Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Introvert vs. Extrovert: Which Am I? (Both!)

In my high school psychology class, we did a perception experiment one day. The teacher called out various adjectives, and the whole class wrote them down and distributed them to other students in the class. We wrote each word three times and handed each slip to a different person.

These weren't anything negative; we weren't calling each other names. They were personality traits, and I only remember two that were used: introvert and extrovert. I remember that because I received four of each. Some people in the class thought I was an introvert; some thought me an extrovert.

At that point, I was a senior. Some of the other students likely knew I was on the Forensics team and did competitive public speaking. They knew I raised my hand a lot in class - those characteristics, they associated with being an extrovert. Others had probably seen me in classes I cared less about, where I rarely spoke. They knew I didn't have many close friends and often spoke quietly - those people thought I was an introvert.

So who was right? All of them.

I'm more outspoken when I'm comfortable in my surroundings. I joined Forensics because public speaking terrified me and I wanted to be more confident with it - and also because I had friends on the team. I love my alone time and I am often the wallflower at big parties, and I even felt kind of awkward at my own wedding, where everyone was near and dear to me.

Lately, I've been much more in touch with my introversion. I'm in a new place, with uneven footing and a door that locks with a satisfying click. I've stepped out of myself several times since moving here, forcing the extrovert in me to come out to play. More often than not, though, I'm more comfortable alone or with Spousal Unit. New things and people are scary; routine and time reading are my friends. Shy is my most defining word, right now.

But I'm using this introversion to my advantage. It will be some time before Spousal Unit and I are finally settled in our new surroundings (yes, even though we've been in Madison for a year, it still feels new). So while I bask in the glow of my hours alone (but not always lonely), I work on my novel. I use this time to catch up on reading I've wanted to do. I have date nights with Spousal Unit more often and feel closer to him than ever. I make this time work for me instead of against me.

Yes, potential friendships have suffered a little, and that makes me sad. But I'm easing into this - when I at last leap out of my shell, I want to be able to talk to others, rather than just sitting in a corner, listening to others make noise and feeling like an awkward turtle. I've pushed myself to be more social lately; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but I'm making the effort. (Otherwise, the extroversion won't necessarily come back on its own.)

In the meantime, I'm getting in touch with my quiet side. I'm listening to what my heart whispers in the silence. I'm creating, and dreaming, and breathing, slow and steady.

I'm loving the introvert in me.

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