The Struggles of Being an Extroverted Introvert

The first time I had to take a Myers Briggs test was when I was in Grade 8. They explained what each letter stood for on the overhead projector, displayed on a screen in the right hand corner of our classroom. Our teacher asked us what our initial thoughts were, and I remember raising my hand and saying, "This test can't be accurate. I scored as introverted, but I'm clearly extroverted." I forgot about this moment right up until this year, when I took three personality tests around the Myers Briggs concepts and ideas, and scored as introverted on all of them. Again, I thought: this can't be accurate. I keep scoring as introverted, but I'm clearly extroverted. For a while, I took to telling people I'm introverted for shock value. My mom laughed out loud, a friend called bullshit, and other people voiced their surprise.

Then I actually looked at the definition of introverts and thought, "Oh that's what they're talking about. . . that is me."

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While there isn't a lot of science to back it up, this article clearly articulates quite a few of my tendencies. It's incredibly accurate in describing how I feel about parties and networking. Essentially, introversion is less about being shy and wanting to avoid crowds, and more about certain interactions with people depleting my energy reserve.

The key tipping point to finally accepting my introversion was over orientation week this summer. I spent a lot of time with people, I spent a lot of time talking to people and to large crowds of people, and after doing so, I'd be exhausted. In fact, by the end of orientation week, I was wiped. My energy reserve was at 0%. All I wanted was some time by myself or time with my family - no more uncomfortable quick chats with people, more time just driving in the countryside with my mom.

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I love people and hearing their stories, but a good one on one chat with someone I'm comfortable with means more to me than 500 stupid small talk conversations. I need something deeper than small talk, and I crave a life filled with meaning. I cringe when a church I attend in Toronto makes us get up and introduce ourselves: the introduction is fast, it always features an awkward Hannah, and I never get to know anything tangible about the person, nor do I get to talk to them again after the church service. It's a hard interaction for me.

I hate introducing myself in front of a class, I hate answering a prof's question if I don't have the correct answer, and sometimes, my insides shrivel up at the thought of MCing a sports game. But I also love hanging out with a youth group at lazer tag, I love one on one coffee dates, and I love brainstorming with a group when I'm comfortable. I love all of my jobs, but I know when I need to leave them and spend some time by myself. There are times when I'm stretching myself to be a leader or decent contributor of a group project, because all I want to do is fade to the background. I hate introductory meetings, but I love sitting and chatting about life and Jesus when it's late at night and when it's with an incredible role model. I love acting on stage because I get to pretend I'm in my own world but I need to spend time recuperating afterwards.

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I look extroverted because I can get an entire crowd of people to cheer, but what you're not seeing is me in my room, exhausted because my energy was spent getting those people to cheer.

And this is my major struggle as an introvert who poses as extroverted: I spend a lot of time isolating myself from people, not daring to let anyone know the real me. Because I spend a lot of time looking extroverted, talking to people, smiling, playing the role, I get away with everyone thinking they know me, because I can do quick interactions. It even looks like I do well with fast conversations or random interactions - some of my jobs require me to do this. My extroverted tendencies come out full force when I am in a group where I am 100% comfortable, so when I'm with my family and when I'm at Calvary.

But I'm also really good at isolating myself. I pull out because I don't see the discussions going deeper, or because allllllllll I want to do is sit with Netflix, tea, and my thoughts. In my life, I have a very small group of people who are close to me and it's taken some of those people years to be in that small group - I truly take #nonewfriends to a whole new meaning.

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I'm attempting to find this happy place where I can let people get to know me without cringing at the thought of engaging in small talk. I'm attempting to find this lovely place where I don't scrunch up at the thought of introductory meetings, and I'm trying realllllyyyyy hard to guard my alone time without isolating myself.

But it's less easy than I thought it would be. And I don't have the answers, which makes me not want to ask the questions. Perhaps this is just one of the joys of being a complex human being and having a multi faceted personality. Perhaps this is another exciting adventure and journey. I don't quite know yet - but stay tuned for more struggles of an extroverted introvert!