Thursday, March 05, 2009

Introverts, Extroverts, and Extraverts

I've been reading a book about mothering styles and how to use them and understand them in order to communicate better with your child (and others). The first step, of course, is to find out what mothering style you have naturally, and then go from there.

Much of what is in the book makes me simply mm hmm in agreement. But one idea has blown my mind - I feel like it opened up an entirely new idea of myself, one that I have to chew on.

The book explains the difference between introverts, extroverts, and extraverts. An extrovert is someone gregarious, outgoing and sociable. I have long considered myself to be an extrovert, and by this definition, the book changes nothing.

But it goes on.

The book tells me that the way to tell the difference between an introvert and an extravert (Myers-Briggs talk) is not how they spend their days, or how well they interact with others, or how social they are. The REAL way is to look at how people gain energy. At the end of a long day, do they seek people out (extravert) or do they retreat to calm and solitude (intravert)?

Oh my.

It's true that I am an extrovert, but I am not an extravert. I am an intravert.

This blows my mind.

If you know me, you're probably thinking I've got it all wrong. You might be thinking, "Come ON. You're one of the most loudmouth talkers I've ever met. You are totally social. You've always got people coming in and out of your house, and you're so....public about everything. NO WAY are you an introvert!"

Well, let me let you in on a secret.

I have to work really, really hard at being an extrovert. It does NOT come naturally, it's something I've cultured within myself, and worked on, pretty much every single day. It was a series of attributes that I admired, and so I worked to learn them, and to apply them to myself. I think that I have excelled in this learning. I am quite good at being an extrovert.

But the thing is, it completely exhausts me.

At the end of the day, I don't want to talk to ANYONE. I can't return phone calls, or email. I want to read books. I want to write in my journal. I don't want to say a word.

When I have a houseful of children, the chaos makes my head rattle. I love it, but at the end, I need to go somewhere warm and dark and quiet and not talk to anybody for a couple of hours.

And the older I get, the less I want to host so many big events. I love those times when we have another family over for dinner, or perhaps 2-4 people, to join us at the table. But I'm getting to a point where I only want to have the big groups at Christmas and Thanksgiving, not year round.

Is this a sign of getting old? Or am I just identifying my true self?

I have a lot of thinking to do on this, and I'm not settled into the idea at all, but my mind has opened immensely. I may be an introvert in extrovert's clothing. Well whaddayaknow.

(And even if I'm not a classic introvert, I will say that I used to think myself way off the end of the extravert continuum. I'm definitely closer to the middle than I'd once believed.)

This new idea opens up many other ideas for myself - about how to spend time, about how I schedule myself, and more.

Tessa is much like me. Yesterday, PEPS was over, and it was lovely noise and playing and talking. But when everyone left, Tessa and I curled up together on the couch and didn't talk at all. For an hour. And the only thing that made me get up was that dinner needed to be made. It wasn't that I was tired from activity - I hadn't done much - but just being with all those people made me tired. I do much better one on one.

(NOT complaining. And I'll do it again, and love it. I'm just reflecting on perceptions.)

I need to not book so much back to back. The joy of just snuggling on the couch with nothing to do was....bliss. The quiet was bliss. The going inside my own head was bliss.

I could use more bliss, and that's my whole point.

Lots to think about.

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