The Extroverted Introvert


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Photo by: Porcelainpoet

What do Michelle Pfeifer, Julia Roberts, David Letterman, and Clint Eastwood have in common?  They're all extroverted introverts.  And it's an increasing phenomenon.

Thanks to the Western world's favoritism of extroverts, we introverts feel as though we must force ourselves to change.  We feel as though we must become actors masquerading under finely tuned masks all the time.  While sometimes it does help to temporarily tap into your inner extrovert - as introverts we seem to be under the impression that in order to excel in our careers, life ambitions and connections, we must become actors all day every day, without exception.  Unfortunately this leads to endless amounts of burnout, anxiety and sometimes even depression.

The truth is: many of us don't give ourselves a break!  We fail to create balance in our lives, and so our socially gregarious facades swallow our entire lives.  Sometimes our true selves are buried and repressed so deeply under our daily masks so often that we loose touch with what makes us 'us'.

Many introverts realize that they must become experts in personal appearances and self promotion in social settings.  Many of us realize that simply being ourselves won't cut it all the time.  We can't remain quiet, reserved or autonomous.  We must function by igniting connections with people.  And in order to do that we need to exude the energy and charisma of extroverts.

So while it can indeed be practically helpful to channel our "extroverted selves" in our work lives, friendship circles and family lives every now and then, many of us introverts fail to set healthy boundaries.  If we have not developed enough self-awareness, our extroverted selves can wreak havoc in our inner and outer lives.

Before I discovered the true value of mindfully channeling my "inner extrovert", I adopted the extroverted introvert facade out of fear: fear of failing and fear of not being liked or accepted by others.  I've worked in a variety of jobs throughout the years - a convenience store, a public library and a candle shop - and all demanded different things from me.  But the one thing all of my jobs had in common (which you might identify with) was dealing with lots of people all the time.  Understandably ... I felt a lot of pressure, and at first adopting the role of the extroverted introvert was a way to cope with my crippling insecurities and social pressures.

I would force myself all day every day to exude ridiculous amount of energy - energy that I just couldn't continue to give away, or keep up with.  So many times I would simply crash.  My extrovert facade would entirely crumble in front of everyone and I would become brusque, quiet and unresponsive.  What a shock to everyone!  My coworkers, customers and boss would become perplexed, offended and confused.

Perhaps you have experienced this before?

But don't get me wrong.  We all have an energetic "extroverted" side within us - it's just that we all have it to different degrees.  For those of us who are on the bottom of the energy spectrum (introverts) it really helps to know you limits.  However, in order to know your limits and know when to slowly transition out of your extroverted self, we need to be able to identify what is motivating us to be extroverted introverts in the first place.

Signs That Being an Extroverted Introvert is Harming You

1.  You feel the need to live up to an identity you have created every time you go out.

2.  You are afraid that if anyone truly saw the "real you" they wouldn't accept or like you.

3.  You feel dirty or dishonest.

4.  You feel chronically tense and anxious.

5.  You feel exhausted and completely drained at the end of the day.

6.  You have poor immunity to sickness.

7.  You reject and/or ridicule your naturally quiet self and wish you could be "different" or like "everyone else."

8.  You feel as though every interaction with others takes a lot of effort

9.  You feel attached to the identity/mask/image you have created because you feel protected from others.

 

 

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As I mentioned before, tapping into your extroverted self is not necessarily a detrimental, or bad thing to do.  Many times exuding energy is needed or necessary.  However, when we are motivated by fear, anxiety or low self-esteem, our masks can be destructive to our well-being.

Helpful Questions

If you have adopted an extroverted facade out of fear, anxiety or low self-esteem, you might benefit from asking the following questions.  Write down your responses on a piece of paper, or digital document, and assess your thoughts and feelings.  This is an excellent way to better understand yourself, and change your actions from instinctual and unconsciously driven, to consciously driven.

  • Why do I adopt this mask?
  • What insecurities and issues do I have that cause me to react?  Perhaps low self worth, lack of trust in my abilities, excessive anxiety, inability to cope with others, etc.
  • What can I do about my insecurities and issues?
  • If I feel the need to be liked - why?
  • Do I like and respect myself enough?
  • Where does my sense of worth and self esteem come from?  Others, or myself?
  • When do I put the mask on?  Why?
  • How can I cope with this situation differently?
  • Why do other peoples opinions of me matter anyway?
  • What's the worst that could happen if I drop my mask?
  • How can I excel without adopting a mask?

