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How to tell, once and for all, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert

introvert

Pardon me while I dust off my soapbox and get fired up about something (Ha! As if my soapbox ever gets dusty…).

I’ve got a bone to pick when it comes to introverts and extroverts.

There’s a huge misconception about what both of those words mean, and I used to fall prey to it. In fact, I spent a big chunk of my life feeling like I was broken because of how widespread this false interpretation is.

For some reason, we’ve gotten the idea that being an introvert means that you’re shy. A wallflower. Quiet. Hesitant to share your opinions. Demure.

And on the other hand, we assume that being an extrovert makes you loud, outgoing, talkative, and opinionated.

So, because I’m loud and opinionated and not particularly concerned with what others think of me, most people are surprised to find out that I’m not an extrovert. I’m actually a huge introvert.

But they shouldn’t be surprised at all. Because that’s not what it means to be introverted or extroverted.

 Quite simply, introversion and extroversion are about where you draw energy.

Think of it this way: Each one of us has a battery life, just like your phone or computer. When our batteries are depleted we feel tired and antsy and far from the best version of ourselves. We all need to refuel, and the difference between introvert and extroverts is how they go about doing that.

Introverts recharge mostly with alone time. They need a lot of peace and quiet and time to think.

Extroverts recharge mostly by being around people. They need more social stimulation and human connection to feel at ease.

There’s nothing inherently good or bad about either of these. You’re just born that way. It’s how you’re wired, and you can’t really reprogram it.

But here’s the problem … because I didn’t know I was an introvert for most of my life, I was ashamed of how I felt. Lately, I’ve seen other people resisting their introversion or extroversion, and it always wreaks havoc.

I THOUGHT I WAS A “BAD EXTROVERT” FOR MOST OF MY LIFE

Growing up, my mom got so used to me wanting to be alone instead of go to yet another sleepover or birthday party that she gave me carte blanche to tell my friends that my parents were super strict and wouldn’t let me come to whatever event was happening.

Externally, I’d be all, “Ugh, they’re such a drag,” while internally I’d be sighing in relief and secretly thrilled to have the day to myself.

In fact, I think I’ve made myself actually sick a bunch of times so that I could have a legitimate reason to get out of things I didn’t feel like doing. Massive headaches, sore throats, infections, cold, flu, stomach bugs, food poisoning — I’ve mysteriously conjured them all the day before some event or other.

But this always made me feel like a bad person.

“What’s wrong with you?” “You’re a crappy friend.” “You’re really selfish.” “I can’t believe you care more about reading a book all day than seeing someone you supposedly care about.”

These are the kinds of thoughts that would plague me 24/7 a few years ago.

Of course, it didn’t help that for most of my life all of my closest friends were extroverts. I felt like the odd man out because going to parties and staying up all night with friends and flitting from event to event was easy for them and felt like pulling teeth to me.

I HAVE A FRIEND WHO’S BEEN FEELING THE SAME WAY, IN REVERSE

A friend of mine recently quit her full-time job to start her own coaching business, and a couple weeks ago we were chatting about it over the phone.

She’s an extrovert, so going from a fast-paced work environment with a lot of human interaction to working alone in her house all day with few people to talk to was jarring.

But instead of being understanding and compassionate with herself, she was beating herself up:

“I just feel like I’m not good at this. I don’t have a lot of motivation. What’s wrong with me? Why am I so needy? Why can’t I just be alone? What kind of adult can’t be by themselves all day? Maybe this business won’t work. Maybe I need more courses or training to get better.”

Thankfully, I was able to see through that pretty quickly. Here’s what I told her:

“There’s nothing wrong with you! And you don’t need to spend more money on courses. You’re smart and talented enough already. The only problem you have is that you’re trying to work in a way that’s opposite of who you really are.”

For an extrovert, working alone all day is depleting. It actually drains her energy. And instead of acknowledging that, she was beating herself up for not being what amounts to a “good enough” introvert. 

Meanwhile, a few years back I was beating myself up for being a bad extrovert. Oy vey!

LET’S GO WITH THE CURRENT, NOT AGAINST IT

What I eventually came to realize, and what I told my friend, is that you’ve got to work with the current of how you’re programmed, not against it.

Trying to work in a silent, empty house all day is swimming against the current for an extrovert. It’s depleting ten times more energy than it would if you, for example, joined a co-working space.

And for an introvert, attempting to be a bar-hopping social butterfly is swimming against the current. It’s going to feel like pushing a boulder up a mountain, when you could be at home watching Netflix and feeling totally at ease.

Whichever one you are, we’ve all got to agree to drop the crazy guilt we feel about not being the other.

You are who you are, and that’s perfectly acceptable.

