An age-old debate: Introvert vs. Extrovert

Kate McCarthy

Who doesn’t love a good personality test? The Myers-Briggs test? I’m there! I recall taking it several years ago, praying my results read extroverted.

In my mind, extroverted was equated with charm, charisma and success. I knew the glamorized, quiet-boy scenario in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was a myth. So I made sure to fight tendencies toward solitude at every turn.

The use of extrovert and introvert conjures up specific schemas. The extrovert thrives on constant interaction and exchange, while introverts want to retreat inward for reflection and refueling. Kids are encouraged from a young age to be socially forceful, to jump right in and be heard. But some of us don’t operate that way. Unfortunately, the ability and preference to operate like that is associated with success and potential.

There is a stigma surrounding the idea of wanting to spend time alone. I feel it every time I defend my decision to call it a night after a long Friday shift. I’m aware of it when I ask a friend what they did over the weekend, and they respond with sheepish admittance of Netflix — hurriedly explaining that they were really tired, or “just couldn’t deal” or another drastic qualifier. It’s never okay to just be alone for a bit or to decide voluntarily to end social interactions a little early.

But I value my time alone. Sure, too much of it and I’m on the verge of giving myself bangs, but being alone with my thoughts forces me to confront whether or not I like myself on a basic level. At the end of the day, that’s all we’ve got, anyway.

I like leaving a social setting at my leisure. One of my greatest pleasures is arriving late to a big party and leaving early. I show some charm and vivacity and leave when the time is right.

There’s a misconception that being introverted has to mean socially awkward and dull. Introvert is often used interchangeably with shy, when in fact introversion can mean that a person is capable and perhaps even good at social interaction but finds it draining. Conversely, extroverts gain from social interaction. Society rewards the idea of extroversion, associating happiness with words that are also associated with extroverts — enthusiastic, bold, energetic. The two personality types are deeply coded as being mutually exclusive.

There’s a societal push for extroversion, but stereotypes exist in the opposite direction as well. We have conceptions that extroverts are loud and unreflective while introverts are deep and real. Perhaps we don’t have to label ourselves with these monikers in either direction.

Everyone is made up of shades and gradations, and to organize into two teams seems increasingly ridiculous. We can balance Netflix and large parties. One-on-one hangouts and a lecture hall of hundreds. There’s no shame either way.