- Jeannie Scott
Naturally Introverted. Selectively Extroverted: Why This Tactic Might Not Be Working For Your
One of the biggest misconceptions of introverts is that we’re all shy, unassuming and hate people.
When actually, in my experience, I’ve found the opposite to be true. A lot of introverts that I’ve met, including my clients, love people. They’re energetic, effusive and ambitious af.
But they’re also dealing with an internal struggle – the struggle of being naturally introverted and selectively extroverted.
There’s still so much mystery that surrounds introversion. But since the pandemic, and the isolation that so many of us were forced into, many people have come to realise and accept their true introverted nature.
Until 2021 I didn't know I was an introvert.
I mean, I’m an actor and a coach?! I love people. I’m not shy or particularly quiet. But I do get exhausted by people. I’m regularly photographed (lovingly by my partner), at social events, asleep on the nearest sofa (or patch of floor). I don’t hate people. But sometimes I need them not to be near me. I process everything internally, and find outward brainstorming overwhelming.
When I did the Meyers-Briggs and discovered I was an INFJ, all those contradictory quirks made sense.
But we live in a world that still sees extrovert as the default.
And everything else as fifty shades of shy and/or anti-social. Most of us are living in areas surrounded by people all the time; in real life and online. It’s not easy to escape the constant drain on our energy. We need to go to crowded pubs, and shout over loud music, because otherwise we lose friendship groups. We have to network and speak to people and show up in our jobs relentlessly, because otherwise we get left behind. We have to work collaboratively because otherwise we’re not team-players etc. It can be exhausting for introverts to just get through the day.
So, we do what we humans do best; we adapt.
We have to. It’s our biological imperative to be accepted. And to be accepted, more often than not, we have to play by extroverted rules.
But why isn’t this actually working as well as you might think?
Maybe you’ve gotten really good at it? Maybe you’re so practiced at selectively extroverting, that you sometimes forget you’re even doing it. Until it’s too late, and you’re experiencing a new level of exhaustion that no amount of naps can help with; your very soul feels tired.
And on top of that, because you’re not able to show up fully as yourself, you’re never going to feel as confident or grounded as you deserve to feel. You’re walking into situations already on the back foot. You’re apologising for who you are. Probably not consciously or intentionally. But you are.
It’s not easy, especially if you’re working in traditionally extroverted spaces. Or you’re surrounded by people who just don’t get it. It’s so much easier to just play a part, than constantly have to explain yourself and your needs to those around you.
But selectively extroverting, though it may feel easier in the short-term, can have really damaging effects in the long-term. Like it did me: it could lead you to burnout, exhaustion and almost completely losing yourself in the pursuit of something.
There are so many gifts that come with being introverted e.g. you’re highly intuitive and creative, you’re a great listener, you think really deeply and fully etc. But those gifts can’t meet their full potential if you’re trying to suppress the side of you that makes those gifts possible.
If you’re hiding behind an extroverted mask, you’re abandoning a whole part of yourself that wants to be seen.
You’re subconsciously sending the message to yourself that you’re not valuable to this world just as you are, and must therefore be suppressed or hidden. And if you’re regularly burned out, exhausted and feeling super lost because you suspect you’re an introvert trying to thrive in an extroverted world then I implore you; please take off that extroverted mask.
Stop adapting and start creating and demanding the space for you to be your glorious introverted self.
If you're naturally introverted in a traditionally extroverted space, and you're feeling the effects of that on your energetic battery, then you might want my free guide: Introvert Power Save Mode: 4 Ways to Hold onto Your Energy in a World Built for Extroverts.