On the surface Introverted people and Extroverted people should be at the opposite ends of the personality spectrum. For a long time, I thought being an extrovert meant you were loud, confident, life and soul of the party and that being an introvert meant you were shy, lacked confidence and didn’t enjoy social functions. But when I finally understood what it means to be an introvert vs an extrovert my whole perspective changed. Learning about the differences has changed how I live, how I manage myself and my time, how I approach my work life, and more importantly how I forgive myself for mistakes.
So what’s the difference between an introvert and an extrovert?
Quite simply, and introvert gains energy through time alone, and an extrovert gains energy by being around others.
This means that you can be the most confident, loud person that will happily strut into a room full of strangers without a care in the world…but you can be an introvert.
You might be very shy, and struggle with public speaking, but you can be an extrovert.
It’s not about confident or how outgoing you are.
Why is it important?
Understanding yourself is important for so many reasons, but specifically in this instance, understanding whether you are an introvert or an extrovert can have a direct impact on your productivity, your mental and physical wellbeing and your relationships. It can help you set boundaries, and help you create techniques for managing situations that may challenge your subconscious mindset.
Learning your mind’s preferred way to think, recoup and rest means you can use it to your advantage. For example in the workplace having too many meetings can completely drain an introvert. They can feel tired, sluggish and non-productive. An extrovert however, will be buzzing, fuelled with energy from the many conversations that have been had.
It’s an invaluable skill to learn and recognise in others if you happen to manage other team members. Or even for your friends and children.
Another example is that introverts and extroverts tend to process information very differently. Extroverts are prone to conclusion jumping, or thinking before they speak. Introverts can be proud to overthinking, or reluctance to take action. Each one comes with many advantages (and disadvantages!) but again understanding his and learning how to factor it in to your day to day is an incredibly useful life hack.
Figuring it Out
The most important thing to remember though? That you don’t have to fit into one or the other. Personalities can be fluid, and people can adapt to work vs social life, or feel more introverted/extroverted depending on a huge variety of factors.
I do feel that we each have a subconscious preference as to where we sit on the introvert/extrovert scale, and so for me the best way to approach this is to think about yourself at your core. Without any external pressure and without having to put on a front for anybody. Your true self.
It all comes down to this crucial idea of whether being around lots of people drains you, or energises you. There are plenty of variables but there’s a super helpful (and quick) test over on this awesome website which can give you some guidance.
For me, when I realised I was naturally an introvert (although I can be extrovert when I need to be) I almost felt a release. For so long people have called me boring and I believed them, and I have previously mistook my need for alone time as a symptom of my depression or anxiety. Now I understand what it means to be introvert and I accept that in order to keep myself in balance I have to have time alone. And now I know this, I respect it and make sure that I am mindful of getting that time alone.
For example this weekend coming I have plans Friday night, Saturday and Saturday night. I’m already starting to feel anxious because of it. BUT knowing my introvert nature, I have made sure that I will get some time on Sunday to restore and rest, ready for the weak ahead.
Sometimes when it isn’t possible to schedule in time alone, it’s important that we choose to be more mindful in our moments of solitude. Having a shower or bath, sitting on the train to work, or making dinner for example can all be moments of quiet if we make that choice.