Are You Really an Extravert?

Hi, I’m an Introvert - but I haven’t always thought so. 

During my 20’s and my early 30’s I would have said I was an Extravert. It seemed a good fit to me and I think my family would have said the same. In fact when I told my brothers my revelation, they laughed incredulously.

I thought that my tendency to want to discuss interesting topics, to be talkative, to externally process my thoughts and to be happy to initiate conversations meant that I was an Extravert. I carried an air of confidence and was applauded for my ability to make newcomers feel welcome. I was proud of my warm and friendly demeanour and felt appreciated.

I knew that I was at my best with one-to-one interactions, but I still thought that I was energized by being with people. Although at times I was quiet and contemplative, I certainly didn’t think I fit the profile of an Introvert. In my mind a stereotypical Introvert was shy, self-conscious and unable to carry on a conversation.

But after much soul-searching I realized that I had been fooling myself for all these years. I was burnt out and exhausted. I thought there was something wrong with me: that I was perpetually awkward and that I just didn’t ‘fit’.

So imagine my relief when I finally figured out that my inability to chill out, or perform like a true Extravert, didn’t mean I was descending into depression or completely losing my mind. In reality, it was my Introverted tendencies desperately trying to make themselves heard!

THE REALIZATION

When I left work and became a full-time mother, I began to hang out with a group of mum-friends. I flew along in a whirlwind of exercise classes, frequent group catch-ups over coffee or at the park, joint swimming lessons for the kids, and of course sharing our lives via email, Instagram and Facebook.

It seemed to work for a while, and I genuinely enjoyed the company as we figured out this parenting gig together. However, although it had started well, I gradually realized I was struggling. I was depleted and gasping for air. I felt I was compromising on things that were truly important to me. I was feeling overwhelmed, tired, unable to perform to what I thought was expected of me, and completely insecure.

I couldn’t understand it. These girls were my friends. What was wrong with me? 

UNDERSTANDING MYSELF

I have gradually come to an understanding of myself and my needs. Understanding myself, not just as an Introvert but as an INFP, has been like shining a floodlight into my life.

I have realized that, although I enjoy a hearty conversation and I can talk a lot, this doesn’t automatically make me an Extravert. I am energized by good conversation, not necessarily by just being with people. I can enjoy a party—as long as is there is someone interesting to talk to. I get tired and bored with on-going surface chatter and group banter. I am a good listener and I am energized by digging deeper and engaging in meaningful discussions. However I become overwhelmed with the expectation to keep up with too many details of people’s lives. Also, my deeply empathetic nature becomes weighed down by too much information from too many sources at once (no wonder Facebook wears me out).

At times, I definitely need people to get me out of my head by listening and helping me process my overwhelming thoughts out loud. This, however, needs to be an intentional and authentic discussion, one-on-one, with someone I trust and who isn’t threatened by my intensity. When I’m comfortable and relaxed I can be very light-hearted, enjoy a good sense of humour and have a good time.

When it comes to shopping, going to the gym, working on a project, or generally getting things done, I’ve realized that I’d much rather hang on to my independence and have my own space. I don’t commit or make decisions well when I’m under pressure. I need time and minimal distractions to process what I’m thinking and feeling, and to generally rejuvenate.

I’m comfortable initiating conversations, and I actually get quite a buzz from meeting new people, but I’ve come to understand that this stems from my other personality traits. As an INFP I’m very aware of other people and intensely curious about their lives. I like to hear about different experiences and make meaning of various ways of thinking and doing things. I also don’t like to see people standing alone, or feeling uncomfortable, so I will go out of my way to ensure they feel welcome and embraced. This openness doesn’t mean I want to make more friends to fill up my social calendar. On the contrary, if the expectation becomes too great, I find myself freaking out and withdrawing—which of course can be terribly misunderstood.

LIVING AUTHENTICALLY

Learning to live a more authentic life is close to the heart of an INFP. Learning about who I am and how I function best is an on-going process—as I’m sure it is for you too. Understanding what I really need, to be invigorated and live to my full capacity, is freeing.

As I give my Introverted tendencies permission to shine, I find I can live a more balanced life. 

