The loud, the quiet, and the ambiverted

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Photo Credit: Phoebe Lim
Photo Credit: Phoebe Lim
Photo Credit: Phoebe Lim

I used to believe I was extroverted; I was a loud, ‘in your face’ kind of kid. I enjoyed spending time with friends, and I drew my strength and confidence from them. Then I hit the middle school years and things changed a little. I was no longer drawing strength from those I spent time with; rather, I frequently found it exhausting.

I craved time for myself to engage in hobbies and activities that only I really enjoyed and understood. The down-time was safe and soothing. I’d go for runs, read books, shoot hoops, play music, watch strange movies. Introversion began to dominate my personality. I didn’t want to engage with people as much as I once did. Then I’d find myself sinking into anxiety and depression when I was away from my friends for too long. Was there something wrong with me? Or was I just a normal moody teenager?

At first, it worried me to discover my introverted self; I’d always associated introverts with being feeble, weak, bereft of social confidence needed to succeed. Outgoing people were strong and overtly confident, self-assured and courageous. After 15 years of having everyone label me as an ‘extrovert,’ I felt I was letting people down and that they would think there was something wrong with me.

Now in my early 20’s, having lived a few years of life without teen angst, I’ve come to learn the reality of my situation: I’m an ambivert, equally displaying traits of both ends of the personality scale.

You see, there is no black and white, left or right, up or down. Everything in life is fluidly changing, evolving, grabbing at a spectrum of traits from an infinite number of sources. The same concepts apply to one’s personality type. Swiss psychologist Carl Jung once said that “there is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert. Such a [person] would be in the lunatic asylum.”

I’d always associated introverts with being feeble, weak, and bereft of social confidence needed to succeed.

I tend to be a neutral, middle-ground hippie. While I energize from those around me, I crave to spend a day on my own, and vice versa. I love the rush of adrenaline, loud noises, an excitable environment, but when those drain me, I turn to quiet early mornings, solitary walks, and simply contemplating life for a while.

But what about those who literally always keep to themselves, or who always seem to socialize? People may have predominantly introverted or extroverted traits, but we all grab a little from another place in the personality line. In that respect, you could say we’re all ambiverts to some extent.

Unfortunately, this concept seems difficult for people. Some say I’m loud, while others say I’m more quiet, and when these people meet it can create all-out confusion. Is there something wrong with him? Maybe he’s manic.

I simply enjoy a flexibility that allows me to adapt as outgoing or reserved in social situations. I interact well with others, but in a targeted, purposeful way.

Why do we have these dumb, left-right labels that we throw all personalities into? It’s because society wants simplicity. Categories and labels are a way for people to understand how the world works. And in a society where the complex realities of life are  written off as ‘too hard,’ people act mindless, throwing everything into false categories because it’s what everyone else does.

Yes, I love to socialize, but I also don’t. Go ahead and be confused; life can be immeasurably confusing. Maybe we should first wrap our heads around this fact before we ask why the same guy who was keen to go out today just wants to sit and read a book tomorrow.