hadn’t ever let myself listen long enough to what I needed. I hadn’t ever listened to what the silence was trying to tell me, whispering gently, relentlessly, waiting for me to hear.

I suddenly understood why after a busy weekend I felt exhausted. Why I needed to be on my own for lunch breaks and why I flinch when the person next to me on a bus starts talking. I could pretend to be ok with all those things. I could be an extrovert when I needed to. But I needed the quiet. I needed the stillness, to heal and repair. To refill and restore.  And now I’ve heard this silence, I want to build a life around it.

Life makes so much more sense to me now.  There is so much power in knowing yourself fully (I’ve got a long way to go, but knowing this helps!). To be able to act so sure of what is in your best interest. You owe it to yourself to be completely sure which box to tick. You must be able to get refilled and you must know how to stop yourself from becoming empty.

So, which box would you tick? And why will this change your life?

Even when you google the definition of introvert and extrovert, it’s confusing.  But the word ‘introvert’ comes from the Latin word ‘intro’, meaning inward.  Whereas ‘extrovert’ comes from the word ‘extra’ meaning outside. Turning outwardly to seek energy from interactions with others.  Now, of course, there is a continuum but knowing the answer to this question will allow you to respond to situations with an assertive confidence in how the answer will best serve you and your needs.

  1. It doesn’t matter which box you tick, as long as you know. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert, the world needs both. It matters that you know and you live your truth.
  2. Don’t judge too quickly.  Some people may seem so introverted, it’s rude. Or a friend may be so completely extroverted that you want to tell them to shut up. But remember, we’re all just trying to get full. If you spend a day with an extrovert and feel completely drained, you’ve helped them get what they need. And if you’re introverted friend cancelled plans last minute, maybe it was too much for them and they didn’t have any energy left, they might have needed to refuel.
  3. Listen to what you need.  It’s the only thing that will make you feel better.
  4. Remember it’s a sliding scale. I think we have very strong tendencies to one box or the other, but there are times when we flit between the two, testing our boundaries and checking our decisions. Sometimes we have to pretend to be the one that we are not and that’s ok too. As long as you don’t pretend forever.

I know I have to be careful because I don’t want to fill my whole life with silence and quiet. It’s restorative and helpful for me to ensure it’s factored into my decisions and schedule, but sometimes life is found on the fringes of the boxes. In the space where the introverts and extroverts can meet and mingle, both getting what they need.

We’re not always what we seem to be. I’m slowly learning how to own the room as an introvert. Just because you’re quiet, it doesn’t mean you have to be an introvert and just because you love being the centre of attention, doesn’t make you an extrovert.  All that matters is that you are happy knowing the difference and that your energy gets refilled – whatever that might look like.

Get in touch and let me know which box you fall in or out of, I’d love to hear about it.

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