Tag Archives: extrovert

Extroverts talk, introverts think

An introvert in an extrovert world

I feel like I don’t fit in. I struggle to be with people, I feel totally exhausted all the time, just existing. There are many reasons but one is that I’m an extreme introvert struggling to function in a world build for extroverts.

Some people would call me painfully quiet, shy or anti-social, but I find their loud approach to life over the top, overwhelming and exhausting.

Others may fear being on their own and struggle with loneliness; for me, solitary time is vital for my health and it’s a relief to shut the door at the end of the day.

The difference between introverts and extroverts is from where they recharge their energy. Extroverts gain their energy from other people, introverts recharge on their own.

A cartoon girl sat looking out the window with a warm drink and her cat. With the quote “I literally love being at home. In my own space. Comfortable. Not surrounded by people.”

The world sees extroversion as a gift because they mistakenly connect loudness with confidence and happiness; people don’t understand quietness because no one sees what goes on behind the scenes, they think it’s a flaw. Listening is a dying art. Being thoughtful, respectful and taking the time to understand each other seem to be happening less and less.

Everyone has something to say, extroverts easily get their voices heard, introverts naturally listen. When someone does finally listen to me, I’m so taken aback, my heart races, I get tongue tied and struggle to even put a sentence together (but that’s not just introversion, that’s social anxiety too – not all introverts have social anxiety!).

While extroverts feel connection when they fill space with small talk, it does nothing for me except sap my energy.

Low battery, cartoon characters lying flat on the floor

As the world moves towards open plan offices, hot desking and networking parties the only way to progress is to be “out there”, to have a “big personality” and to give your energy to the world. Where in the world do I fit if my energy is sapped by my chronic illness and when faced with people my battery runs to empty?

For those who speak softly it’s easy to blend into the background, people may assume you don’t have anything to say or that you don’t like them but introverts work better one on one. If you don’t know that about yourself, an introvert can feel broken in rooms full of people who just seem to know what to do.

Introverts can enjoy a party, just like extroverts but not everyone has to be “the life a soul”. If, as an introvert, you leave a few parties early because you’re tired and this is misunderstood and people stop inviting you – is that ok?

The science

Some science that supports the introvert/extrovert feelings involves 2 chemicals in the brain, dopamine and acetylcholine. Dopamine is like a hit of energy when we take risks or meet new people; extroverts feel great when this peaks in the brain, introverts are more sensitive to the effects of dopamine and easily feel overstimulated. Introverts prefer the slow burn from acetylcholine that is released when we concentrate or do things that focus our minds; we feel relaxed, alert, content. The release of acetylcholine during these activities barely registers with extroverts.

Reading a book in the sun by the sea
Are you an ambivert?

I’ve recently been listening to a series of podcasts where ever guest has been asked if they consider themselves an extrovert or an introvert and people have said things like “I used to be an extrovert but I think I’m an introvert” or “I try to be an extrovert” or “sometimes I’m a bit of both”, these people are probably ambiverts. It’s a shame that the majority of people feel the need to behave as an extrovert and gives weight to the argument that the world is built for extroverts. If all people were valued equally and given paces to be themselves we could feel more comfortable. An ambivert is someone in the middle of the spectrum, someone who can gain energy from being by themselves or with people.

Most people are probably ambiverts but it’s ok to have slight or extreme tendencies to introversion of extroversion!

We just have to find coping strategies

Introverts and extroverts can manage a busy chaotic work life and enjoy a buzzing party late into the night, we just have to find ways to cope. I, for example, take a break, away from my colleagues in the middle of the day. While others may want to connect more over lunch and have FOMO, I value time on my own. I have to fight the fear of being seen as anti-social, people makes comments such as “where do you go?” in a tone that says “why would you do anything other than socialise with us?!”. Unfortunately, because introverts are seen as aloof or maybe sanctimonious, I hide my reason with “I need some fresh air” – which is also true! I have no idea how anyone can spend all day inside!

