When you hear the words introvert or extrovert, specific characteristics come to mind. Certain connotations tend to be associated with each of these terms. Introverts are seen as shy, reserved, or withdrawn. While Extroverts are viewed as outgoing, sociable, and talkative. They are often deemed polar opposites.
Why do you have to be either or?
The labels Introvert and extrovert help explain where you get your energy from. This does not always align with the way people present themselves. Introverts gain energy by spending time alone, while extroverts need to interact with other people to obtain energy.
Personally, I thrive when I am around others. I would be more than happy to spend my day meeting new people, laughing with friends, or studying in a bustling coffee shop. I am only able to handle isolated spaces for so long until I crave some sort of social interaction. If I am feeling particularly low, and sitting in my room by myself all day, I end up feeling worse than how I started off. However, in a lot of ways, I fit the mold for what is typically expected of an extrovert.
At the same time, I have learned to reserve specific times for solitude. When I go for runs, it gives me a chance to put in my headphones and tune out the world. Doing something for myself, completely on my own, is liberating. Although it may seem like a relatively small action, it is an important reminder that I am enough. I deserve to consistently spend time taking care of myself, independent of anyone else.
Then there is my best friend, who could be the poster child of stereotypical extroversion. She was the student council president, always the life of the party, and a complete social butterfly. She can be friends, anyone, anywhere, and is the last person who would be described as someone who keeps to themselves. However, when she needs to regain energy, she does not seek out social interaction. Instead, she spends time completely alone to recharge. This does not take away from her charismatic personality or how much she enjoys being around others. Rather, she is able to set boundaries for herself that allows her not to be pushed past limits that affect her mental health.
If you take a moment to reflect on the people in your life, you might realize that they are more layered than you initially thought. Introverts do not always fit the conventional mold of preferring to keep to themselves, just as extroverts may not be immediately identifiable as loud attention-seekers. Personality traits cannot be attributed exclusively to either group. While someone may seem to be an extrovert because of the way they interact with others, this is not always indicative of how they get their energy.
Categorization is familiar. We feel more comfortable with things that can be clearly defined and sorted into neat little boxes. In reality, the world is not black and white. It is colorful, vibrant, and dynamic, describing the complexities within the people that make it up. Each one of us is defined by so much more than a binary characterization. Introversion and extroversion are not opposing traits, they are on a spectrum. In this case, each one of us is defined by so much more than binary characterization, rather than completely opposing traits. We are all layered individuals filled with contradictions and uncertainties, and our ever-evolving natures are reflected in our personalities.
It is important to find ways to take care of yourself based on what works for you specifically. For some, that may mean realizing you need to reach out to others and let them help uplift you when you are not feeling your best. For others, that may mean setting aside some time solely for yourself, so that you can get back to a social space where being around others does not drain you.
Self-prioritization can push us out of our comfort zones. It can be intimidating to tell someone you need their support, but that may ultimately be the best thing you can do for yourself at that moment. It can also be difficult to admit that you need to take some time for yourself, but it could be necessary for your own wellbeing. We are constantly in fear of what other people are going to think of us, which can take a serious toll on our own mental health.
It is okay to do things for yourself. People do not simply fit into boxes. There are days we feel like taking on the whole world and others where we do not want to leave our houses. We can choose to broaden our perceptions beyond societal expectations and realize that we are all capable of being whoever we want to be. Recognizing where we get our energy from, may just be a step towards learning how to give ourselves what we need.
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