Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Extroverted Introvert

So here's another one of those private confession posts that I'll be writing. It's about a small misconception that people may have about me. If you take a public opinion on whether I'm an introvert or an extrovert, I'm sure that it'll generally be swayed towards me being an extrovert and I can't fault that impression. On the outside I look like a textbook extrovert. I like public speaking, emcee-ing, etc. I like meeting new people in social camps and such. I like being a mascot or public figurehead for things.

But then again, all of that is just on the surface. There's more to introversion than just an aversion socialising and at its core I personally identify more strongly with the qualities of an introvert than those of an extrovert. A great series of videos called 'The Power of Introverts' inspired by Susan Cain's similarly titled book helps elucidate the world of an introvert. 

Introversion is not shyness which is driven by a fear of social rejection. Introversion is a response to external stimuli, including social stimuli. While an extrovert would crave and re-energise themselves from exposure to social stimuli, an introvert would actually re-energise themselves from being alone. Introverts are not afraid of excess social stimuli, they get overwhelmed by it. 

Personally I build up a persona to handle excess stimuli. That overly-friendly, outspoken and slightly hyper version of me, that extroverted version of me, is the persona I build to handle the excess social stimuli. In situations where I can't hide behind that persona to protect me from all the excess stimuli, my brain just shuts down and I stop reacting altogether. Those who know me better may have seen that side of me. I can only handle the socialising once it's broken down into smaller, more intimate exchanges.

I'm a seasoned performer so I'm kinda used to crowds. It's easy for me to do things like emcee-ing, public speaking and dance performances. However, there is one very important feature about these activities that I need to highlight. They're all performances of sorts. Speaking at people (for the lack of better wording) is not the same as speaking to people. When I'm performing, I just activate my 'performer mode' and run on auto-pilot from a pre-rehearsed script or on my improvisation instincts.

I'm perfect comfortable with performing because at the end it all, I still have the performance aspect to hide behind. I'm totally uncomfortable with being thrown into a crowd of strangers and being expected to socialise. It scares the shit out of me. I like to think that my dealings are very calculated. I need to know the type of people I'm dealing with, the social environment I'm in and how far I can stretch before I start accidentally insulting people. I need to know this because I need to adapt to the situations I'm in. I don't have the luxury of such knowledge when dealing with strangers in alien environments. A true extrovert would probably just pick a simple set of social choices and just run with it. I can't do that no matter how hard I try simply because that is not how I function. 

Since I was young, I've always been a little bit of an oddball introvert. I didn't have too many friends and I didn't particularly like mass socialising too much. Since then I grown up a little into a more outgoing and (slightly) less socially awkward person but no one can truly outgrow who they are. For better or worse, deep down I'm still that little introvert I was born as and there's little I can do about that other than embrace who I really am.

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