Like most categories, our society dichotomizes certain concepts so we are better able to understand and “place” people/things into general ideas that “fit” with our concepts. The idea of introverted individuals versus extroverted individuals is one example. Often society categorizes an introverted person as someone who prefers to keep to themselves, is very quiet, and is generally private. Contrarily, society often categorizes an extroverted person as someone who is outgoing, talkative, and has a very active social network. While parts of these personality dichotomies may be accurate, this is a vast over-generalization of personality types. In reality, an extroverted individual and an introverted individual may exhibit similar social lives, have the same amount of friends, and engage in similar activities. So what IS the difference?…
Am I an Introvert or an Extrovert?
The pertinent question to determining if you identify more as an introvert or extrovert is: how do you “recharge”? Think about how you might feel after a long day of school, work, or any energy-consuming activity. Typically after a long day, one requires the time and space to “recharge” their depleted energy. An introverted individual will have a propensity to re-energize by spending some quality “alone time”. This offers an individual the opportunity to decompress and prepare for the next activities/tasks. An extroverted individual will have a propensity to spend quality time around others to recharge their depleted energy and prepare for ongoing activities for their day. This does not necessarily mean that extroverts have more friends and/or enjoy social activities more than introverts – it all comes back to what helps individuals to restore depleted energy.
There are some qualities that may be characteristic of introverted and extroverted persons, and these qualities may be more prevalent in some individuals than others. For example: extroverted individuals may enjoy group conversations while introverted individuals may prefer more one to one interactions, extroverted individuals may speak more while introverted individuals may listen more, and extroverted individuals may express more openness while introverted individuals may be more reserved. The previous are few of many qualities that MAY indicate you are more introverted or extroverted; however, there are always exceptions AND there may be times in our lives or particular situations when we identify more as an introvert or more as an extrovert. When in doubt, come back to the question: “how do I recharge?”
How does this apply to mental health?
First, it is less important to label yourself as an “introvert” or “extrovert”, and rather more helpful to identify what helps you to “recharge” and reenergize. Why would it be helpful to identify how we recharge? Recharging and re-energizing is a way to practice self-care. Self-care becomes increasingly important in moments of stress, physical and emotional depletion, in addition to ways we can proactively take care of our needs. Drawing awareness to the ways in which we can recharge can help us to create space for these moments in our lives so that we are better able to tackle life’s pleasures and challenges.