Most of the friends I’ve made in the past three years assume that I’m extroverted to the max. I don’t blame any one of them for thinking this and it certainly doesn’t make me reevaluate how close we really are. If I met myself, I, too, would assume that Mariel Unger is an extrovert.
Let’s look at the facts, shall we?
1. I LOVE hanging out in groups.
2. I jump at chances to be with my friends or to meet new people.
3. I’m not afraid to act like a complete and utter fool in public.
4. I’m quite outspoken and am infamous among my different friend groups for always being the one to have an opinion.
5. After being alone for an extended period of time I go a little crazy and crave human interaction.
That should be enough to convince anyone, right?
BUT WAIT! There’s more!
I find gratification and pleasure in being absorbed in and concerned with what is outside myself, which, according to Carl Jung, is one of the key factors in identifying an extrovert. That’s not to say that I’m fascinated by material objects or obsessed with ownership or wealth. It merely states that I take pleasure from conversations with other people or group activities, more so than in sitting by myself or reading a book.
Describes me perfectly, right? Wrong.
While everything I’ve said above is true – I do love hanging out in groups and I do obtain gratification from that which is outside myself – it doesn’t describe me perfectly. Not even close.
Most of the friends I made as a child would, when asked, describe me as an introvert. This is how I would describe myself, though it’s probably not the most accurate representation of me.
Let’s look at the facts once again.
1. I cherish time spent alone.
2. I’m an avid reader and writer.
3. After being in a group for a long time I start to plan how I’ll spend my time alone.
4. I’d rather not have people along when I drive my car.
5. I’m perfectly content with being home alone for a week without feeling the need to throw a party.
As a child I would never join in group activities without watching and observing beforehand so that I would enter the game already knowing how to play so I wouldn’t expose myself in any way. If I stay for a weekend at a friend’s house and they need to leave for an hour or two, instead of feeling awkward I feel elated that I have time to do whatever I want. One of my favourite things to do when I need to eat out is to buy my food, park my car, and eat while I listen to music or watch a video on my laptop or sit in philosophical silence.
Now THIS, this describes me perfectly… right? Right.
Well… maybe a little bit wrong.
Again, everything I said up there is true. I do love being by myself. I love engaging in solitary activities such as reading a book or playing solitaire (with a real deck of cards).
But I also love hanging out in groups! I love being with groups and talking in groups and doing group activities.
This raises the obvious question “How can the two be reconciled?”
The problem with all of us is that we’re very quick to peg people as either extroverted or introverted. One excludes the other. Either you like groups or you like cats.
The truth is, though, that every person has a little of both. Many of the most extroverted people I know have their moments of introversion when they just feel a need to get away from it all, and vice versa. A lot of introverted people enjoy being in groups, just not for a long period of time.
So why do I seem to be both? There are two basic theories.
The first is the most common: on a scale of 0 – 10, with 0 being introversion and 10 being extroversion, I would be a 5. This is known as ambiversion and means, more or less, that I have a foot in both camps. I don’t lean any one way but rather show a tendency for both traits. Most people view the difference between introversion and extroversion this way; that is, in order to be high on one trait you must be low on the other.
The other theory is the one I prefer, suggested by Carl Jung and the authors of the Myers-Briggs personality test. This theory proposes that introversion and extroversion are on two separate scales, and while it’s possible to be high on one and low on the other, people tend to score highER on one scale than on the other. So if 0 is zero trait for both scales, and 10 is extreme introversion/extroversion, someone might score a 5 in introversion and an 8 in extroversion. This would suggest that this person is in touch with both traits, but has more extroverted tendencies. Personally, I think I would score a 7 or 8 on both scales. I’m passionate about interaction and I’m passionate about alone time.
I’m starting at college in ten days and my potential roommate is extroverted to the extreme. Those who know me well have asked me how I’m going to deal with this, but the truth is that I’m not worried about it at all. Because I display both tendencies, my extroverted side will be able to keep up with her while my introverted side will be content with sitting alone in the dorm room while she’s off in a group. I’m actually glad she’s not an introvert because then there would be awkward moments where we both wanted to be alone in the room. As it stands, I’m certain that this arrangement will work out in the best possible way and I’m thankful for such a thing as ambiversion.
Most people upon meeting me assume that I am extroverted, probably because my introverted side is afraid of meeting people. As I get to know a person, I get more comfortable with letting my introverted side show through. One of the most notable examples I can think of is one time a few years ago when I was visiting a friend. Up until that point the only interaction I’d had with him was either in a group setting or online so he had really only had access to my extroverted side. However, I felt very comfortable around him and at one point that day we were sitting outside listening to music and I was completely still, not saying anything and just listening. “What have you done with Mariel?” he asked. I sort of laughed and brushed it off but the truth is I just felt totally comfortable with being around him, and so my introverted, introspective side began to show through.
Most people who met me when I was young, however, automatically see my introverted side because I was more in touch with this trait as a child. I didn’t have any close friends and so my introversion was driven partly by necessity – I spent time alone because I didn’t have anyone to spend time with. I actually became quite socially awkward, which wasn’t helped any by the fact that I started homeschooling at the age of ten. Thankfully, however, I met some wonderful people during that time who helped to highlight my extroversion. None of this is to suggest that introversion is a negative trait, but being socially inept is and that’s what my introversion led me to when I was young. Now that I’m older and therefore wiser I can be introverted without letting it impair my ability to talk to people and carry on a normal human interaction.
Currently listening to: Tearing the House Down//Paper Route