This summer, the topic of “Introverts vs. Extroverts” kept coming up again and again with various friends. Now, as much as I love lists and analyzing the crap out of people, I don’t particularly like labels. But I took every online quiz thrown at me this summer, and I am an INTJ, my deadly sin is Wrath, and of course I belong to House Gryffindor. One of my friends found a great article (for the life of me, I can’t remember where) that basically summed up the difference as this: Introverts get their energy from being alone, and extroverts get their energy from being with other people. Pretty simple, but it seems to fit with what at least Meyers-Briggs has to say:
I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.
I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.
During all this debate and conversation, I once again grew a little annoyed with being categorized in a box. I don’t think anyone is ever only one thing. I have definite introvert characteristics, yes, but I also have extrovert tendencies. I think everyone does, even if I have weird, bipolar extremes.
And this makes me think of the curse of the horse poster.
In elementary school, a teacher gave me a beautiful poster showing a field of flowers, a horse, and a little girl with a book. It wasn’t so girly that, tomboy that I was, I didn’t like it, but it was pushing it. The caption read: “ALONE WITH MY THOUGHTS, I CAN DREAM OF TOMORROW.” I have no idea where the actual poster is now, but I have always blamed it for steering me towards being an introvert.
Writers are introverts – it’s part of the deal, as if our pre-conceived souls somehow signed up for it before we got a say. For this analytical, introspective quietness of my being I am grateful. I like how my head works. Being alone is when I feel the creative bubbles welling up from within. At the deep down core of me, I am an introvert – it’s an underlying part of how I function, how I think, how I process the world around me. I have a freakish memory, and I will play over conversations and events and analyze them and pull them apart to get all the juices out. Being an introvert is all a part of how I process the world around me.
However, it is NOT how I interact with the world. In my outward life (the one not in my head and therefore the one most people would point to as being, ya know, real), how I interact with people leans much more towards the extroverted camp. I DO feed off people and get energy from being around others, discussing with others, learning about others. Even if my mind likes being alone and thinking and creating, at some point I hit a wall where – and I think we all do this – I need to get out of my own head and have exposure to others. This might just have something to do with the fact that I work at home and go through people-withdrawal, but I was people-happy even before I missed them. As a model scout, I met 50+ new people a day, and loved it. I found it invigorating. (Okay, it got a bit exhausting, but that’s a whole other thing.)
I think a big part of my annoyance with being placed in one camp or the other is that it’s entirely my own fault. Because I work at home and my hobbies of writing/reading/painting are solitary endeavors, it is easy for everyone to joke that I’m a hermit. And I go along with it, because some twisty place inside of me always just becomes what people think rather than argue about it. (Hmm. There’s room for analysis…possibly professionally administered.) Anyway, I don’t LIKE being a hermit. I need social interaction – it does feed me, it does energize me, and it certainly helps me be a better writer. And, if I’m being honest, I like being clever and entertaining people. I have a quote on my computer stand from the Office that I’m looking at right now:
“Do I need to be liked? Absolutely not. I like to be liked. I enjoy being liked. I have to be liked. But it’s not like this compulsive need to be liked. Like my need to be praised.”
And I think that’s another quirk of writer introverts – we DO need people. We’re emotional, vulnerable little creatures. My brother and I have a joke that, as artists, be both often think at people (oh, if only telepathy worked) in a high-pitched, needy voice, “AFFIRM ME!” Even if our comfort zone is in our own heads, I think introverts – especially the creative types – need to be as extroverted as we can force ourselves to be. For my part, I know I need regular social interaction not only to keep me from going crazy but also because I just genuinely feel that friends/family/acquaintances/strangers on the street energize me in ways I can’t energize myself.
So, I guess I’m an intextrovert.