That’s right. I’ve decided that I’m a mix of extraversion and introversion, but I don’t know where I lie on that spectrum. Somewhere along the line, society couldn’t resist labelling people who don’t sit firmly on either end. Voila, the birth of the ambivert. So yeah, I guess that’s me. But I’m still confused about it.

Here’s the thing.

By definition, being an ambivert puts me somewhere between being an introvert and being an extrovert. I have moments where I need solitude to recharge, but I am also invigorated by company and meeting new people. Does this mean that I am 50:50 of each, and if so, how can I tell that another ambivert may be 70:30 or 20:80? How would they differ from me, and what exactly would they have that I lack, or vice versa? Which begs the question – is anyone really 100% introverted or extraverted?

I’ve always loved parties. Social gatherings where I get to go out and have fun with my friends (or friends of friends whom I’ve never met), I’m in. That being said, I don’t actually go to many parties at all, and I’m picky with the parties that I do attend. For instance, I like cocktail parties and an evening out at a bar or pub is definitely my idea of fun. However, the idea of costume parties where I’d have to dress up as my favourite superhero or Disney character just fills me with dread.

I know, I’m super fun – promise.

In all seriousness, this has always been something that has puzzled me. Is it just a character flaw that I have with not liking bright pink tights and bunny ears (Legally Blonde, anyone)? Is it an instinctive preference that stems from my upbringing – both culturally and socially? Is it just me not being able to let go as a person? Or is it just the limit of my extraversion component as an ambivert?

Over the years, I’ve done a little thinking about the subject, and I’ve come up with a few theories of my own. Not the next Carl Jung or anything, but here we go.

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I feel that this is often the most unsuspecting trap that we fall into. Simply depicting introversion and extraversion as opposite ends of a scale portrays them as polar opposites. I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that. I recently read an interesting article by Joshua Spodek on the “Or” and the “And” models for introversion and extraversion. In a nutshell:

The “Or” model: Shows the most commonly portrayed “scale” of introvert to extrovert. They are polar opposites, and having one means that you can’t have the other. Hence the creation of the ambivert to convince people that you can, in fact, have both sides of the pie.

The “And” model: In Spodek’s words, this model shows that introversion doesn’t imply a lack of extraversion, and extroversion doesn’t imply a lack of introversion.

Which led me to a bit of a hallelujah moment – introversion and extraversion are nothing more than very different skill sets. You CAN learn to be both. They are not mutually exclusive. Having no problem with spending the whole day in bed with zero human contact does not mean that I don’t enjoy going out for drinks after work every Friday. Which begs the question – since ambiversion is primarily based on the scale that is so characteristic of the “Or” model, does this all-inclusive take on the matter thus make it invalid?

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This brings me to my next point. We are often blissfully unaware of whether we have certain traits until we encounter situations that require us to step up to the plate and bring those traits into play. Traits that often get us classed as an “introvert” or “extrovert”. We’ll never know if we’re good at public speaking until we have to do it. Not just any speech, but the best man’s speech at your childhood best friend’s wedding.

There it is. That defining element that so many of us fear and avoid – pressure.

Pressure is the best thing that will ever happen to you. You’ll never know what you’re capable of until you’re up there on that stage, with a blinding spotlight in your eyes and all you see is darkness when you look out into the audience for reassurance. That “game mode” that we go into is a result of a skill set that we have learned somewhere along the way, but may never have needed to use until now. It goes without saying that environmental factors have a huge role in this. The more time we spend around outgoing, well-spoken people, the more outgoing and well-spoken we become (at least when we need to be). The more friends we have who are into cooking Thai cuisine, the more we are exposed to it and the more we know about it. This is simple learned behaviour and contributes to the survival of the human race – it’s fictitious do or die, really.

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It’s a little like saying you can only be either thin or fat. “But what about all the body types and shapes and metabolisms and everything else?” I hear you cry. Daft, isn’t it. Being 100% extraverted or introverted is the epitome of assigning a label to yourself. Logically, being a 100% ambivert is doing the exact same thing – doesn’t matter how far along you are on that “Or” scale – it’s still a categorisation. In real life, this can often lead to some closed mindsets, unintentionally in most cases. The more you believe that you belong on a specific side, the more you start to actively reject the characteristics of the other side. The more you seek out the qualities of your chosen side in yourself, and the more you seek opportunities to validate and nurture those qualities. Be open-minded, which often involves being confused like I am, but that’s okay. We’re all students when it comes to this thing called life.

I apologise if you’ve reached this point and you’re marvelling at the amount of mumbo-jumbo that I am capable of producing. A sincere thank you for reading. Please have a look at Joshua Spodek’s work too. I’d love to hear your take on the matter, and if you have any stories to share! You go girl.

– J

This post was originally published on Beauty’s Expert Amateur. All images in this post were designed on canva.com by J, exclusively for BEA.

References:

  1. Joshua Spodek, Introversion is not the opposite of extroversion. http://joshuaspodek.com/introversion-opposite-extroversion
  2. Sophia Dembling, A Theory About Introversion, Extroversion, and Autism. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-introverts-corner/201104/theory-about-introversion-extroversion-and-autism

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