The terms introversion and extroversion are used more frequently nowadays when speaking in relation to one’s social standing, preferred ways of spending time, and even lifestyle. Introversion and extroversion are the names given to the two sides of the social spectrum, and people typically fall at some point between them. The human personality is so varied that even closely related family members can differ in terms of introversion and extroversion. But what are the fundamental differences that separate one from the other?
Extroversion in individuals is characterised by enjoying highly stimulating experiences as well as possessing outgoing characteristics: speaking openly and frequently and enjoying social engagements. Individuals with an extroverted personality are also commonly observed to engage in group behaviour, such as sports clubs, and socialising with large groups of friends in general. They also have high confidence levels that appear to be innate.
Introverted individuals generally display the opposite behaviours to those of an extroverted personality. They enjoy time alone, generally prefer to operate independently, and require time to “recharge” after highly stimulating events.
So why does it matter what type of personality we have, and how can we use it to our advantage from a mental wellbeing perspective? When we identify what personality we have, we can begin a journey of self-discovery and understanding that can, in the long term, improve our relationships and even our self-esteem. Through a combination of introspection and reading up on what defines a person as introverted or extroverted, we can take steps to adjust how we handle our self-care routine as well as our social interactions.
From a relationship point of view, as an introvert, being able to explain to friends or loved ones why we may not be able to attend social outings or get-togethers, or why we need to spend time alone, will give them a better understanding of who we are as people. This is important because introverted individuals tend to be misunderstood as “rude” or “unsociable” when the reality is we prefer to talk less and observe more, as well as needing alone time during bouts of burnout and so forth.
I say “we” because I consider myself highly introverted as well. Through years of reading and gradual understanding, I finally realised in my early twenties that I possessed introverted qualities. When we begin to understand who we are as a person, we can also begin to take steps towards accepting ourselves for who we are and helping others to understand how we operate. Though it may be difficult to begin with, explaining to the individual(s) in question that you need some alone time because you’re not mentally in the mood to socialise is nothing personal. If the people in question value you for who you are, they will accept you during times when you need to focus on yourself. When this happens and we are received with warm responses, our self-esteem can begin to grow because we are attending to our own needs whilst expressing ourselves at the same time. This can have a very liberating effect, particularly if you possess a habit of criticising yourself for not being as “outgoing” as others, like I once did.
While it is perfectly OK to be independent, I do believe that socialising and having a strong peer base are important for our self-esteem too. There are certain networking groups that you could investigate as a means of making like-minded friends and feeling more comfortable in social situations. Socialising will always be a part of life, whether it be in our working environments or our personal lives, and despite our personality type, we get better at socialising with practice!
All the ideas expressed can also apply to individuals who fall somewhere within the spectrum of introversion/extroversion. For example, someone who identifies as an introverted extrovert and has a large circle of friends may go through periods of burnout and may feel less inclined to socialise. It is all about doing what is best for you, and hopefully, those with whom we associate will understand and openly accept us. If, by any chance, this is not the case somewhere along the line, I believe it’s important to put yourself first when you feel that you need it most. It is not selfish or unsociable; it is perfectly necessary for nurturing a healthy mind and level of self-esteem.
Dean Cranney is a psychology student and aspiring mental health writer and advocate with personal experiences of anxiety and depressive episodes.