***

The more self-awareness you develop, the more you will be able to accept the person you are with open arms.  This is what I have learnt in my personal struggles.

Once you are comfortable with who you are and the innumerable gifts you have, you can move on to learning how to tap into your inner extrovert in a safe and beneficial way.  I wrote about how to do this in this article.  Remember: with self-acceptance comes the keys to unimaginable social and personal freedom!

Any of your person thoughts, experiences or feelings will be welcomed below!


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  1. Jason says

    Thank you for this very thought provoking post. I’ve just stumbled onto your website and am finding it very comforting.

    For many years I have been struggling with my own identity and trying to be someone I am not, or someone I feel society expects me to be (even if that is not necessarily the case). I think I used to be ok with me, but lost myself somewhere along the way.

    For quite some time I have been trying to understand why I am the way I am. Why I enjoy being alone. Why I feel quite low after social interactions/family gatherings (even if I do enjoy my them to a certain degree..In small doses :) Why I only ever have 1-2 friends at any given time. Why I have created a career for myself where I work from a home office rather than in a busy office filled with people (been there and done that)…You get the idea :)

    For a while I’ve thought perhaps I’m suffering from depression or anxiety and taken natural measures to try to fix this, however I don’t think I am depressed as I feel quite happy when I’m on my own. I’ve always known I am an introvert however felt this was a negative personality trait and one that can be overcome with enough self talk and exposing/forcing myself into social settings.

    As I’m sure you are aware this doesn’t really work out too well. I end up hating myself because I am not living up to the witty, charismatic, barrel of laughs person I think I should be. I feel varying degrees of anxiety talking to new people I’ve met (and certain acquaintances/family members). Anyway it has all led to me becoming quite miserable and punishing myself for not being who I think I aught to be.

    Just recently I’ve had a bit of an epiphany (thanks to your website and other material) that being introverted is not a character flaw, but something to be embraced. It is who I am and I should not punish myself because of it. I am waffling…Just felt the need to express my thoughts/feelings here, which is something I rarely do. Thank you.

  2. Jason says

    Thank you for this very thought provoking post. I’ve just stumbled onto your website and am finding it very comforting.

    For many years I have been struggling with my own identity and trying to be someone I am not, or someone I feel society expects me to be (even if that is not necessarily the case). I think I used to be ok with me, but lost myself somewhere along the way.

    For quite some time I have been trying to understand why I am the way I am. Why I enjoy being alone. Why I feel quite low after social interactions/family gatherings (even if I do enjoy my them to a certain degree..In small doses :) Why I only ever have 1-2 friends at any given time. Why I have created a career for myself where I work from a home office rather than in a busy office filled with people (been there and done that)…You get the idea :)

    For a while I’ve thought perhaps I’m suffering from depression or anxiety and taken natural measures to try to fix this, however I don’t think I am depressed as I feel quite happy when I’m on my own. I’ve always known I am an introvert however felt this was a negative personality trait and one that can be overcome with enough self talk and exposing/forcing myself into social settings.

    As I’m sure you are aware this doesn’t really work out too well. I end up hating myself because I am not living up to the witty, charismatic, barrel of laughs person I think I should be. I feel varying degrees of anxiety talking to new people I’ve met (and certain acquaintances/family members). Anyway it has all led to me becoming quite miserable and punishing myself for not being who I think I aught to be.

    Just recently I’ve had a bit of an epiphany (thanks to your website and other material) that being introverted is not a character flaw, but something to be embraced. It is who I am and I should not punish myself because of it. I am waffling…Just felt the need to express my thoughts/feelings here, which is something I rarely do. Thank you.

