Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Story of the Extroverted Introvert

Erin, Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert? 

Those who know me know this question is silly.

I'm ridiculously outgoing (and super annoying).

But it's actually a question I've asked myself a lot lately as I've moved to Pittsburgh and had to really make an effort to meet new people.

It's weird when you move to a new place because you kind of forget how you made all those old friends in the first place. You are no longer surrounded by thousands of people your age that you know. It forces you to take a good look at what you want in a new relationship and a deep dive into who you are.

I always took being called an extrovert as somewhat of an insult. I mean, I'm a writer! I'm supposed to fly-on-the-wall the crap out of every situation! I can't break down that fourth wall and actually gather my own life experiences, right? To participate and observe creates a skewed, conflict of interest to a story, right?

I spend a lot of time with myself. I like shopping alone and eating alone. I like watching boats pull bigger boats down the Allegheny River on my lunch break. I like putting up my ENO hammock and hanging out by myself as all the sidewalkers stare. So naturally, I thought of myself as an introvert.

But I think I confused introversion, independence and observation skills as being mutually exclusive.

I thought because I was able to spend days hanging out with myself and not getting self conscious -- because I could go out to lunch with myself without feeling the need to stare at my phone -- that I was an introvert. Really, it's just that I am independent.

When it comes down to it, as in most areas of life, we can't simply organize ourselves as one way or another. Humans are more complex than that. Even when we gather MORE boxes and MORE descriptions (like the ever popular Myers-Briggs tests), people still don't fit into our tidy little categories.

There are super self-conscious extroverts and insanely conceited introverts. There are extroverts who hate talking in front of others and their are introverts who can sing the Star Spangled Banner in front of millions on national television.

Introversion/Extroversion really explains where you get your energy from.

The other day, we bumped into someone who I think it's safe to call a legend in the organization I was involved with in college (called Younglife) at Dave & Andy's (an awesome homemade ice cream shop in Oakland).  He and his family had just moved to Pittsburgh to start a new YoungLife chapter here and I had known this from mutual friends, but had never actually met him. Casually, I approached the man and we held a titillating conversation for a few minutes before I got my strawberry ice cream and we headed on our way.

As we walked to the car, licking our cones, I was bouncing off the walls. My boyfriend pointed it out that my energy level literally changed because I had just met a new person. He laughed. hard. Because we've argued before whether I'm an extrovert or introvert. He was right. My attitude and mood after meeting this new person had gone from 0 to 60. So obviously so that it was kind of hilarious.

Ultimately, my confidence, extroversion and independence all come from the same roll of quarters. They all work together to make me who I am.

Everybody is different and it's really awesome to see how we all fit together.  We need all kinds of people to make it all work.

While, introversion and extroversion are things we need to know about ourselves in order to best take care of ourselves, there are also different skills that make us who we are that we can practice and perfect. These can change as we change.

It's so important that we all figure out where we get our energy (you probably already know this answer). It's important that we figure out the skills we love about ourselves and keep practicing them, and that we figure out the things we're awful at and, after scrutinizing them, we exercise them.

You are a unique person with some kick ass skills that you can use to make the world suck less.

Forget what box you fit into and figure out who you really are. Then go be that person. Be the best damn version of that person you can be.


The independent, somewhat introverted outgoing extrovert who enjoys hanging out with herself but also gets really excited about meeting new people.

Update: I was approached about this blog and told that I'm not an extrovert or introvert because I'm an ambivert — the person who fits in between. My point in this blog is to show that people are complex beings, inadequately categorized from simply getting their energy from alone time or social time. To take this blog and attempt to categorize my feeling that every person is unique completely misses the point.

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