What am I?
For the first 25 years of my life, I thought I was an extroverted person. As a young child in school, I’d get an A+ for participation. I was that zealous kid in the classroom who raised her hand to answer all the questions. I always had friends and enjoyed going out with them and doing things friends do. So, I must be an extrovert.
In my simple mind, an introverted person was someone who liked to stay to themselves. They were quiet, reserved, enjoyed reading, loved to be home, sometimes awkward. Oh, no, guess what, I had the qualities of an introvert too. I loved reading, loved to be home, and many people told me I was a quiet person. So, I must be an introvert.
Well, this complicated things. What am I?
Make a Choice
In this world, people think introversion is inferior to extroversion. Being an introvert was boring, being an extrovert was fun. Or so, this is what I learned from my surroundings. Being the people-pleaser that I am, I gravitated toward the better-received personality.
As I became older and started to understand who I was deep down as a person, it became so evident that I was faking. Don’t get me wrong; I do enjoy being around people and can make friends quite easy. But if there were a choice to go with friends for a night out on the town or a small dinner at home, I would choose the latter. Every. Single. Time.
The Black Hole Syndrome
Luckily I have a lot of practice being an extrovert because I picked a career where I am often around a lot of people. Where my extreme introvert traits become clear, is when I am away from home for a period of time.
Last month, I attended a three-day conference with over 500 attendees. The days were packed solid with activity from 7:30 am until midnight. There was no time to myself, and I was always “on.” The first day was fun, but by day three I didn’t want to get out of bed; I didn’t want to speak, listen or leave my room. The best way to explain how I was feeling is that I wanted to crawl into a black hole by myself for a long time.
I know it sounds horrible, but, I had no energy left in my body to give. I spent the last two days giving my energy away with no time to recover. But I had one more day, so I got out of bed, got ready and put on my fake happy face. Counting down, the hours, the minutes and seconds until I could get home and recuperate.
What I have learned over the last few years is to acknowledge the black hole for what it is. Recognize it before it gets too close, because, it doesn’t only appear during work. I also notice it appearing in my personal life when life gets too busy.
I’ve learned to make a conscious effort to evaluate what events are going on in my life. I have to determine if I will have enough time to replenish my energy between commitments. It may mean I have to say no to things to preserve my ideal balance. Saying no was hard at first. As people, we don’t like to disappoint others, especially our family and friends.
I know now; there is nothing wrong with being an introvert. I can take pride in it and am so grateful I can finally be who I am. I can be genuine and not feel sorry if I say I have to pass on an event. I’ve learned, it’s better for the people around me if I take the time I need to replenish my energy. This way I can be the best version of myself.