Common Misconceptions of Personality Types
Like most categories, our society dichotomizes certain concepts so we are better able to understand and place people/things into general ideas that fit with our concepts. The idea of introverted individuals versus extroverted individuals is one example. Often society defines an introverted person as someone who is quiet, private and prefers to keep to themselves. Contrarily, an extroverted person is described by society as someone who is outgoing, talkative, and has an active social network. While parts of these personality dichotomies may be accurate, they tend to vastly overgeneralize these personality types. In reality, an extroverted and introverted individual may exhibit similar social lives, have the same amount of friends, and engage in similar activities… So what IS the difference?
Am I an Introvert or an Extrovert?
The relevant question to determining if you identify more as an introvert or extrovert is: how do you recharge? Think about how you might feel after a long day of school, work, or any energy-consuming activity. Typically after a long day, one requires the time and space to recharge their depleted energy. An introverted individual will have a propensity to re-energize by spending some quality alone time. This offers an individual the opportunity to decompress and prepare for the next activities/tasks. An extroverted individual seeks to spend quality time around others to recharge their depleted energy and prepare for ongoing activities for the day. This does not necessarily mean that extroverts have more friends and/or enjoy social activities more than introverts - it all comes back to what helps individuals to restore their exhausted energy.
There are some qualities that may be characteristic of introverted and extroverted persons, and they may be more prevalent in some individuals than others. Here are some examples: extroverted individuals may enjoy group conversations while introverted individuals may prefer more one to one interactions, extroverted individuals may speak more while introverted individuals may listen more, and extroverted individuals may express more openness while introverted individuals may be more reserved. These are simply few of many qualities that MAY indicate you are more introverted or extroverted; however, there are always exceptions AND there may be times in our lives or particular situations when we identify more as an introvert or as an extrovert. When in doubt, come back to the question: “how do I recharge?”
How does this apply to mental health?
First, it is less important to label yourself as an “introvert” or “extrovert”, and rather more helpful to identify what helps you to recharge and reenergize. Why would it be helpful to identify how we recharge? Recharging and re-energizing are ways to practice self-care. Self-care becomes increasingly important in moments of stress, physical and emotional depletion, in addition to ways we can proactively take care of our needs. Drawing awareness to the ways in which we recharge can help us to create space for these moments in our lives so that we are better able to tackle whatever life has in store.