So it came to my attention recently that I might quite possibly be the not so rare but rather unheard of shy extrovert. This was a big deal to me as a) I’ve been struggling a lot with myself and having understanding of myself and my habit of worrying recently and b) I didn’t even know that the shy extrovert was thing.
So as I’m sure you know and to my understanding the terms introvert and extrovert on a basic level have a lot to do with how people “recharge”. I’ll link to a page explaining it better here but for the purposes of understanding what I’m talking about we’ll just say that the basic idea is that extroverts get their energy from being with people and introverts from spending time with themselves. I think it’s important to remember that both introverts and extroverts are still human beings and need both time alone and time with others but the idea of the label is that introverts sometimes feel tired and drained after a long time surrounded by people and need to retreat to some alone time while extroverts feel similarly about being alone for extended periods of time.
I firmly thought that I was an introvert for a long time. I’m quite a reserved person and it takes me a long time to be comfortable enough with a person to be myself. I always dread big social occasions and I do enjoy time to self reflect. However I was misunderstanding how the definitions worked. I was also misunderstanding myself. See when I moved to university I learned that I hate being alone for long periods of time. I feel tired and sad and I get stuck in my own head. I get lonely very very quickly. I thought coming to uni that I would want to spend lots of time alone in my room but as it turns out doing so really drags me down. I find myself seeking small groups of people to talk to. I find myself hoping to run into someone in the kitchen and messaging my flatmates when they’re only in the room next to me. As it turns out, I’m not very good at being alone for long periods of time.
I always associated shyness with introvertedness and confidence and outgoing personalities with extroverts but I recently learnt that they don’t always have to be related. I learnt that there are shy extroverts who though need social situations fear them and struggle with confidence particularly when in large groups and that there are introverts who, though enjoy spending time alone, have no trouble starting conversation and making new friends at all. I think drawing a focus on large and small groups of people for me is important because I very much enjoy hanging out with a small group of friends and having one on one time with someone is something I revel in but find it harder to feel comfortable in a much larger group.
Another habit that seems to fit me into the shy extrovert category is that I often have lots to say but can’t seem to find the voice to say it. This sometimes even applies in small groups of people and very much depends on my level of comfort with the people surrounding me (as it works for most people extrovert or introvert). My shyness is nowhere near the level it used to be and as I’m getting older I’m getting better at this social stuff but my shyness is still there and it means I often fear judgement from the people around me which means I tend to bite my tongue a lot without even realising it. I feel silly often and sometimes disregard my own thoughts and opinions on the little day to day things, music and tv for example. It’s something that I’m doing a lot to work on and is definitely getting better.
I’m glad that I found out about the shy extrovert because I feel less odd now. I feel like I’ve found a better way to understand myself and comfort in the fact that there are plenty of people who feel similarly. I’ll leave a link here to the video that I watched about this that really made me mutter “heck this is me!”
It’s also important however to understand that there are going to be little bits of both introvert and extrovert in everyone. I learnt that there is something called a ambivert which is a mix of the two. Maybe I’m that instead. I’m not sure, but hearing people talk about the experience of being a shy extrovert really resonated with me. There are all these ideas that extroverts have less close relationships, like talking more than listening etc which definitely doesn’t fit me but I can’t help but feel like these ideas are stereotypes and generalisations in the same way that suggests introverts are all hermits who are awkward and terrible at socialising and expressing themselves through speech. That’s not always true at all.
I’m a person very much focused and interested in self understanding and reflection so sometimes labels help me with that. I think that’s why exploring this further is something that I really want to do. Maybe I should do some more research into the ambivert. Please do let me know in the comments what you think about all of this. Are you an ambivert, extrovert or introvert? Is this kind of thing even important to you? Do you struggle to define yourself as any of them? I’m always interested to hear your thoughts.