  1. I need to purposely make space for myself. As an INFP I give a lot of myself to others and can forget to take time out. I need to make time to read, to create, to write and to explore and express my thoughts.
  2. It is crucial to focus on my strengths as an Introvert (and an INFP)—especially when it is tempting to think I don’t quite measure up in this fast-paced world.
  3. I need to intentionally engage in relationships that inspire and energize me. I tend to wait for others to make plans and just ‘go with the flow’ but I often then feel tired with the expectations and carry guilt about what I should be doing.
  4. I am learning to set good boundaries, especially when I find myself people-pleasing. Sometimes it is okay to say NO!
  5. My insecurities often have me questioning my choices, so it is important that I understand that what is “normal” (or necessary) for an INFP is sometimes going to be misunderstood. And that is OKAY!

How about you? Does any of this resonate with you? I’d love to hear your experiences!

Esther Murray

Esther Murray is a Social Worker, a writer and a mum to three animated young daughters. Esther lives in sunny Perth, Western Australia, with her wonderfully logical and dependable ISTJ husband. Esther finds joy in creative pursuits (like making beauty out of old finds) and loves to escape into an inspirational biography or other hearty piece of literature. Esther is learning to live authentically as an INFP and has a heart for others to also live to their potential.

Comments

JudyGuest (not verified) says...

I am an ISFJ and ,surprisingly, a lot of what you said does resonate with me too. I smile a lot and that attraction brings many rewards, but also can be overwhelming when I take too much responsibility to think I need to befriend everyone. I have two very close friends, one extrovert and one introvert. We get along very well and share the same values with politics, religion, children, and expressing creative energy. However, I am 76, now divorced after 36 years of marriage, and sometimes loneliness sets in. As an introvert, I find this sometimes moves into a depressive state.
I volunteer at a seniors facility, read a lot, work out at the YM, play pickleball, quilt, knit, love one-on-one conversations, but still feel lonely.
I wonder if I was an extrovert if this would still be so.

Esther Murray says...

Hi Judy, thanks for your comment. This topic of int/ext certainly isn't straight forward and there are so many variables. I wonder if loneliness is something we can all experience at some time in our lives - introvert or extrovert. We can be busy doing, have lots of people around us, enjoy good friends, even love our solitude, but still at certain moments feel very lonely. We crave connection and sometimes that is a hard thing to find.

Guest (not verified) says...

Yes, yes, and yes!!
I've never before read my private thoughts expressed like this! I could've written this article!! The introvert image as a shy, awkward person is all WRONG!
Thank you for an enlightening read!

Esther Murray says...

I'm so glad you could relate! It's nice for me too to know I'm not the only one!

Guest (not verified) says...

Oh does that describe me also. I am completely not bored, but uninterested in girl chat- the banal,idle chatter, but give me something interestng to talk about or someone interesting to have a conversation with, and you would think I was an extravert too. Too many people exhaust me.

Karen Perez (not verified) says...

For the longest time I was mistaken for an extrovert too, and once I began to embrace my INFPness instead of rejecting it, people said I was acting strange and got concerned. They had no idea that I was finally being my true self!

Corky (not verified) says...

There was no question as I grew up that I was an introvert. However my adult life has been a scurry of moving, and progressively more complex jobs and expected by jobs social life had me believing that I had somehow become and extrovert. But deep inside I was always the little girl who would rather spend time reading or drawing or just thinking or walking alone - - - and she was still an introvert, albeit a frustrated and often angry one.

My husband and I have a company now and while I did accounting for others for 30 years I found myself immediately overwhelmed by office activity, Quickbooks (my years had been pen and ledger), people constantly in the office by my desk, calls and calls and calls to be answered. Until at last I could no longer operate - I just made a show of it. I could not seem to get the books and billings and operating expenses in any sensible order - quit answering the phone as much as I could - spent days staring at the computer - and days in bed reading/sleeping/reading/sleeping. I knew that I had to have another person in office and finally a friend told me about Toni.

Toni now works for me/WITH me and is the Office Manager - a position which suits and uses her skills perfectly. I can step back from being the only public presence and the only one to answer phone, take orders, make up work orders and all the other stuff. Much we will share but she is a great leader and decision maker. She sees the overview and I see all the details but never can put them into an overview.

