When I was in high school I never considered myself to be anything other than introverted. While I enjoyed the occasional quiet gathering, parties were definitely not my thing and I counted the minutes until I could be home relaxing in front of the TV, in my own company. When I came to college, I soon realized that I could be someone else other than the awkward emo girl with the popular brother. I became the confident version of myself – someone that other people would label as extroverted. Despite appearing as an extrovert, I still considered myself to be partially introverted. While my confidence had shot skywards since coming to university, I still felt the need for that “alone time” to revitalize, but at the same time I couldn’t really call myself an introvert anymore, since I felt a similar rejuvenation from being with friends.
I struggled with placing myself into either category for ages before I realized that one of the worst mistakes any person can make is to place themselves – or anyone else – into a category with four solid walls and no doorway offering anything else outside of it. It was the spunky Jane Lynch of Glee fame who said “sexuality doesn’t have to be black and white, sometimes it’s grey and it swims” and I think the same applies for social personalities.
Introvertedness is an excuse not to practice and cultivate refined social skills, and can prevent people from strengthening their character and becoming the person they want to be in society. Additionally, in today’s social media introvertedness and its partner “awkwardness” can be glorified as “cute” or “alternative,” which effectively pushes its serious limitations under the rug. Similarily, extrovertedness can be a recipe for hating your own company, and for losing a strong concept of yourself as an individual, away from other people. It’s been my experience that this can sometimes lead to despondency, as a result of being unable to deal with being alone.
Both, I think, are – or can be if you let them – a self-fulfilling prophecy. We are given a label by society that inevitably comes with a list of things we have to be, all wrapped up in a neat little package, like a Light ‘n’ Easy subscription. Essentially, what we’re being told is that if we don’t get all the instructions right, or if we don’t tick all the boxes, then we don’t deserve the label. Truth be told, with billions of different people in the world, how could two social identity categories possibly be a perfect fit for everybody?
I guess what I want you to take away from this, if anything, is be who you want to be, not who you think you should be. It’s too easy to fall into identity labels already constructed for us by society and by media. Being your own person means sometimes thinking outside the pre-construed “introvert” and “extrovert” boxes, or any other boxes for that matter. It means thinking twice the next time you reach for the nametag that says “introvert” or “extrovert” in big, corporate letters.