I was pondering the other day on what it means to be an introvert and how, like people, they present in many forms. Take my husband and me for instance; we are both introverts, but what that means to us and how we show it are as different as we are in habits.
Most people are surprised when they find out I am an introvert (though with my increasing deafness that may be less true than it was even a year ago). That is because many things are important to me that require me to act like an extrovert. I am an INFJ (the rarest of all types, thank you very much). I always have been since the first time I took the test in high school to the present day (the last time I took the test was last month). Social activism is incredibly important to me. Nothing matters more to me than justice and fairness (which is funny since the world is neither, and I am fully aware of that fact).
In college I was an RA (resident assistant), the head of campus education for interpersonal relationship violence education and prevention, an officer for four different campus groups, a TA (teaching assistant), in student government and threw multiple events during my tenure, from coming up with the idea to pulling it off, including a diversity (in the dorms) documentary for Student Housing and a campus concert to raise awareness for relationship violence called Rock Against Violence. And these were just my campus commitments. I was also a volunteer at suicide hotlines, domestic violence hotlines, a victim advocate for the LGBT community (back when there was no one else for that role in the place that I lived), volunteered at multiple shelters, and for many different fundraisers for different social causes. Then factor in 21 credit hours, and two to three jobs that actually gave me a paycheck and you can get a sense of my life between the ages of 18 and 21. I was busy, but I loved it. Nearly everything I did forced me to act outgoing, network with strangers, take initiative and be social. Of course, people thought I was an extrovert – I was great at playing the part (and I like to think I still am).
While I am not nearly as involved in social activism now, at least in terms of being on the front lines, I still find myself needing to hone the skills I had in college. (I own my own business and I am an aspiring author – enough said.) My husband always tries to drag me to things such as his work functions and is like, “everyone likes you, you’ll have fun,” forgetting that for me this is a job. Like any true introvert, being around other people is draining. I recoup my energies with my alone time, and when I say alone, I mean ALONE. By myself, as in no one else in the same room or even preferably in the house. Ideally I would have at least two hours every day. I don’t have a process or ritual when I am alone, all I know is that I can go to a party, have a fantastic time and still feel completely drained when I get home. I love people and I love meeting new people, talking (seriously, it can be hard to get me to shut up) and yet people are my battery killers.
Then there is my husband, an INFP (notice that as opposite as we seem, only the last letter is different for us), another introvert. I think that if people who knew us casually, knew we were both introverts, many would think my husband was the bigger introvert, because he tends to be more quiet, reserved and passive. But they would be wrong. My husband is an introvert and new people, crowds or even people he only knows casually drain him much like they do me, but they are the only ones. When it comes to people he loves (his family, close friends, me) he is never drained, on the contrary they reenergize him.
My husband doesn’t have to take alone time from me. He is always eager to hang out with his family because they are among those that breathe new life into him. I think it took me a few years to realize, “Hey, how can you go from drained to the energizer bunny after being surrounded by your entire family?” He never asks to take time away from me either and the same goes for his close friends (or chosen family as I like to think of them). I love his family and his friends, so they are not draining to me because of stereotypical in-law drama because there isn’t any. (I am not close to my biological family and I never have been so his family has become the family that I never had.) We both enjoy ourselves, and playing with my two-year-old niece and nephew (twins) makes me feel an incredible joy and I hate once we have to go (the desire to have children yesterday is louder than ever and each time I see the twins it is only amplified tenfold). Yet, when we get home I am ready to crash – done for the day, please no one else talk to me, goodnight. Whereas my husband is on some kind of energy high and he is ready to run errands, stay up late or have one-on-one time, just the two us where I want one-on-one time, but with a party of one.
So, I guess that makes me the true introvert and my husband is some kind of introvert hybrid. I am the one who is loud, direct and not afraid to speak my mind regardless of who I am talking to or what the consequences may be. I am diplomatic, not a loose cannon, but I tend to say the things that everyone else seems afraid of saying. I am in the middle of everything I do, facilitating, organizing, and reaching out where my husband manages to stay in the background, just as involved, but hidden. And yet, I am the bigger introvert. Who would have thunk it?
I find my husband entirely curious because all of my other ‘I’ (introverted) friends are true introverts like me, where no matter who it is, alone time is necessary every now and then. And my ability to fool people into believing I am extrovert is not special to me, it is an INFJ thing. I have four other friends who are INFJs and we have all been mistaken as extroverts before – we laugh about it.
It is interesting the different faces introverts have as a group. I’m not sure why, just like with any other group, it is a collection of individuals so it should not be surprising and yet it still is for some reason. We’re not talking about demographics, but a person’s hardwiring if you will. There are introverts who act like introverts and others may see them as shy or anti-social (I hate that because the definition of anti-social within psychology means something entirely different than what people mean when they use this term in general), introverts who fool people into thinking they are the very definition of extrovert (yet again that hardwiring says differently) and then hybrids like my husband. They are technically introverts, but unlike people like me, they are more or less situational introverts. I’m not complaining. I like that my husband never needs time away from me and yet understands that I need time away from him (and everybody else for that matter). Ah, the ways of the true introvert, unmasked…
I have included three links below. The first is a personality test to see what type you are if you don’t already know. The second link is the INFJ personality profile (ME), and the final link is the INFP personality profile (my husband). I would love to hear from anyone, fellow introverts or hybrids as well as extroverts. What personality type are you? Leave it in the comments! 🙂