Now I can read again, listen to my favorite music, look forward to playing piano again, relax, play with my pup, go for walks, sit by the lake - - - and so on - - - being the little girl introvert grown up. It has even changed the contours of my face which were so scrunched up with worry and confusion that I hated looking in the mirror.

Finding my place - finding my peace - finding my center - the best thing that has happened in my 73 years.

Esther Murray says...

What a great journey Corky. Interesting that you speak of moving and expectations which led you to think you'd become an extrovert. I moved a lot as a child and had to make new friends and get used to new places over and over again. I'm sure these experiences, and the way we adapt to them, have a big impact on how we present to the outside world.

Guest (not verified) says...

Your blog reaffirmed how I fell everyday of my life! I am a mother of three grown children, a grandmother, A very successful educator with a Ph.D, but the first day of a college class, or the first time to go into a school to provide consulting for school improvement, I have to talk myself out of the car, and the insecurities flood. I can easily speak in a stadium of 500+ people, and teach in small group settings, but then I find myself needing time alone to "find" myself again.Thank you for sharing, as I know I cannot be the only one who wonders, what in the world is wrong with me?

TeslaQuake (not verified) says...

I found similar results (INTP). While I don't mind parties and talking with people, I need something interesting to talk about, and generally get bored quickly with small talk. I also need time to myself to do things I am interested in.

JJ B (not verified) says...

Thank you for writing this. I am constantly feeling conflicted. I'm like a hybrid extrovert/introvert or so I sometimes feel. I am very social and love a great, deep conversation but I hate small talk and alot of times I just want to be alone with my thoughts. I think that line you, I'm truly introverted, it is where I am comfortable and relaxed.

Michael Puett (not verified) says...

This extrovert vs. introvert topic is a little silly once you understand cognitive functions.. the 4 letters from the briggs myers test are just a key to those.

You can use both introverted and extroverted functions EQUALLY! You generally just prefer one.. If you were only an introvert or only an extrovert you would not be a complete person.

The difference between introvert vs. extrovert is actually the smallest communication gap in society, largest being between intuitive and sensor.

Esther Murray says...

Hi Michael,
I appreciate your feedback but for me the Introvert/Extravert topic has been crucial in gaining a basic understanding of myself and has answered many of my questions and insecurities. Having always thought of myself as an ENFP and then to realise I am actually an INFP has been completely enlightening. In this case the final 3 letters stayed the same, it was the Int/Ext which was my confusion. And yes, in cognitive function terms I would use the Introverted Feeling and the Extraverted Intuition, the Introverted Sensing and the Extroverted Thinking etc whether I was an ENFP or an INFP but of course in a different order - knowing whether I am an 'I' or an 'E' changes my dominant and auxiliary.
Further on this topic you may be interested to read this: http://www.oddlydevelopedtypes.com/content/cognitive-functions-and-type-...

Macneu Martin Nonis (not verified) says...

How did you discover that you are an introvert?
Did you take the MBTI personality test.

I took the test and true to my believes and insightful observation of myself , I am an ENFP.
But I am beginning to rethink about the fact about me being extra erred.

Esther Murray says...

Hi Macneu,
Many years ago I took the MBTI test and was very borderline extravert/introvert but came up as an ENFP. I sat with this for a long time but more recently, feeling somewhat uncomfortable in my own skin, I took the test again and came up as an INFP. I felt a bit stuck to be honest and read (and re-read and read again) both descriptions trying to figure out which felt a better fit.
I have heard that the ENFP is often considered to be the most introverted of the extraverts and needs time to recharge, so I still wondered if that was me. However, as I briefly touched on, I have realised that it is the other parts of my personality – the NF&P – which can account for some of my more 'extravert-seeming' tendencies (another reader has also made reference to this in their comment). I wonder if some of my childhood also attributed to my 'extraversion' leaning. And of course, Int/Ext is not black & white but rather on a continuum.
The Myers Briggs definition has been helpful for me. They write of an Introvert having a mind more inwardly directed to ideas & understanding and the Extravert as more outwardly directed and following objective happenings. Although this is very simplistic without more context, it was a great starting point to help me piece together where I fit.

Guest (not verified) says...

