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No, you’re not an “extroverted introvert”. Here’s why.

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

The topic of introversion has become more popular over the years since the advent of Sarah Cain’s book Quiet. Despite the wealth of information on the science behind introversion, there are still many misconceptions out there, many of them often making their way into popular culture. 

Some people like to call themselves “extroverted introverts” or “introverted extroverts” but this stems from a misunderstanding of two things:

  1. how introversion/extroversion is classified in the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator).

  2. The original definition of the terms ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ as defined in the MBTI.

The Classification of Introversion/Extroversion

Introversion/Extroversion lies on a spectrum:

No one is purely introverted or extroverted. We all lie somewhere on this continuum. This is why two people who identify as introverts may have different levels of tolerance for socializing, where one may need to spend more time recharging from a night out than the other.

While I/E is defined primarily through whether a person typically orients their energy to their inner or outer world, there are other characteristics that relate to each type and can help you figure out where you lie on the spectrum. Introverts typically need alone time to recharge, tend to think before speaking (and allow others the space to think before speaking), and are generally more attuned to their inner worlds, e.g., their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. They tend to reflect deeply on things, and are comfortable in the world of ideas. While they may enjoy socializing and being around others, they usually have limits to the amount of time they can spend doing so before needing time to recharge.

Extroverts on the other hand, may feel drained after too much time alone and instead derive energy by focusing more on interactions and activities in the external world, for example, being around others and socializing. They typically think as they are speaking, and tend to be more focused on what is going on in the world around them, as opposed to their inner state.

Defining ‘Introversion’ and ‘Extroversion’

The terms introvert and extrovert were originally coined by Carl Jung, one of the founders of modern depth psychology. According to his definition, introversion simply meant an orientation to one’s inner world, while extroversion refers to an orientation to the outer world. This is the theory upon which the MBTI is based and is what it measures. However, popular culture has redefined these terms to mean something akin to ‘shy’ and ‘outgoing’ respectively, hence the creation of terms like “extroverted introvert”, which is really attempting to describe an introvert who may be more outgoing than one who lies closer to the Introvert side of the spectrum.

Am I an Introvert or an Extrovert?

As mentioned above, no one is purely introverted or extroverted; we all lie somewhere along the continuum. Hence, rather than trying to label yourself, it’s more important to understand your personal characteristics, strengths and weaknesses as they relate to your preferences around where you orient your energy.

Ask yourself: do I need time to mull things over before making a decision? Do I work best by myself or in large groups? How long can I stay at a party before I need to go home? Do I enjoy spending time in my head thinking about things, or would I rather be out in the world doing things? All of these can be clues as to where you lie on the I/E spectrum.

It can be tempting to put a label on every aspect of our personality, and sometimes this can help with clarity and understanding, but ultimately, we’re all unique and nuanced, even if we identify with similar labels. Beyond labels, what’s more important is understanding yourself.

Whether introvert, extrovert or ambivert, everyone can benefit from getting to know themselves better and learning to honour their personal needs and boundaries.

When you get to know yourself deeply, the labels don’t matter as much anymore.

Written by Alia Rajab

To learn more about introversion, check out our podcast episode How Being an Introvert Can Be Your Biggest Strength with Godwin Chan, Host of the Digital Introverts

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