A few months ago, I attended a training about using Myers-Briggs in clinical supervision for social workers. (See my post about it here!)
I did the typical KEM thing, becoming obsessed with Myers-Briggs and spending the next few months trying to guess the type of everyone I live with, work with, or interact with. I enjoy all of the four dichotomies, but the first was the most illuminating for me – the dichotomy focused on introversion and extraversion.
When I took the test ten years ago, my type was ENFP. My instructor/tester, as all of them do, assured us that the results weren’t accurate unless we verified them – unless they resonated with us. I took this to heart and rejected the E, knowing even then that I am way more introverted than extroverted.
I think this dichotomy is often misunderstood. I love people – I have lots of friends – I’m very friendly, especially when I’m in my comfort zone – so often I am mistaken for an extrovert.
But I also need lots of alone time. And I’m more recharged after a day reading and writing than I am by a big party. And I will always spend parties playing with a dog or a small child rather than chit-chatting with grown-ups. And I need time to process before speaking thoughts out loud. And I’d much rather text (or talk face-to-face) than talk on the phone. And I hate participating in group thinktank discussions, because one of my biggest fears (no joke) is speaking at the same time as someone else and having to say “excuse me” and then let the other person talk.
Thinking about being an introvert had been really helpful for me. There have been times when I’ve wondered about what’s wrong with me – why don’t I want to go to lots of big parties? Why do I need do much down time? Why is it so hard for me to express my ideas? Why am I so hard on myself, so sensitive, especially when I speak my thoughts out loud?
These days, it’s a great time to be an introvert. There was a New York Times bestseller written about intraversion (Quiet by Susan Cain), and my Facebook feed occasionally fills up with comics, stories, and articles about what it’s like to be an introvert. A lot of introverts, myself included, feel validated when they see that others have similar preferences, like needing alone time or expressing themselves more clearly in writing than in spoken words.
(Yup. I am ALSO terrified of my phone – especially unknown numbers. If you’re not saved in my phone, there is zero chance I am answering your call. Instead, I will listen to your voice mail immediately, and then agonize about whether or not I need to call you back.)
When you realize why you are the way you are, it can help you to achieve self-acceptance. Understanding that I am an introvert has been helping me so much. I’ve been able to tell people what I need – “Can I think about this for a little while and get back to you?” – and make plans more successfully by not scheduling several weeknights of socializing in a row.
It’s really amazing how much our happiness stems from self-knowledge. I’ve been a lot happier and more accepting of myself since I fully accepted the joys of being an introvert.