I agree that people have introverted and extroverted tendencies, depending on the situation, circumstances, etc. I was surprised that you wrote you didn't expect to befriend people you initiated conversations with. Why not? You can never have enough friends and the odds of finding a good true friend are very high so you probably son's have much to be concerned about.

Esther Murray says...

Thanks for your comment. It is interesting that the one line in my article that I was probably most uncomfortable with after publishing, was this very one about making friends. I felt it may be misread or misunderstood.
My words, "This openness doesn’t mean I want to make more friends to fill up my social calendar" is more about the sociability factor I can handle. I love people and when I meet someone new I NEVER think, "oh I hope they don't want to be friends". On the contrary, if we 'click' on a deeper level, then I feel excited and energised and am over-the-moon at having found them. And yes I do want to catch up and pursue the friendship.
I do meet a lot of new people and, as I mentioned, am often one of the first to be a 'welcomer'. I often felt guilty that after the initial contact I couldn't 'be more' to more people. I count many people as friends (and also acquaintances) but it is when a friendship expects more SOCIALLY than I can honestly give, that I find myself overwhelmed.
Perhaps this will still be misunderstood (and I hope not by any of my friends reading this :)) but at this stage it seems the best way to describe it.

Tiena (not verified) says...

I completely understand the comment "This openness doesn't mean I want to make more friends...." and your explanation of it. I am an INFP as well. I love meeting new people and I am open to making new friends, but then often feel overwhelmed when more is expected of me than I can give socially. Creating healthy boudaries for myself (socially) is a constant challenge, even more so since my 3 daughters have become teenagers and can use up a large amount of my social enegery. Thank you for this post Esther! When I was reading it, literally everything resonated with me!

Rowena Tucker (not verified) says...

This article described me to a "T"! Thank you so much for putting words to my feelings!

kim domingue (not verified) says...

What a well written piece!

I've always known that I was/am an introvert even before I was old enough to know what the word meant. Most people who are acquainted with me however, would describe me as an extrovert because I can talk to almost anyone about almost anything. I can carry on a conversation with complete strangers any time I'm out and about. I will chat with random people about random things while waiting in check out lines. I worked in jobs that required working with the public all of my life.

But, what acquaintances don't see or understand about me is that while I'm good at one on one, groups of people make me want to run and hide. Parties are a form of torture and crowds freak me out.

I like people......just not a bunch all at one time.....and I need time to recover after interacting with people.

Guest (not verified) says...

I have another take on this having been through a very similar experience of starting from an extrovert perspective, then thinking I was perhaps introverted, all things I went through when I was training as and then practicing as a psychologist when I was in my late 30's. Then I found this (hsperson.com) which I found fascinating - it's research that shows how about 1 in 6 people have a nervous system that works at a different level to most, making the person more acutely impacted by stimuli in the environment. For me this helped me realise that I am in fact extroverted (ENFP in my case), but I'm also easily overwhelmed by some things, which can make me withdraw. Take a look at the research - it's laid out very simply and there's a free self-test.

Esther Murray says...

Thank you for your comment and the link. I will definitely have a read as I've often considered my reactions to external stimuli and how that may play a part. I too have gone back and forth between the idea of being an ENFP and an INFP and read so much about the two types (sometimes feeling a little crazy). Thanks again.

J.C. (not verified) says...

Awesome and refreshing post! I am one of those people that have a hard time seeing if I am a true INFP or an ENPF. I love people and love good conversation but yes Facebook and surface conversation drain me and I can come across as not caring.

Everything seems to have to have purpose and deep meaning to me, and I have to feel authentic when making choices. This has been learned though after always putting others wants and desires above my own.

Thanks!

Guest (not verified) says...

Yes! It feels good to read this, it's as if I wrote it myself. Has anyone else had to take major hits from their extroverted parents in law? Mine are an estj and an istj who may very well think introverts are weak without realising he is one. Lord help me!

Nexina (not verified) says...

Your article resonates a lot with me too. I thought myself an extrovert, until I learned the true definition of introversion.

brigiitte (not verified) says...

