Mary loves going to parties and interacting with a lot of different people gives her energy. When she is alone too much she may start to become tired and depressed.
Parties tend to be a chore for Susan. She prefers to talk with one or two people at a time. When she is with people for long periods of time, her energy level becomes depleted.
Mary and Susan have two very different ways of being in the world. Terms used to describe this would be Extroversion and Introversion. Carl Jung first coined these two words, and there has been much research to support his observations and typing of people. Although we all have elements of introversion and extroversion in our personalities, one of these attitudes are usually our preferred way of being- how we tend to feel the most comfortable. Knowing our preferred attitude and honoring it in your life can be important for psychological well-being.
Extroverts make up about 75% of the population (US). They love being with people, tend to think aloud, and are sociable and have many relationships. Extroverts are more interested in what is happening around them (external), than what is happening inside them (internal). They get energy from interacting with people.
Introverts make up 25% of the population. They need their private space and tend to enjoy solitary activities (reading, meditating, working alone). Introverts are more interested in what is happening inside them versus outside of them and tend to limit their relationships to only a few people: they get their energy from being alone.
Most of us have a pretty good sense of whether we are more introverted or extroverted, but if you are unsure, the questions you can ask yourself are:
Where does my energy come from?
Do I refuel through alone time, or does being with others tend to charge me?
Most people have one preferred attitude, such as extroversion, while the introverted side of them is not as developed.
We all need to interact with others, and we all need time alone to reflect and to be with the inner world- both attitudes in our lives are essential. For most of my life I thought I was extroverted because interacting with others wasn’t difficult and I enjoyed it (in small doses). Our society favors extroversion and I had this bias that I needed to have a lot of relationships and lead groups/activities, which often left me feeling exhausted. Now I know my preferred attitude is introversion and I honor myself with lots of time alone and I limit the amount of activities/relationships I get involved in. Unmistakably, I feel so much better!
Furthermore Carl Jung said that as we grow older, especially at midlife or so, we need to turn inward and pay attention to what is happening inside of us. Especially in early early adulthood, extroverted activities help us to make our way through the world when we are going to school, building a career, establishing a family, etc. Introversion helps us through the second period of life. Looking within helps us to answer the big questions in life:
Why am I here?
Where am I going?
Who am I?
Meditating, praying, journaling, working with our dreams and reading are all ways to become more comfortable with the inner world and to find some answers. Within the solitude our wisest self emerges and helps direct both our inner and outer lives.
Please Understand Me by Keirsey and Bates
The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney Psy.D