Yes, You Can Still Be an Introvert Even if You Have Extroverted Traits

An introvert holds her sunglasses

People often tell me, “You’re not ‘introverted enough’ to be an introvert.” But here’s why they’re wrong.

Apparently, some people don’t think I’m “introverted enough” — they’ll give a tilt of the head, a raised eyebrow, and a quick, disbelieving “What?!” This is all in response to what I consider a simple statement of fact: “I’m an introvert.”

Apparently, because I have been sighted in public after dark — among other reasons — I don’t qualify.

Which made me start to wonder — what exactly do people think when they hear the word “introvert”? And why is it that putting my face up next to their definition creates dissonance for them? Perhaps I’m an “extroverted” introvert or a bit of an outgoing one. But no matter what, why does the label matter to others?

How People Define Introverts

From my experience, when people hear “introvert,” they actually hear a whole host of other terms: shy, loner, rude/standoffish, boring, quiet, and the list goes on…

Looking at those “definitions,” if that’s how people are “measuring” being an introvert, I can see why I don’t fit their mental model. Plus, the truth is, introverts are often misunderstood — just because we may be quiet does not mean we don’t have a lot to say (once we think about it in advance, of course!).

Here are some ways I don’t fit into the stereotypical introvert prototype:

  • I’m far from shy. Yes, I’ll walk up to complete strangers and strike up conversations. And one of my favorite things to do as of late is to make friends on social media. (Because, you know, it’s social media!) I used to act in plays in high school, was on the quiz team, took part in talent shows, played team sports in college, and then started my career off as a lawyer. And my current career as a life coach means dealing with people daily. So, yes, these are all people-y things.
  • Nope, I’m not a (complete) hermit. I have, in my time, been known to be the life and soul of the party, like the “last man standing” when the lights go on. I’ll happily host lunches and dinners at my house. Invite me to something — and I’ll turn up. (I’ll even bring a gift.) Plus, even if I wanted to be completely isolated, it’s impossible: I’m married with three grown(ish) kids. Since we all live in the same house, I can’t even remember the last time I was alone!
  • The “boring” term is just plain insulting. I love trivia — I soak up random facts and information like garlic bread soaks up marinara sauce. Which means that I’d like to think I can hold up my end of a conversation pretty well. I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but boring? Perish the thought!
  • The jury is still out on the rude/standoffish part. I like to think I’m a perpetual student of the art of wit. (Some may perceive it as sarcasm and it may rub them the wrong way; we can agree to disagree.) What I can unequivocally say, though, is that kindness is my default and I would never intentionally set out to be rude or standoffish toward someone. Even if they were rude to me first. (It’s just not how I roll.)

Reading all that, it sure feels like I’m making a case for why I’m not an introvert, right?

Wrong.

None of those things necessarily makes someone an introvert. But I’ll share with you what makes me one.

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4 Key Things That Make Me an Introvert

1. I may not be shy, but I’m still a private person.

Many people mistake shyness for introversion — and vice-versa. But they are two different things. Introverts are born as introverts, and get their energy from being alone, yet someone who’s shy isn’t necessarily born being shy — and they can overcome it (albeit, with a lot of practice).

So, yes, as an introvert, I’m okay with being front and center, which is not common for most introverts, I know. But when I engage in that way, it’s all about the other person (I’m not giving of myself and expending energy). Secondly, with things like acting, and even litigation, I get to try on many different personas. Again, I’m not giving of myself.

Overall, I’m essentially a very private person unless I get to know you really well (or feel extremely comfortable with you). Only then do you make it into my inner sanctum. 

It’s that deep need, and respect for my privacy, that I think makes me an introvert. And I talk about this more in my next point…

2. Yes, I’m sociable — but with a caveat.

Parties, lunches, and dinners? No problem… but only with family and close friends, those in my “inner circle” who “get” me. If those people invite me somewhere, I’ll definitely go. Anyone else? I need to check my social battery and see if I have the energy to “people.” If not, it’s a hard pass.

Also, when I spend time with “my” people, I need to take time to myself to recharge afterwards. Too much peopling gives me an “introvert hangover” — it leaves me exhausted, struggling with compassion fatigue, and generally short-tempered. 

Additionally, in as much as I can be out and about and do all the things, at my core, I prefer calmer, less stimulating environments. I’d rather have coffee with one friend and have a deep, meaningful conversation than be at a cocktail party with several other people.

That need to recharge — and the preference for calmer environments — are what make me an introvert.

3. I do better when I have alone time.

Like I said, peopling, even with the people I love, is tiring for me. It takes some time to myself to refill my cup to allow me to be there for everyone else again. That’s definitely introvert territory.

And, as far as alone time goes, I like to schedule it. Otherwise, it’s too easy to put off or not get enough of it. An introvert sanctuary can come in handy for this, wherein you designate a room — or area of your house — just for you and your alone time. You can accessorize it however you’d like, and read, nap, and do whatever it is that will relax and recharge you.

4. I can appear standoffish or rude (but not intentionally).

Yep, if you catch me when my battery is run down, and somehow you insist on us engaging then (because I’m too polite to tell you to go away), I might come across as abrupt. And I can see how this would be interpreted as standoffish or rude.

Plus, if you call me without warning, I won’t pick up. And I’ll respond with a text rather than a call. I guess some may also see these behaviors as rude. (But the phone is generally not an introvert’s friend!)

For me, it’s necessary energy conservation to ensure my limited social battery goes as far as possible. And it’s an uninvited intrusion into my personal space. I genuinely feel it as the equivalent of just showing up at someone’s front door and inviting yourself in for lunch.

I don’t do very well with it. Because, you know, we introverts like our privacy and alone time.

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

Introverts Come in All Shapes and Sizes

The reason I’m an introvert has nothing to do with what the world sees. Or its perception of what an introvert should look like. The truth of the matter is, there is no one “way” an introvert will (or “should”) look. 

It has everything to do with the daily inner process they need to go through in order to be able to present as the person the world sees. It’s the process I need to recover from being the person that the world sees.

But since most people only see the public side, I get why they don’t think I’m an introvert. It doesn’t change the fact that I am, though.

Fellow introverts, have people mistaken you for an extrovert? And how so? Feel free to share in the comments!

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