    • says

      Jason, your words sound very much like my own a few years ago when I was struggling with the exact same issues — with wanting to live up to a witty, charismatic, gregarious image which I just couldn’t pull off genuinely. This epiphany — like my own — will make your life so much easier. Once you accept who you are, strangely enough you start liking yourself in social situations because all of the ideals and expectations that create tension are dropped. This is an exciting period for you, congratulations. :)

  3. Anonymous says

    Wow! And to think I’m weird, always hating the sound of people outside my door and constantly withdrawn amongs friends and family, loving my own space and hating anyone who constantly invade it. God, not knowing why I can’t be excited when I run into old friends or neighbours, constantly hating myself for not having any close friends because they can’t just handle this self absorbed and obsessed girl always in her room, with her weird ways of reasoning and talking when she finally decide to allow others into her space(that’s how I always appear to some while some tells me to go get myself laid). To think I work so hard for years trying to model myself properly and be like ‘others’ the exhaustion is like being sick and not knowing what’s going on inside. Most times I spend my lone time questioning why, how do I always manage to be the wrong one especially on issues involving gossip, arguments, because I can’t handle it, most times I find myself gasping for air, feeling dizzy and asking myself why I can’t talk without getting really excited and exhausted with dried lip down to throat or is that the giving up of energy. It’s amazing how all of a sudden after reading this article and lots of others on this same topic, I couldn’t stop smiling as I identified with most of the characters an introvert exhibit, I feel overwhelmed and I haven’t stopped reading about this topic for the past 5days on a row, all by myself. I like to interact with my friends on phone chats rather than calls or text messages or visiting them because most times I feel I might end up spoiling the thrill cos I always kinda do.
    I like the idea of a party until u ask me to come with, then u just ruined my imagination,,, hahahaha. I like to imagine Sex because I find it hard to enjoy it since am easily turned off if my partner is not a smooth dirty talker and spontaneous with his hands and eyes.
    I get personal with everything, maybe it’s my defence response to people’s constant criticism of my style and taste and behaviour.
    I have struggled all through childhood till adulthood now, hiding, afraid of loosing acquaintances, afraid of ending up alone. I even had the idea of being a single mom and all that. It’s difficult especially when there’s no single person who can stand up for you in public when u are not there and someone is saying what he or she thinks of you. My school coordinator called me arrogant in are rage(I guess the mask was off and I was in shock, since every emotions is accompanied with endless tears). Is this also a part of being an introvert? Crying whenever it’s my turn to explain heated situations, or when I’m angry, or cheated or listening to sad stories or everytime I watch movies or whenever I have to talk about how bad I feel about a situation. The list is endless and I’m glad people are turning up to relate their own daily drama.
    What do I have to do now that I know why iam the way I am, how do I manage my life so that I can be productive especially on areas of career, finance, relationship with people since I am yet to get any tiny success from any of the above mentioned and how do I stop myself from acting or speaking based on what my friend told me or what my partner thinks is best, like how do I take actions on things to please myself without offending anyone that’s another fear, without taking sides. I want to know I still have people to reach out to whenever the solitary days are over

    • says

      You might also be a highly sensitive person (HSP) Anonymous — especially with regards to your tendency to cry. Other than that, you might suffer from low self-esteem, which accounts for many of the tendencies you mentioned.

      I have actually recently designed an affordable online introvert course which you might be interested in checking out. I truly believe that this could give you the direction you are seeking for: http://lonerwolf.com/quiet-strength-introvert-course/

  4. Anonymous says

    It’s interesting to read articles like this as a completely extroverted person. I don’t feel tired from talking all day to people, but instead it gives me energy. I’ve always wanted to be/wondered what it would be like to be the quiet, sweet, introverted girl and not the loud, funny girl. What introverts don’t realize is that people don’t look down on their shyness as a weakness or something to change. I hope that you can find some peace in your introvert self, because it’s just as likable as your extroverted mask.

    • says

      Fortunately with the introvert movement currently gaining popularity more and more quiet breeds are finding acceptance of themselves. Thank you for offering your perspective as an extrovert!

  5. anonymous says

    Wow… and all this time I thought I was CRAZY! Not one person in my life would EVER think I am an introvert at my core. My daughter recently told me she took a personality test and she learned so much about her introvert personality, even though she is in youth ministry. She thought I should look into it also because she noticed things in there that I do that seems contradictory to what people “THINK” of me. Was she ever right? Great article

    • says

      Your comment really makes me wonder how many supposedly gregarious people I come across are actually quiet at their core—probably a large percentage! Thanks for reading and sharing anonymous!