Introversion and Extroversion aren’t opposites

I’m an introvert. Proud and self-proclaimed. Have been for as long as I remember, and going off what my nursery, infant, and primary school reports say, I’ve never been afraid of some ‘me’ time. But a common misconception I feel is thought about us lovers of our own company is that we can never leave the house, or that we are unable to hold any semblance of a conversation, or we just have complete social anxiety that renders us non-functioning to the point of ineptitude.

Well, this just isn’t the case.

As I have found with most things that have been socially enforced as a binary, they are in fact more of a spectrum. A varying, uncertain, multilayered abyss of grey, opposed to the black & white we are lead to believe everything is. (Same for sexuality & gender but I’ll leave that for another post).

Me, I have a big family. Gatherings, whether it’s birthdays or the holiday season there’s lots of people about and mother fuckers is hella loud conversations and interaction are always had. Now being an introvert does not mean that I lock myself in a bedroom where no one can find me until it is time to go home. What it means is that I will participate in the raucous discussions had by my friends, I will play the ‘always turns into an argument’ games with my cousins (yes monopoly is banned in our house just like yours), and I’m guaranteed to get cornered by every auntie and uncle asking about school/work (and everything else under the sun). But what being an introvert also means is that I have to temper those interactions (to the best of my ability, you know aunties & uncles be ruthless). It means that sometimes I will take more of a back seat in the heated discussion about Beyoncé (read:historically all black artists) being robbed at the Grammys, or who threw who shade in the latest twitter beef, or setting about dismantling the white supremacist capitalist hetro-normative patriarchal evils at play. It means that all of these social interaction enjoyable or otherwise take something from me.

Sometimes, it feels like they are genuinely draining me of my energy and I think that’s the difference.

I know people that are extroverts, and they completely thrive off socialising. They could seem ready for bed, almost near hibernation (i’m talking that good good bear-like 6 month hibernation) at one point but the mere whiff of conversation will have them eyes-wide and energisered. That’s exactly what it does, it energises them and they’ll be ready to go for another 24 hours because they had their fix of socialising. And obviously extroverts fall on varying positions on the spectrum. In the same way that some introverts (me, right here) can go a day without seeing or speaking to another human soul (in person or social media) or spend a whole day in the company of other people (family/friends or strangers), the same variation I believe exists within extroverts.

But if I can touch on an earlier point, social interactions take something from me. This has been something that I have had to come to an understanding of. For a long time, before I truly reckoned what my introversion means to me, I struggled to grasp why I would feel so miserable after having spent a lot of time (even really enjoyable time) with people. This kind of led to me to being a recluse and prescribing to the binary of an introvert and just avoiding social situations all together unless I really had too (enter auntie and uncles). But this also doesn’t work for me because as much as homo-sapiens generally annoy the fuck outta me, to have a life without anybody init isn’t beneficial to this earthly existence. So when a friend comes to visit me for a few days, or I have that one stupid busy week during the year where 5 people I know all have their birthdays, or even going on holiday with friends and family, I know that I need to take a day (2 or 3) to just recuperate after. Just being at the house on my jacks with some plant rolled in paper music, or taking myself to a museum or park and catching up on my podcasts. Whatever it maybe, just let myself receive me.

I know that I am a happier person as a result of this understanding and rewiring of how I persevere my personality. I am able to manage my moods better. Cope with my mental health better, and also be a more enjoyable person to spend time with.

So if you have never found yourself quite fitting at either end of the binary, try thinking of it as a spectrum, and see where you fall and take steps from there.



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