With all of the misconceptions about introverts, it can be a little bit confusing sometimes to figure out if you really are an introvert or not. And, especially if you’ve heard a lot of negative myths associated with introverts and have tried to behave in a more extroverted way in order to fit in with “normal” people, you might think you’re an extrovert when you’re really an introvert.
Not every introvert is exactly the same. We all have our own unique personalities, and there are varying degrees of introversion, too. Nobody is 100% introverted or 100% extroverted either. In general, though, these three questions can help you decide if you fall into the introvert category or the extrovert one.
Three Ways to Know You Are An Introvert:
1) How Do You Gain Energy and Recharge?
This is probably the biggest and most telling difference between introverts and extroverts. Each group gains energy and recharges in a different way. Introverts tend to recharge best when they are alone (or with one or two other people that they are close to and feel comfortable with.) They need quiet times where they can do relaxing activities in a peaceful environment.
Introverts can have a lot of fun getting together with friends, but afterwards they need some downtime to rest and renew their energy. They need times when they can be alone with their thoughts to process and reflect on everything that has happened. A busy day filled with activities and socializing drains them and if they have to go right from one activity to the next without any rest time in between, they can start to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. After a few hours at a party, no matter how much they have been enjoying themselves, they are ready to go home and unwind in a quieter environment.
Extroverts tend to be the opposite. Rather than feeling drained by activities and lots of socializing, they feel energized by them instead. Extroverts usually need a more active schedule to feel their best, and having too much quiet time at home makes them feel bored and drained of energy. They need to be out and about doing things with other people in order to truly recharge their energy. After a party, rather than wanting to go home and rest, they’re often ready to go do another fun activity since they’ve just gained energy from being around other people.
2) How Do You React to Stimulation?
The way you respond to stimulation in your environment can give you another clue into whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. Introverts (and especially those who are highly sensitive people) tend to be quite sensitive to stimulation. They pick up on subtle details and process information about their environment at a deep level. Because of this awareness of subtleties and depth of processing, introverts can become easily overwhelmed when there is too much going on around them.
Crowds, loud noises, bright lights, too many activities in a day, too much information to take in at once . . . pretty much any highly stimulating environment can be overwhelming. And even though extroverts can sometimes feel overwhelmed by these things too, they usually reach that point of overwhelm much, much later than most introverts would.
Many extroverts actually thrive on the sort of stimulation that would make an introvert cringe and want to go escape to a quieter place. Environments or situations that would feel like too much to an introvert might actually energize an extrovert instead.
3) How Do You Focus – Wide and Broad, or Narrow and In-Depth?
This one isn’t quite so black and white. In general, an introvert’s focus tends to be narrow and in-depth while extroverts tend to have wider and broader interests. This does NOT mean, though, that all extroverts are shallow and lacking depth or that all introverts are obsessively focused on only one thing to the exclusion of everything else.
It’s important to be careful not to slip into stereotypes, but usually there is a difference in the level of depth. Introverts will sometimes have fewer interests, hobbies, friends, etc. than extroverts will, but they will be deeply interested and involved in them. While an extrovert might have a schedule jam packed with activities for all of their different interests and hobbies, an introvert might focus on just a couple of interests but focus intently on them and study all of the different facets involved with them. (But, again, this is just in general, and it varies from person to person. I have quite a few different interests and hobbies, for example, but I usually tend to focus more deeply on just a couple at a time)
Also, many extroverts tend to have a larger circle of friends and acquaintances than introverts do. This doesn’t mean that introverts aren’t friendly or that they’re anti-social like the usual stereotype seems to suggest. It just means that introverts tend to prefer having closer connections with people. Many times they would prefer getting together with a smaller group of friends rather than going to a big party with a lot of people they don’t even know. They would rather have one meaningful conversation with one or two other people than “make the rounds” at a social event and spend the evening mingling with dozens of people. (Which actually connects back to the topics of energy drain and level of stimulation too. A quiet conversation with a few close friends is a lot less of a energy drain than the overstimulating environment of a party or large social gathering.)
It Doesn’t Have to Be All of Nothing…
If these three things resonate with you, there’s a good chance you’re probably an introvert. Not all introverts are created equal, though, so you might find that you feel like only one or two apply to you. These three things are general qualities of introverts, but everyone is different and we each have our own place on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. I’m a pretty introverted introvert myself, but there are many introverts who are closer to the middle of the scale and may feel more like extroverts at times.