‘Are you an introvert or an extrovert?’
Introversion and extroversion are concepts that are often seen as extremes: for example, when someone says they are extroverted, the image that comes to mind is someone who is confident and thrives in social situations, whereas introversion is often painted as the opposite. I’ve always struggled with this because, of the two, I would say I am more introverted, however I don’t see myself as solely introverted. I’m not a cookie cutter shape of introversion, and I don’t believe that anyone is. Introversion and extroversion aren’t two separate entities, they’re on a scale that everyone fluctuates up and down. Whilst I do aspire to behave in a more extroverted manner, and expand my comfort zone to grow more confident in social situations, there is no place on the scale that is more desirable than another.
A couple of years ago, one of my friends sent me a quiz titled “Are you more introverted or extroverted’ and my instant though was ‘here we go again’. I was largely expecting it to be the same generic, presumptuous questions as usual:
- Do you prefer the indoors or the outdoors?
- Do you prefer your own company or the company of others?
- Do you secretly love when plans are cancelled?
I’ve read these questions at least a million times in my life, and whilst they are valid to some degree, they’re too closed ended and exclusive. They paint two doors: introversion and extroversion, and they posit the idea that these are the only two doors to choose from, and you can only pick one. Despite knowing all this, I was halfway through a free period at college, undoubtably bored, so I took the quiz anyway, and found that it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. It had open ended questions that considered a variety of responses to certain social situations, and it recognised that people are complex, and aren’t just ‘one or the other’. This might seem like a huge over reaction about a quiz, and perhaps slightly bizarre that I remember it quite so well, but this is because the result of the quiz told me I am an ‘ambivert’. I hadn’t really ever heard of ambiversion before then, much less knew what it meant, so it’s stuck with me.
What is ambiversion?
Simply put, ambiverts are people who identify as having aspects of both introversion and extroversion within their personality. It doesn’t necessarily have to be equal parts introversion and extroversion- I myself am definitely more on the introverted side of ambiversion- it’s just the idea that we don’t all identify as just one. The addition of ambiversion to the mix isn’t to delegitimise extroversion or introversion, but simply to widen the choice of words used to convey someone’s current place on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. The most common use of the words introvert, extrovert, and ambivert are when people are describing themselves, and so the addition of another place marker on the spectrum helps to give a slightly more realistic and accurate depiction of that person’s personality.
As someone who experiences anxiety, I recognise that sometimes I am more able to take control in social situations than I am at other times and that, just because I do sometimes shy away from these situations, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be able to face them and work on taking back some of that control. Essentially, just because I do relate to certain aspects of introversion, doesn’t mean that I can’t also relate to aspects of extroversion as well.
Sometimes I think that maybe we don’t need labels like these, however, on the whole I find comfort and solace in the idea that there is a word for my personality type; that there are other people who also identify as the same thing as me. I find it encouraging to know that there is a spectrum that I am constantly sliding up and down, even when I do feel overwhelmingly anxious. It reminds me that the negative feelings will soon stop as I move on the scale, and that things will start to get easier eventually.