I self-identify as an extrovert and most people in my life would concur. Living out loud, colorful, social butterfly with wings spread. I was called “precocious” as a child. An old soul, wise beyond my years, with an extensive vocabulary that surprised the adults around me. My mother used to say that I began talking at six months and never stopped. Reflecting back, I saw myself as “little Shirley Temple, tap-dancing for attention and to maintain approval,” which I now view as the onset of co-dependent tendencies.
I came by my extroversion genetically. My father, who grew up in a multi-ethnic neighborhood in Philadelphia (South Philly, the cinematic home of Rocky), seemed to know someone everywhere we went and was able to bridge the socio-economic gap by finding something in common with anyone who crossed his path. He was not a formally educated man, having just graduated high school and then joined the Navy. He was a life-long learner, with street smarts and emotional intelligence.
Like him, I reach out to new folks every day, in the supermarket, on the street, at networking events, in other places of businesses, on public transportation. No social anxiety here, and yet… there are times when I get “all peopled out” — as much as I love them — and need to push the reset button. I have been refraining from my usual flitting about, which looks like landing here there and everywhere, scattering joy and moving on. I have never been shy, so it’s not reflective of those dynamics. There are times when this empath feels like one of those Velcro dart boards onto which the round darts stick when hurled at the circle. I need to pull them off and smooth my surface. At first, it felt uncharacteristic and I worried if I was withdrawing and isolating. My home has become my haven, warmth and comfort abound. I can invite people in if I so choose or enjoy my solitude.
I spend my weekdays as a therapist in a group practice. In the past few years, I have had friends and family members with serious illnesses that in some cases have ended their lives. On a regular basis, people contact me to pick my brain for personal and professional resources. They are convinced that I know everyone. I assure them that I don’t… yet.
In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell speaks of the leadership archetype of the Connector: “These people who link us up with the world, who bridge Omaha and Sharon, who introduce us to our social circles — these people on whom we rely on more heavily than we realize — are Connectors, people with a very special gift of bringing people together.”
I enjoy bringing people together. I have been hosting a holiday party for a few decades and it attracts people from the various personal and professional realms of my life. I call them “overlapping soul circles.” When the time comes, I don’t know who will walk through the door, until they do. Last night, there were folks who I have known all or most of my life, others I met only recently. They are from all walks of life and various ages… the youngest was 7 and the oldest two in their 80’s. Some knew each other. Others coming together for the first time.
I wanted to be sure that everyone felt welcome and did my best to spend at least a bit of time with everyone who was there. There were likely 50 people in the 7-hour period who hung out, eating, drinking, hugging, chatting, playing music and getting their faces painted. (Yes, I hired an artistically talented friend to paint designs, exotic and playful.) I also made introductions and my guests took it from there.
As the time was nearing for the gathering to come to a close, those who lingered, helped me clean and put things back in order, which I appreciated. I then lovingly “kicked them out,” which they respected, since I was feeling worn out from the prep and partying. I did it without remorse or guilt. The woman I was a few years ago would not have had the willingness to do that, feeling that I ought to put their needs before mine. When they did take their leave, I kicked back in the comfy recliner, feet up, sighing and drinking in the silence and solitude.
The term “ambivert“ applies to this condition. According to an article in Forbes, entitled 9 Signs That You’re An Ambivert, written by Travis Bradberry, “The continuum between introversion and extroversion captures one of the most important personality traits. It’s troubling that we’re encouraged to categorize ourselves one way or the other because there are critical strengths and weaknesses commonly associated with each type.”
How can those who see themselves as extroverts take care of themselves, so as not to crash and burn?
- Pay attention to your body. Are you exhausted, feeling like you are dragging and your energy flagging?
- Notice your emotional state. Are you overwhelmed, confused, anxious, depressed?
- Create a haven for yourself in your home in which you can soak up a feeling of peace.
- Listen to soul soothing music.
- Immerse yourself in nature.
- Realize that you don’t have to be “on” all the time.
- Let go of people’s expectations for you and what you “should” do for them.
- Step back and allow partners, children, other family members and friends to speak for themselves, since you are not responsible to “pull them out of their shells” if they feel introverted.
- Meditate and practice yoga which will allow you to turn inward.
- Take naps which can be restorative.
- Receive bodywork, in silence if possible.
- Learn to set boundaries and say no when needed.
- Turn down some social invitations.
- Practice quieting your mind and as the thoughts bubble to the surface, just allow for it, without attempting to vanquish them.
- Enjoy being alone with yourself. You are worth your time and attention as much as anyone else.