By Charlie Way
The declaration between extrovert and introvert is a cool, hip way to be different. Extroverts are all over the place, talking, moving, dancing, and laughing, all with others. Introverts are reading or enjoying a rainy day or making something beautiful by themselves. Just like we all watch TV shows and say “Oh, that one’s me,” we’ve all claimed to be an introvert or extrovert.
However, according to Carl Jung, we actually operate on a sliding scale between the two. “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert,” he said. “Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.”
And another thing: the difference between the two types has little to do with whether we like to be around a lot of people or prefer time by ourselves. The differences are actually determined by how we recharge our energy.
Those with introverted tendencies recharge by spending time alone. They feel drained when they spend a lot of time with large groups of people. That is not to say, though, that they enjoy the time with others any less than an extrovert, who gains energy from spending time with other people. An extrovert will find themselves drooping like a wilted flower when they spend too much time alone. They find motivation and inspiration by making plans with others in the future or by spending time with them in the future. However, they enjoy reading, painting, and rainy days just as much as introverts.
If we operate on a sliding scale of introvert and extrovert, we can gradually become more of one than the other. Here are a few ways to tell you’re operating more as an introvert than an extrovert.
1. Lately you’ve been finding pockets of alone time in your schedule…and preserving them.
Once upon a time you would have seen an empty slot on your calendar and panicked. Now you see that you have no lunch plans and take the opportunity to walk around outside or dive back into your book, happily, I might add, and without looking around for someone to sit next to while you do it.
2. You make plans with yourself.
You’ve found something that you love to do that may or may not require you do it with other people. Whether it’s running for miles or drawing Mandalas for hours, you have found something that makes you come alive. You bring people into it sometimes, perhaps to your new exercise class or concert of your new favorite band, but you would be happy to be there, even if you were alone.
3. You make yourself a priority.
When you have a free Saturday, you may reach out and make plans with your friends, but you do so after you ask yourself this one important question: “What do I want to do today?” You ask for people’s opinions and approvals at a much lower frequency than you once did. If you want to do something, or something is important to you, that is the determining factor for you now.
4. You trust yourself.
For every time you had to be alone when you didn’t want to be, you banked a few coins in your Confidence Savings. You didn’t always like eating by yourself because your meeting schedule made it impossible for someone to join you or maybe you were terrified to take a dance class without your usual crew, but each time you did it, you showed yourself just how awesome you can be, all on your own. Each experience taught you something about the world and about yourself and you are using that knowledge to do incredible things.
5. You update your Facebook way less often lately.
Social media is amazing. It is also our human made replacement for face-to-face interaction or genuine connection. It’s our way to keep up with people without ever having to actually communicate with them. It’s the drug of the extroverts and introverts alike because while it enables connection, it does not require interaction. If you’re operating more introverted lately, you’re feeling more independent, which means you’re able to sit in the space of your present moment without clicking into your phone. You certainly relish the time you spend with people you love and are interested in getting to know better, but you require less of the fake stuff and live off more of the good stuff these days.
6. You’re more curious than ever before.
You’ve learned a lot and you crave any opportunity to learn more. You’re braver and a little more adventurous these days. You book flights by yourself and decide to figure out the lodging once you get there. You take a different road back home to see what you can find on the way. Your new confidence is showing you that you can take care of yourself in so many situations; why not try new ones?
7. You’re saying less but meaning more.
The next time you find yourself with a diversely aged group of people (at Thanksgiving, perhaps, with your grandparents, younger cousins, and siblings), take a step out and observe who talks the most and who talks the least. It’s been said that the wiser you are, the less you say. I find this especially demonstrated in age. As you start to feel yourself shifting into more of an introvert role, you’ll notice that your conversations have more comfortable silences. You don’t feel the need to fill them with nonsense just to ease the fear of potential “awkwardness”. As D.H. Lawrence said, “Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.”
8. You’re going out to bars and parties a little bit less often lately…
Generally speaking, you’re staying in more because you want to, because you’ve found happiness in solitude, and you realize it’s much more rewarding come the next day.
9. But when you do go out, you go big.
You’ve been to places and you’ve seen things and you are not so easily captivated by the average night out at a bar as you once were. A heartwarming night out with good friends or a fancy gala event that you would never go to usually without a friend getting you in are the kinds of places you find yourself now, if you’re out. Otherwise, you’re at home, enjoying it just the same.
10. You’re sleeping better.
If you’re less likely to go gallivanting without good reason, you’re most likely getting home at a more reasonable hour, which means you’re getting better sleep, which means you probably feel better than you ever have before. Also, if you’re taking the time to recharge when you need to, your internal battery feels less drained and you have better energy throughout the day to accomplish everything you want and need to.
11. You’re talking and listening to yourself.
You’re going a little slower these days in everything from your conversation speed to your decision making, which means you’re able to hear yourself when you need to. You’re giving your instincts and gut reactions the respect they deserve and as such, you’re able to reflect on what you’ve done and learn from it.
12. You’ve found your best friends.
Since you are no longer dependent on others for your energy, you are able to cut out the general acquaintances that you didn’t really connect with and focus on the friends who really get you and make you feel valued. For the holidays, you’re not buying a cart full of peppermint bark bags to give to absolutely everyone. You’re buying a few select, high quality presents to give to the people that you love. And, most likely, you’re finding the joy of cultivating meaningful relationships with people you are your most honest self with.