It takes longer to get to know me, I have fewer friends with deep connections, I think inside my head, my brain sifts information before I talk about it but does this mean I cannot be a valued member of society?

While I’m proud to be an introvert and I’m content with my coping strategies, it saddens me that because I don’t fit into the extrovert world it’s assumed I’m the one that’s wrong. We’re not all the same, so, next time you come across someone who’s a bit “odd”, a bit “different”, a bit “weird”, don’t label them, give them space, listen to them, don’t rush them, value them.

Fake it 'til you make it – does it work?

As a mental health recovery worker, my heart sank when I heard my colleague (who I respect a great deal) use the phrase “fake it ’til you make it” with one of her service users.
This was the worst thing someone once said to me during my recovery journey. I had spent my whole life faking it, and this was what was making me sick. Constantly trying to “fit in”, to be “normal”, meant I’d lost sight of who I really was and it made me more and more unhappy.

I’m an introvert and in a world built for extroverts I feel I constantly have to fake social confidence. When I say I’m an introvert, I mean I’m at the extreme end of the spectrum.
By no means do I want anyone to feel sorry for me. Now I know I’m an introvert and I’m ok with it, I love it! How lucky am I that I don’t NEED other people to recharge my batteries? How great is it that I can amuse myself with a ball of yarn on the sofa for hours without getting bored or needing attention from anyone?
Faking being an extrovert is exhausting. In a room full of people, where background noice makes my ear drums painfully contract and  the ridiculously high watt light bulbs just want to shut my eyes, I smile and nod along to the conversation. I try desperately to drop in some interesting or helpful remark now and again just so someone doesn’t ask me if I’m ok.
No, I’m not ok…faking having a great time when your heart is screaming “get me out of here” takes a lot of self discipline!
If introverts don’t fake it, they’re considered a “party pooper” or “billy-no-mates” or a “hermit”, these are not considered indearing qualities, they’re unfair derogatory insults. The truth is, I just like being on my own, I find peace and quiet restful and other people (except a select few) sap my limited energy. Why is this considered strange?

I felt angry that my colleague had no idea the pain my faking had caused me and I considered her comment insensitive. Add insult to injury she has to be the most extrovert person I know! In my anger I was wondering how she could possibly make such a rookie mistake. But, as I say, I respect her so I knew she meant well and I had to stop and think about what she was trying to say.
The context of her comment was with someone who had mild depression and anxiety. They had previously been an extrovert and were disappointed and frustrated that they’d lost that part of them. My colleague was suggesting that they do the things they knew they’d previously enjoyed. The idea being if you immerse yourself in things, you know, deep down, are part of your character and enjoyable, then, fake a smile now and again, eventually the old you will emerge. My colleague was helping her service user believe in himself again. This genuinely works provided you also address the issues that led to the mental illness occurring in the first place.

Saying this to me, or any introvert, however, would just compound the issues that led to the illness developing. When this comment was said to me, it confirmed that was the failure I felt and unfortunately led me to feel that if I had to fake it for the rest of my life (since I’d been faking it all up until now and I’d never “made it” I wasn’t going to suddenly be able to make it now) there really was no point in going on.
If you tell an introvert to “fake it” to “make it” in the world, instead of building them up, you will be smashing their self esteem to smithereens. We’re already great fakers, what we really need is to be told, “it’s ok to be you”.
For an introvert, finding recovery can be a lot more subtle than for an extrovert. When depressed, the usual reaction is to hide away from the world. Extroverts needs to get out there, find people, build their energy from them. An introvert needs to be truthful about what makes them happy, it might be about treating yourself to some luxuary bath salts or lighting a candle while doing some breathing exercises. I’m not advocating introverts continuing to hide away, we all need someone in our lives, I’m just saying an introvert needs to find balance.

When searching for freedom from a mental illness, it’s about finding out who you really are. If faking being an extrovert will remind you of how fun it is, go for it. If faking being an extrovert will just remind you that you hate faking being an extrovert, please stop!