Thank you for the authentic sharing and the balanced tone of each and every word. Your post resonates with my core needs, and give voice to my uneasiness to be labelled for decades as an extrovert just because i can also talk to anyone about anything. My deepest need is to relax in a safe space, of inner connection, of finding my point of stillness in the noisy crowd. I wonder if extroversion and introversion are a matter of stages in life. As we doubt less of our inner strength, we soliciter less from the outside sources. I love celebration parties, and paradoxically, I like it best when all the guests are gone with contentment and I can slip into the deep night of solitude and serenity.

bananaskysails says...

I can relate to this, but funnily enough, not because I'm an introvert -- but actually because I'm an autistic extravert. Socializing energizes me a lot, to the point that I get antsy if I go too long without blabbing at my friends over at Twitter But in the physical realm of existence...I'm just a mess of overstimulation & social awkwardness. :')

I actually thought I was more of an introvert for the longest time because of this. INFP never seemed to sit right with me, tho, so I eventually decided to retake the test, and answer all the socialization questions based on my online presence rather than my physical one. I got ENFP & it fits me like a glove! So happy to be me.

Guest (not verified) says...

As an INFP, this article came through my inbox right on time. Last night, in a group setting, a man came over to me and said, "I'm an introvert and they force me to attend these group activities." I felt his pain. We were in church. And I believe that God wants me to explain how introversion "works" to the extroverted leaders who can't understand why introverts decline some of the social invitations (fellowship). Thanks for this article (and for proof that INFPs and ISTJs can get along!).

Artemesia (not verified) says...

I hugely appreciate what you have written here. I have been tested as INFP several times and have resisted this because- well because of the hippie stereotype I'm afraid. But your article resonates with me in every respect, so thank you for being so honest and clear about what goes on for you.

Esther Murray says...

Hi Artemesia, that's actually the first time I've heard the hippie stereotype for an INFP. I think that even though as INFP's we can have a lot in common, we would also find a lot of individuality. A stereotype may have it's truths but it is not a complete picture. As an INFP you have much to be proud of!

KimThibault (not verified) says...

Thank you, Esther!

Your story is my story! For years I was convinced I was an ENFJ and could rationalize why I wasn't an INFP (yes, I was biased against being an introvert and a perceiver). It's not until I have matured that I have come to recognize who I really am and the strengths of who I am.

Your story is well written. I'll be sharing it on facebook!

Thank you again.

HeatherM (not verified) says...

Yes! Yes! Yes!
OMG that was amazingly written and expressed!

I thhink i have been trying to get to know my true self as well these last couple of months. So much so that i have been trying to figure out what is the best place for me to even work. Someone would think that I am an extravert being a cashier and then wonder what is wrong with me (me included) when i suddenly become too overwhelmed and burnt out. So being an intravert is so me. And now making changes in my life where i can really shine and be my true self.

guest (not verified) says...

Hi, I'm a longtime Myers-Briggs assessor (over 20 years now) and I remember back in my training when my trainer informed us that INFPs are the ones most often mistaken for Extraverts that it was like an epiphany.

I'm often mistaken for an Extravert now but KNOW I'm an "I".

It actually makes sense if you think about it. The strong "Feeler" function makes us more drawn to people. So, of course, we have to engage with them more. But we typically avoid small talk and really "prefer" to be with our own "peeps"! Yet can be the life of the party when we feel comfortable with a larger group.

When I was younger I felt my "I-ness" would hold me back from doing what I needed to do in this lifetime and so pushed myself to take public speaking classes and volunteered to teach workshops. It was a conscious, developmental choice. And INFPs are also highly inclined towards self-improvement and awareness. More than a number of the other Types, so I think that also often makes us feel less "clear" about what our core Type is.

Thanks for the great discussion! It's nice to share with you all.... J

Esther Murray says...

Great insight!
Interesting that INFP's are often mistaken for Extraverts, I've also heard that ENFP's tend to be some of the most Introverted of Extraverts!
I too have facilitated workshops and actually really loved it and yes found it a great place of growth and development. I did find that I needed a lot of time to process afterwards.

Hanna (not verified) says...

Thanks so much! This was like reading about me :) big help, been having a hard time knowing too...

colettejean.hinton9 says...

