All my life, I have hovered in between things.
Throughout my teens and twenties, I classically resisted labels, organizations, collectives, and even communities, but as I have gained more courage and wisdom in my life, I’ve also come to understand the value in these things. What I have learned is that I often do not fit into the traditional boxes—and many of us fail to fit into these.
At times, it’s been tempting for me to try on certain labels, and for a while, I truly believed the idea that I must be an introvert. Introversion became like the favourite white t-shirt I donned most days; but like a favored piece of clothing, it eventually got fairly stained, slightly shrunk, and ultimately developed gaping holes in it that I (and most other people) had a hard time pretending we could not see through.
Introversion got worn out, and I got tired of claiming that title.
As is often the case in our society, if we are not identified as one thing anymore, we must be the opposite then. So down the garbage shoot introversion went, and I trotted to the label store to choose the alternative. I’d found the brighter version of myself for the time being—the extroverted me.
I remember thinking, “Yes, this is what I must be,” as others mirrored this and asserted that extroversion was my more authentic nature. The lending of myself to many social situations, outings, conversations, and connections felt like a positive shift. It felt like this was a great “me” to move forward with—the “me” who could be energized through connection and collaboration with others, rather than depleted. At least that was my understanding of these titles at that time.
But extroversion eventually became burnt out too, and I was left feeling confused about how I should identify myself in the world. By the end of my flip-flop of the introvert/extrovert experiment, I held onto a bit of a fear that there might be something wrong with me. In my soul though, I knew there was a more authentic label for me to claim. And, never having liked being told how I should be, it also felt befuddling to think that I either gained my energy from being alone or was recharged by spending time with others—as both were true and untrue.
The origin of these words, as outlined by Carl Jung, is that introversion is an “attitude-type characterised by orientation in life through subjective psychic contents”—focus on one’s inner psychic activity—and extroversion is “an attitude type characterised by concentration of interest on the external object”—focus on the outside world. The meaning of the above statement being that introverts express themselves in “more reserved and solitary behaviour,” while extroverts express themselves “in outgoing, talkative, energetic behaviour.”
Researching these descriptions did not help me to gain clarity of my orientation toward either. Sometimes I feel revived by social engagement, while other times I feel the same from solo trips into the woods. I also felt like they were very much lacking the idea that we are all exterior and interior oriented, and that we must be in order to relate to most things in our world.
Then, I stumbled upon a label that fit, and it was a word that felt right to tell people I identified as. The label was “ambivert,” which means: “a person who has a balance of extrovert and introvert features in their personality.” What also delighted me was that this word dated back to the 1920s, written about by Kimball Young at a time when introvert and extrovert were being highly explored by early sociologist and psychologist.
However, even if we do not resign to labels and boxes, it’s still nice to know that every once in a while we can find a category that suits us. Neither introvert nor extrovert needs to be a cause for confusion; ambivert might just be what many of us authentically identify with.
Because, no matter who we are, most of us carry the capacity to show up, perform, rejuvenate, and collaborate in a variety of ways—not just one that neatly fits into a box.
Author: Sarah Norrad
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Catherine Monkman