Saturday, April 2, 2016

Living as an Extrovert in an Introverted World

That title seems backwards, doesn't it? Isn't the phrase - How to live as an INTROVERT in an EXTROVERT world? Only I don't think it's an extroverted world.

I've spent wasted way too much time Googling statistics on how many Introverts/Extroverts there are in the world. (In my best Napoleon Dynamite voice: "Like anyone could ever know that!")

I have had a realization lately that me - a RAGING Extrovert, has probably close to 98% introverted friends. Tell me how this makes sense? Not only that I would have mostly introverted friends, but also ....where are all the Extroverts?

So I did what any logical, statistic seeking person would do - I took my poll to Social Media. Between Instagram and Facebook, of the 2000+ people that COULD have answered, only 58 did. Of those 58...38 were Introverts, 10 were Extroverts, and 10 considered themselves the new addition to the bunch - "Ambivert". Which, if you've ever taken they Myers Briggs Personality Profile Test, I'm gonna guess those Ambiverts are NF's. I'm KIDDING, people!! Mostly. But for the record, spell check does not recognize the word, Ambivert. And in case you don't know what the word, Ambivert, means: a person whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert features. Now, I feel the need to point out that MOST of my real life friends did not answer my poll. (I'm pretty sure they've blocked me.) I'm gonna throw in to that official count about 30 more Introverts and negative 3 Extroverts.

First of all, I think part of the problem in recognizing what side of the scale we lean to is an understanding of the words, Introvert and Extrovert. I am of the understanding that many people believe the word, Introvert, to mean someone who doesn't like being around people. Therefore an Extrovert  is someone who loves being around people. I suppose that is an okay definition, but it runs much deeper. For fear of boring you, I will shorten it. The two terms are really about where you derive your energy. Introverts need alone time to be recharged, and extroverts need people to be recharged. I'm over-simplifying it. You can Google it if you care. 

Like I said, recently I was surveying my real life friends and had a realization of how many of my friends are introverted. I just don't get this. You would think as an extrovert I would 1) be attracted to, and 2) attract other extroverts. Or maybe, as I've often joked with some of my severely introverted friends, that I attract introverted people because they know they won't have to actually talk in my presence. It's very safe for everyone. 

I was intrigued by the lack of extroverts responding to my little poll. Where are all the extroverts???!!! When it comes to social media, the only logical explanation was that they aren't ON social media to see my post. They are out doing what extroverts do best - being with people. I've also often thought that introverts tend to have the highest following, likes, hearts, whatever...on Social Media. My theory is because introverts are generally private people. So when they do post - the world listens. We all want to know what's happening behind those pulled curtains. Us Extroverts? We don't even own curtains. 

These are all generalizations. To further the stereotype, when we think of the word, introvert, we think of someone who doesn't like people - or at least being around them. We assume they are shy, and maybe even socially awkward. Standoff-ish and disconnected may be added to the list. As for extroverts, we think of them as the life of the party. Outgoing - even obnoxious at times. They are loud busy bodies who can't ever keep to themselves. (Have I offended everyone equally? K. Good.)

I know a lot of introverts who most people would disagree with the reality that they are introverts because, as according to Jen Hatmaker, they are "high-functioning introverts". Meaning they {gasp} like people. I know a few extroverts who I also have questioned their diagnosis. But only because even in their extroverted self, they pick a few close friends to re-fuel with while the rest of the world goes on believing they are an Introvert.   

Moving on to my point.

On an almost daily basis, I feel like I am "too much" for those in my life which is full of introverts. I fear I suck the life out of all of my friends, and therefore need to bounce from friend to friend to avoid doing so. (Such is the life of an extrovert living among introverts, I suppose.) I see the introvert/extrovert thing thrown out as behavioral reasoning almost daily. And I don't like it. Similar to all personality profiles - I don't like when we hide behind "that's just how I am". Because I don't think that is how we are designed to live least not fully.  When we use how we are "wired" as a means to live only for our own needs to be met, we miss out on community the way God has designed it.

Philippians 2:3-4
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the the interests of others.

I'm not intending to attack anyone with this post. My hope is to encourage people to do just what it says in Philippians to do.... look to the interest of others. In doing so, I believe we will leave more fulfilled and our little circle of influence will feel more loved and valued.

I have a very introverted friend who, through conversation, we have been able to recognize the hurtful tendencies that introverts/extroverts can put on each other. I appreciate that. She has been able to voice that there are times she needs to pull away, but that she does in fact want to be a friend to me. And, I have been able to voice that I feel like I'm bleeding her dry, and that's an awful feeling. 

We all want to be pursued. Even extroverts....especially extroverts. That's hard to do when we are only looking out for ourselves. The introvert waits for the extrovert and the extrovert waits for ....well, anyone. But what if we shelved our "needs" and pursued one other with a desire to know and be known? To serve? Because God created us to live that way. I am not saying He created us all to be extroverts, I realize that could sound like that....but He did create us to know and be known, and to love, and to serve, and to lay our lives down for others......the list is LONG for how he created us to live, and it has very little to do with how he created US, but instead everything to do with DYING to US. What if we stopped trying to cling to, or hide behind a temperament or personality trait, and instead chose to step outside of what feels "normal" to us for the sake of loving someone else? Can you imagine that kind of community? I'm trying to.... 

I realize I never actually addressed how to live as an Extrovert in an Introverted World. Because, I don't know how. I thought the answer was in backing off of my introverted them their space. I don't know generally how that plays out for my introverted friends, but it can leave me feeling very lonely. Maybe me feeling lonely IS me laying my life down for my introverted friends? I don't know. If you Google how to live as an Introvert in an Extroverted world....there will be lots of advice. From what I've read, most of it tells introverts to just be them and not feel bad about it. (That was a very short and uninspiring paraphrase.) But I wonder where that leaves the Extroverts? Because I personally, have grown to believe that the danger of being an Extrovert means you are just needy. What a gross feeling. 

I'm rambling now. I would love to hear from Introverts AND Extroverts - how do you want to best be loved by the opposite temperament? And, I challenge you to answer that question NOT with: "I want them to let me be alone", or "I want them to be with me". I don't believe we live in an introverted OR extroverted world. We live in an image bearing world. We are all created in the image of God (whom I suppose would be the Original Ambivert??) - so how do we extend grace and love to those whose Image needs different things?

Discuss amongst yourselves....I'm all verklempt...