Personally, I am SO much happier now that I know I’m an introvert and everyone else knows it, too. My friends understand when I’ve hit my wall and need to go home. I don’t overbook myself anymore, and I give myself the gift of a LOT of silence and alone time. And working with my programming, not against it, makes me feel more at ease than I’ve ever felt before.

And the same is true for my friend. Now that she’s embraced her extroversion, she’s doing a lot of networking to build her business instead of sitting behind a computer all day. She gets clients and social stimulation. It’s a win-win.

NOT SURE WHICH ONE YOU ARE? I’VE GOT SOME IDEAS

You might be an introvert if …

  • Networking feels like pulling teeth.
  • You secretly love when people cancel plans on you.
  • You abhor small talk and would much rather have deep conversations.
  • Your idea of a fun social outing is going to brunch with one or two people.
  • Going to places with big crowds makes you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or drained.
  • You could happily spend hours or even days by yourself.
  • Silence feels like a balm to your spirit.
  • You regularly get labeled an “old soul.”
  • You’re happiest with a small group of really close friends.

You might be an extrovert if …

  • Meeting lots of new people is fun and exciting to you.
  • You prefer to have at least a handful of social events on your calendar each week.
  • You’re the kind of person who can make friends wherever you go.
  • You feel energized after being in big groups of people.
  • You get bored and drained really quickly by being alone.
  • Silence often makes you feel restless, and you prefer to fill it with some form of noise or conversation.
  • Your mantra when it comes to friendship is “the more the merrier!”
  • You’re a natural connector, and you love introducing people from your various networks to each other.

Again, none of this is about being shy or outgoing. I’m a loud, opinionated introvert. And I’ve known plenty of wallflower extroverts. How you refuel your energy and how comfortable you feel in social settings are two different things. Related, but different.

And one last thing: Being an introvert or extrovert isn’t a “yes or no” thing. It’s measured on a spectrum. Personally, I’m about 70% introverted. I’ve known people on all points of the spectrum. There are even “ambiverts,” who straddle the line between introversion and extroversion.

If you’re curious where you fall, take the 16 Personalities test.

It’s a test that’s based on the Myers-Briggs personality types. One of the things it measures is your degree of introversion or extroversion. It takes some time, so give yourself at least 20 minutes to complete it.

You’ll get a nice breakdown of your personality type, which will help you understand not only where you get your energy from, but how you tend to make decisions and relate to yourself and others.

I’m an INFJ, and so is Kristen. Because of course we have the exact same personality type (even though apparently it’s the rarest one!). If you want to come back and share yours in the comments, go for it!

So, are you an introvert or an extrovert? And have you been giving yourself permission to be who you are? Or have you been fighting it? Share with me in the comments.

TOO LONG, DIDN’T READ? LISTEN INSTEAD!

If reading long blogs just isn’t your deal, you’re in luck:

We’re now recording our blogs for you!

Here’s Rachel reading this week’s blog:

IF YOU LIKED THIS, THEN YOU’LL ALSO LOVE …

Are you tired of pretending to be someone you’re not?

The awfulness of feeling like a fake

How to find your tribe

Everything I stopped feeling guilty for in 2016

Much Love,

Rachel (+ Kristen)

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How to stay informed about the world without going insane

informed

Lately I’ve been feeling like the world is moving impossibly fast.

Maybe that’s because, over the past few months, I’ve felt inspired to get more informed and involved in my local community, my country, and the world at large.

I used to pride myself on not watching the news. That kind of negativity didn’t have a place in my life, I reasoned.

But recently, that stopped feeling like a positive, self-protective measure and more like an excuse to stay in my bubble where “ignorance is bliss.”

As someone who values consciousness over almost anything else, I couldn’t continue rationalizing keeping myself in the dark.

And so, I’ve made a conscious effort to educate myself about national politics, global news, environmental policies, human and animal rights, and even my most local town leadership. I’ve chosen my news sources carefully and consciously, because it matters to me that I get the whole picture without the extreme biases and fear-tactics that are all-too-prevalent in some click-bait media sources.

{In case you were worried, this is NOT a political blog. I’ve never had an interest in writing about politics or pushing my agenda on anyone else, and I’m not about to start now.}

It’s been incredibly empowering to feel more informed than I’ve ever been before. I feel connected to my country and the world in a way I simply couldn’t when I was avoiding the news.

It’s also broken my heart many times over.

Being a particularly sensitive human who feels everything deeply, it’s often depressing to hear the truth of what’s happening in the world around me.

So that’s been my challenge lately: getting out of my bubble and staying informed without letting the heaviness of the news send me down into a negative spiral.

IF YOU’RE NOT GRIEVING FOR THE WORLD, YOU’RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION

In my attempts to become more informed about my country and the world, I’ve heard some truly terrible, heart-wrenching stories.

I’ve heard harrowing stories of refugees from North Korea and Syria who have experienced horrors and hardships that the vast majority of us can’t begin to comprehend.

