July 13, 2015

My sister posted this Buzzfeed listicle on Facebook. Normally these aren’t my bag, but the headline caught me:

21 Signs You Might Actually Be An Ambivert

The article describes what it’s like to be an “ambivert” – sounds like a made up word to me. But then again, they’re all made up…

Mind. Blown.

I found myself reading it, and it all made sense to me. I honestly felt it resonate with me (not the GIFs, just the points it makes). I’ve always considered myself an introvert for the simple reason that I’m definitely not an extrovert. By process of elimination, then, I must be an introvert. However, articles discussing introversion have never felt like they accurately describe me – close but not a perfect match.

In the eighth grade, I took a test to see what personality type I was. I scored equally on Doer, Thinker, and Helper. No clear answer. I felt a bit cheated – I was promised that this test would help me define a career path, but I defied categorization.

After reading the Buzzfeed article, I Googled the word “ambivert” and found other people discussing ambiversion. One passage specifically resonated with me.

The notion of Ambiversion changed my life. Previously, when filling in a personality type questionnaire, I’d hesitate when answering questions like: “would you prefer to go to a party or read a book?” My first thought was “Depends on the party or book and also how tired I am from the previous night.” But that contextual option wasn’t available. Now I realize what a gift it is to be sensible, reasonable and well balanced enough to have the freedom of choice.

“Whoa”, I remember thinking, “of course it would matter what you did the previous night.”

For a few months now, I had been reflecting on how I expend my energy juices. I love meeting new people, but after events like meetups and conference talks, I always feel exhausted. I need time afterward for what I’ve been calling “decompression” – time to recharge before I’m comfortable socializing again.

Usually, when I cancel going to an event where I need to talk to a lot of people, it’s because I’m tired and need to recharge. But sometimes I must go to these events, or sometimes I really want to go. In these cases, I can usually muster the will to “run on fumes.”

By necessity, I’ve gotten fairly good at this “strategic use of extroversion” when it’s important. This takes a significant toll on me, to be that person when I’m not naturally in the right mindset to deal with people.

At Istanbul Tech Talks, for example, I needed to be extroverted for my talk even though I was already exhausted from the flight. Until just a few minutes before my talk, I was sleeping backstage, and I returned to the hotel as soon as I could afterward.

Acting extroverted is sometimes a choice that I make to fulfill certain roles or meet certain expectations. But more often than not, I just happen to find myself in that frame of mind.

I intend to reflect on this idea of ambiversion – these are just some initial thoughts I had on the subject. But I’m really excited to no longer confine myself to the labels that I feel others place on me, or the ones that I place on myself. I no longer see myself as “introverted”; it is neither an accurate or complete description of my personality.

Sometimes I’m extroverted, sometimes I’m introverted, and sometimes I’m somewhere in between. I plan to stop worrying about it. I’ll do me.

Please submit typo corrections on GitHub