This article could be describing me. Until I started doing these personality tests I honestly thought I was an extrovert, but have since discovered that I am a true blue introvert. I am an ISFP and can relate to many of the things you explore in your article. "I am energized by digging deeper and engaging in meaningful discussions", "my deeply empathetic nature becomes weighed down by too much information from too many sources at once" (I have been trying to work on this one with a psychologist, which has been truly helpful). "I definitely need people to get me out of my head by listening and helping me process my overwhelming thoughts out loud" - I call it overthinking, and this can cause other problems.

The one problem I have with this article is that it appears to suggest that extroverts struggle to have deep, meaningful conversations and can only manage social chit chat. I have not found this to be true in all my interactions. Two of my daughters are extroverts and we have delightful, in depth discussions on many topics. An introvert friend of mine told me that my family overwhelmed her because we were too "intellectual" for her. Whilst we do have discussions around politics, religion etc. we also have fascinating discussions around emotions, why we all react to various situations differently, etc. Hardly topics that I would call intellectual.

I just think that one needs to be careful of "boxing" any personality type.

Esther Murray says...

Hi Collette,
Yes, there are definitely some parts of our personalities that we need to accept and embrace and others (like the overthinking) that might need to be areas of growth and change.
I apologise if the suggestion you got from my article was that extraverts struggle with the deep and meaningful. This was not my intention. I too have extravert friends and one of my daughters is also an extravert. And yes, I too have many deeply meaningful and lengthy discussions with them.
I mentioned enjoying a party as long as there is someone interesting to talk to - that person may very well be an extravert! And in groups I've been a part of, even if the group dynamic becomes tiring for me, often I can have wonderful and meaningful discussions with those same members individually.
I agree that we need to be careful about 'boxing' and even as I write an article like this one I am deeply aware of how 'black and white' it may seem. In reality we as human beings are diverse in personality, experience and any number of other things. We cannot be boxed, even when we seem to fit so beautifully into a system like Myers Briggs, or any other profiling system.

Moni Love (not verified) says...

I feel so relieved reading this article! I've known for years that I am an INFP, but even the comments above reassured me that I'm not alone in being an introvert. This is the best article I have seen on the subject. Thank you!!!

Elaine Fraser (not verified) says...

Great article, Esther. I recognise myself in your post. Wow! You've articulated the dilemma of the introvert who feels like an extrovert, or is perceived as one.

Shona (not verified) says...

Amazingly true. I love a massive conference, where I can walk in on my own and start a conversation with anyone in a hall of 500. I'll have a really energising conversation and live on an adrenaline high for the next week. EXTROVERT, I think. Then again, I recently went to a friend's silver wedding anniversary. Only 100 people there, all whom I have known intimately for 24 years and whom I adore and yet I felt socially awkward, bored, disinclined to talk to anyone and ended up going for a long walk alone, wondering what was wrong with me. I guess we know each other too well so conversation is mostly banter, innuendo, pulling each others' leg, in-jokes and reminiscing. I felt 10 steps behind everyone with their witty one liners, and of course talk of government social policies, development of
educational systems or even MBTI personalities is a NO NO NO in such a situation. It is not meeting people that gives me a buzz, it is exploring their ideas and thoughts and experiences.

AT (not verified) says...

Thanks for expressing my thoughts so clearly!! I very strongly relate to the first comment from Judy regarding looking for a connection; I too love substantive connections on with 1-3 people. The key to my happiness is finding a connection, which is why I so enjoy sharing my car with ride shares (Uber & Lyft).

Guest (not verified) says...

Thank you for this - I just read your other article from today and it led me to this. A few years ago I began researching introversion and extraversion, coming across Susan Cain and others. it is just within the past year that I began learning about MB and my personality type (INFP).
For many years I felt bad about myself for not being an ESTP, as those seemingly were the most successful males - at least in my life. I felt like the bookworm in the back of a bus full of singing football players, and was miserable. acknowledging and having compassion for my INFP nature, despite being male, has helped me work on actualizing myself and ultimately transcending "all of this".
Over the years I became very adept at mimicking extravert traits but not surprisingly was exhausted and stressed much of the time. As you note, with close friends and meaningful conversation I can enjoy wonderful interaction, but as you said I need to feel that people are not threatened or put off by my intensity.

Thank you so much again, wonderful articles.

Esther Murray says...

Thank you to so many who have contributed to the discussion. It is so encouraging reading all of the comments and gaining insight into different experiences. Thank you! I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. Esther

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