Growing up, it wasn’t until I was about 12 or 13 when I was first introduced to the idea of introversion and extroversion. It was in English class in middle school, and for reasons I can’t remember, we were doing personality quizzes, similar to the kind you see pop up on Facebook now and again. When the quiz asked me if I was an introvert or an extrovert, I was familiar enough with the words, but not with their true meanings. I said I was an extrovert because I thought that it would seem as though I didn’t like people if I said I was an introvert. This idea stuck with me, and for a while I was convinced I was an extrovert, and that I should be doing and enjoying things as an extrovert would. As someone who is very definitely introverted, this wasn’t all that fun. To try and live as an extrovert when you’re introverted, in my experience, is to feel constantly overwhelmed and worn out without understanding why. I felt strange for wanting alone time, not knowing at the time that I needed it.
I feel that “introverted” and “extroverted” are words that are thrown around quite a lot without a full understanding of what it is to be one or the other. The reason why this matters is because introverts and extroverts will take care of themselves in different ways. The be an introvert trying to live life as an extrovert will mean that you will not have your needs properly met. Even as I became familiar with the terms, I still did not have a full understanding of what they meant. My idea of them was that introverts enjoy being on their own, and extroverts enjoy being around other people. Although this is often true, it is not what defines the two Most everyone in the world enjoys both alone time and time around others, regardless of whether they are introverted or extroverted. I realized this confusion existed as I discussed the topic with other people. In most cases, people weren’t sure if they were one or the other because, as they said, while they liked being around people, they also enjoyed being alone. A simple Google search could have solved this confusion; however, at the time, it didn’t seem that important. It is only looking back that I’ve realized the importance of understanding the true differentiation between the two.
What sets introverts and extroverts apart goes deeper than being based on a person’s preference for social or alone time. It has more to do with how they take care of themselves. The difference between introverts and extroverts will be most plainly seen at the end of a tiring or stressful day in which your energy feels completely sapped. At this point, an extrovert is going to feel more inclined to be around other people, while an introvert is going to prefer to be by themselves. The other difference between the two is seen depending on which scenario will give you energy. Extroverts are going to feel energized by being around other people, while introverts are going to feel energized by alone time. This is what leads to the misconception that introverts don’t like being around people. At a party or similar event, an extrovert is like a street car, and an introvert is like a bus. A strange comparison, but bear with me. The extroverted street car drives along, having a continual energy source provided. The introverted bus drives along just the same way, but after a while it is going to need to stop to refuel. While both have the same capability, they have different energy sources. Even though it is not their source of energy, an introvert can still enjoy a party.
The world we live in generally caters towards extroverts, making it difficult for introverts to have their needs met. From the time we begin school, we are put into large classroom settings and given activity-filled days. We are encouraged to be around people, we are taught how to be social. My point is not that this is a bad thing, but that it should be paired with an equal importance put on the value of solitary activities and quality alone time. As someone who grew up not knowing they were an introvert, there was a time in which I thought I just didn’t like people all that much. It was an important day for me when I realized that it wasn’t that I didn’t like people, but that I didn’t like being around them all the time. Although this doesn’t seem like a big revelation, it is important to know how to take care of yourself.