I’ve read about the injustice of the gender pay gap and the extreme financial impacts it has on women’s choices and freedoms.

I’ve seen images and videos of the brutality of animal testing in medical and cosmetic research.

I’ve seen, like I’ve never seen before, the extreme division in my country after our recent election.

It’s enough to make anyone feel utterly helpless.

As Marianne Williamson so wisely said in her book Tears to Triumph:

“The gap between how beautiful life can be and the way it too often is is heartbreaking. Anyone who is not on some level grieving the state of the world is perhaps not looking very deeply.”

It’s perfectly appropriate to feel angry or depressed or powerless once you become informed. I’m realizing that it sometimes feels like too much to bear, and I’m tempted to go back to my days of not knowing.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are times when I want to pull a blanket over my head and not see the truth.

But it’s also clearer than ever to me that, unless I’m informed, I don’t get to make an impact either. I don’t get to share my voice, or contribute my time and resources, or stand up for what I believe in, or initiate positive change unless I’m paying close attention.

To quote two famous clichés back-to-back …

Ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge is power.

WHAT’S CHANGED SINCE I STARTED PAYING ATTENTION

Now that I’m paying closer attention than ever before, I’m also feeling inspired and empowered to become part of the solution.

Here are just a few things I’m doing, now that I’m getting more informed:

  • “Voting” for what I believe in with my money. I’m more conscientious about which companies I purchase products from, and I look for transparent, eco-friendly, health-conscious, fair trade companies (like the one created by a previous coaching client that we emailed about last week, wearwell). I’m also looking into investing options based on my values, so that my investments aren’t supporting companies that are hurting people, animals, or the environment.
  • Getting more involved in politics, locally and nationally. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve only ever voted in presidential elections. But no more! I’m now fully committed to voting in every single election, including my most local town officials.
  • Feeling more grateful for everything I have. When you’re living in a bubble without exposing yourself to what’s going on in the world, it’s much easier to get bogged down by daily annoyances. Without a greater perspective, “first-world problems” can feel like the end of the world. But ever since I’ve been paying more attention, I’ve been feeling much more grateful for every little thing in my life, from running water to my basic human freedom.
  • Sharing my voice, in the hopes that it will inspire others. I feel more strongly than ever that I want my business and this blog to bring more light into the world. The more each one of us pursues greater happiness for ourselves, the more we increase the positivity of the world. And that’s an agenda I can 100% get behind.

Even as I write these things, I feel inspired to get even more involved. I want to keep being a stronger force for good in the world. I deeply want to make more of a positive impact with my actions, my resources, and my voice.

And I have no doubt that I will.

The thing is, you can’t go backward in awareness. Once you open your eyes, you can’t go back to blissful ignorance. And that’s a powerful thing because it will continue to inspire greater action.

So I remind myself that I’ve already taken the most important step by opening my eyes and getting informed. This fire growing within me to bring more light into the world will only grow bigger over time, and so will my impact.

The best thing you can do for the world is open your eyes & your heart and ask, “How can I help?”

HOW TO STAY INFORMED WITHOUT GOING DOWN A NEGATIVE SPIRAL

The greatest challenge in staying informed is not allowing the heaviness of the news weigh you down and make you feel powerless.

So here’s what I’ve been doing to stay (mostly) positive and inspired as I’m paying closer attention to world events:

  • Choose your news sources carefully. Be discerning, get curious, and consult multiple sources with differing viewpoints so you get the big picture.
  • Allow yourself to react. You’re bound to have strong feelings about what you hear, so give yourself permission to fully feel and express your feelings. Cry, get angry, feel joy, or talk it out with someone.
  • Get involved. Nothing is too small! Start by asking yourself if your daily habits (what you’re “voting for” with your money, your time, your focus, etc.) align with your values.
  • Make sure you’re also paying attention to what’s going right in the world. For every heartbreaking news story out there, there’s also a heartwarming story, so seek out positive news, too! Also, notice small things in your day-to-day experience that are beautiful, positive, and inspiring. Pay attention to all of the good that’s already happening in the world.
  • Occasionally do a news detox. You can only handle so much — don’t overload yourself! Give yourself regular breaks from consuming information to periodically detox.

Do you struggle with this same challenge of staying informed while also staying positive? What suggestions do you have for keeping that balance? I’d love to hear, in the comments!

TOO LONG, DIDN’T READ? LISTEN INSTEAD!

If reading long blogs just isn’t your deal, you’re in luck:

We’re now recording our blogs for you!

Here’s Kristen reading this week’s blog:

IF YOU LIKED THIS, THEN YOU’LL ALSO LOVE …

What we can do to make a difference in the face of tragedy

How to deal when life feels totally out of control

How to get through any major life transition

When you feel guilty for wanting more than you have

Much Love,

Kristen (+ Rachel)

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