The day I found out I was an introvert completely changed my life
You know those drug commercials that are like, do you suffer from chronic fatigue? Do you breathe air and have two legs? Then you likely have _______, and we have just the drug for you! And you’re left sitting on the couch in silence wondering if you have said condition? That’s exactly how I felt the day I realized I was an introvert.
It was a Thursday morning and I was already late to a meeting. I was sitting cross legged on the floor applying makeup and listening to an episode from Chalene Johnson’s podcast where she was describing herself as an outgoing introvert. It stopped me mid mascara application and I remember thinking, a what? I looked up with half a face of makeup on and listened intently. OMG SHE IS ME, I AM HER. Ok, not literally. But when I say I had an epiphany that day, I HAD A MAJOR EPIPHANY. Was I, dare I say it, an introvert too? Honestly it was the first time I felt “normal” in a really long time.
Armed with information
I immediately started googling “outgoing introvert.” I read so many articles and couldn’t stop. My entire life I had associated introversion with being shy, and extroversion with being outgoing. I was not shy. So then why was I often feeling drained in certain social settings, and why was I the only co-worker who wanted to go hide in her hotel room after a long staff meeting when everyone else wanted to go out to dinner together? Learning the answer to this question has completely changed my life and helped me understand myself better than I ever have been able to.
So what exactly was an introvert (and an extrovert)?
Introversion and extroversion has nothing to do with whether you are shy or not. It’s about how you get your energy. Introverts often feel recharged after spending time alone, and extroverts gain their energy when they’re around other people. Learning this was a game changer.
I listened to this podcast last week about friendship that described introversion and extroversion in another way that I found fascinating. They compared it to food. Some of us may get full off one bowl of pasta, while others may need 3. There are so many social situations I can think of when I’m out and having fun, but after a few hours I’m exhausted. Meanwhile my husband, an extrovert, is still having the time of his life (he isn’t “full” yet). And while using that same food example, there are some “foods” (ahem, people or social situations) that I can and always want more of.
What I’ve learned
Learning that I was actually an introvert, when my entire life I thought I was an extrovert, has helped me better understand myself in ways I never thought I could. And look, I know that no one is ever truly 100% an introvert, or 100% an extrovert. But understanding what makes you feel alive and energized, versus what completely drains you, is life changing. I am willing to bet there may even be some shy extroverts reading this that have thought they were introverts their entire lives. So for what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve learned about myself, an outgoing introvert. (or what some like to call, an ambivert)
(side note, Chalene’s podcast has helped me understand myself in so many other ways and I highly recommend it)
Signs you may be an outgoing (or extroverted) introvert
- Certain people can energize you, while others completely drain you
We actually love people. It’s not that Introverts are anti-social, it’s that we are selectively social. If your friendship doesn’t bring me any emotional satisfaction, I don’t have time for it. And while some people can drain me, others can completely energize me. Being with them feels so easy that hours will feel like minutes. Meanwhile other interactions can leave me feeling like I just ran a marathon.
You know it’s so funny because even as a kid I’d always want to hang out with mom and aunts in the kitchen just to listen to their conversations instead of being outside playing with the rest of the kids.
2. You hate small talk
Small talk is complete and utter hell. I crave substance. I can’t do the polite surface level interactions. And the older I get, the harder it is to fake those. They completely drain me of all my energy. I read a quote the other day by Dr. Laurie Helgoe that said, “Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people. We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.” Read that again. I felt that in my bones.
3. The environment can completely affect your mood
The music, the ambiance, the vibe, and the noise level, can all affect my energy. Depending on my environment, I can be the life of the party, or I can be completely withdrawn. A hectic environment where I’m overly stimulated can completely drain me. For example, sitting at a long noisy table with a large group at a restaurant where we’re all screaming over each other is not for me. But going to an intimate dinner with friends is more my jam. And it’s not necessarily the noise level, but more the environment that can effect my energy. Because lord knows I love a good concert. It may sound silly, but even the way an environment looks can completely affect my energy. Is this why so many interior designers identify as introverts?
4. You tend to have a time limit in social situations
I can be having the absolute best time, but then there will be a certain point when it suddenly hits me and I’m like OK, we gotta go. It’s like my battery suddenly runs out, and I completely shut down. I can be the life of the party one minute, and then feel completely drained the next. I think Chalene compared it to Cinderella when the clock strikes midnight in her podcast and I thought that was ridiculously accurate.
5. Our ability to be social depends on our energy level
If I’ve spent a few hours alone, I’m probably feeling energized and ready to out with friends. However, if I’ve been in an all day staff meeting, I’m likely not going to join my co-workers for happy hour. I need to go back to my room to recharge. It’s not personal. And if we’re at a conference, I’m not spending our breaks chatting with you. You will likely find me in a corner with my headphones on listening to music as I decompress.
6. People are always surprised you’re an introvert because you’re not shy
I played the part of an extrovert so well for the majority of my life that people often don’t believe I’m actually an introvert. No one I know would call me shy, and I’m almost always outgoing in most social situations. I find myself constantly having to explain that, no really, I am introvert.
7. You love organizing events and being the host
If being outgoing wasn’t confusing enough, I also love to organize and host. However, I didn’t really realize why I did until recently and now it all makes sense. It’s because I can completely control the situation. I can control who goes, and how long the event (or trip) can last.
8. Other peoples comfort is so important to you
I’d like to think of myself as warm and easy to talk to when you meet me. I’m usually the one filling the silence in awkward situations, or the one trying to keep the conversation going. I like to make sure that everyone is having a good time. I can often come off as easy going and chatty but really I’m often “in my head” and drowning in ideas and thoughts. #professionaloverthinker
9. You have a hard time understanding why people can’t just say what they think
I find it difficult to get along with anyone who doesn’t have the same amount of openness as me. I understand small talk can lead to deep conversations, but if we’ve had several interactions and are still not there, I’m out. I’m the type of friend that appreciates honesty. Let’s cut through all the bullshit. Sweeping things under the rug is not how I operate.
10. You need alone time every day to recharge
Understanding this has completely changed my life. Being alone is how I charge my batteries. I need it just as much as sleep. So when I’m running low, I need to “come up for air.” If you’re an introvert you know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe you’re at a party, or you have a house full of guests, sometimes that quick trip to the bathroom for some “air” gives you a tiny boost of energy to continue the night.
Now look these 10 aren’t an exact recipe, but definitely some things I’ve noticed about myself over the years. Let me know if you can relate, or if dare I say it, you may have JUST learned this about yourself today?
Feedback? Comment below, or email me: (Deema Tabbara Lopez) at firstname.lastname@example.org