Which one are you really?
A young starlet was recently quoted saying something like, “I just found out that I’m actually introverted, so I’ve started taking more time for myself.” She isn’t alone: many of us misunderstand extroversion and introversion to our own detriment. The commonly-held notion that extroverts are outgoing and introverts are inward-facing is simplistic if somewhat true. But it goes much deeper than that.
Carl Jung was one of the first people to use extroversion and introversion as designations in psychological practice. He defined them as:
Extrovert: “an attitude-type characterised by concentration of interest on the external object” (the outside world)
Introvert: “an attitude-type characterised by orientation in life through subjective psychic contents” (focus on one’s inner psychic activity)
Jung suggests that everyone has both an extroverted side and an introverted side, with one being more dominant than the other. Meaning, you don’t have to be 100% whichever-vert. You may be 60/40 extrovert/introvert, or even 5/95. There are no absolutes when it comes to how your psyche functions.
Our society seems to reward extroverted personalities—the bold, the confident, the outgoing—when in fact those same personalities may, like the starlet, be introverts who have coached themselves to embrace more outgoing traits. Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi, Warren Buffett, Al Gore, J.K. Rowling, and Google’s Larry Page are all highly-visible introverts.
Modern interpretations have included the notion of where you draw energy from: do you feel energized in big groups? Extrovert. Do you feel recharged after spending time alone? Introvert. If you’re inclined, try one of a few online tests to measure your introverted and extroverted tendencies. Here are a few we like: The Meyers-Briggs online test, vert-expert Susan Cain’s test, or OK Cupid’s test.
Then use the results to help guide you when you’re struggling or need to recharge: do you need to seek help with friends or take a long walk alone?
Image: Creative Commons © Jerry Bunkers