Outgoing Introvert

The other day one of my professors described me as ‘outgoing’.

I consider myself very introverted. On the surface the two terms might seem contradictory, but I think together they describe me accurately; despite Definr listing ‘outgoing’ as a synonym of ‘extroverted’.

I view being introverted as having a lower need/threshold for social interaction than extroverts. It is a separate trait from social skills, being socially anxious or talkative.

I can understand why my professor would think of me as outgoing. I talk a lot in class. Probably to the point where it’s annoying to classmates. In the moment I don’t appear anxious. I beat myself up after about everything I said awkwardly when I get home, but in class all is good. I am smiley, bubbly and engaging.

What she doesn’t know is that the talking I do in class is the majority of the social interaction I have in an average day. Most people consider class to be disruptive to their social life, for me it is my highlight.

I like to think that I give the impression of having a lot of close friends, that all the acquaintances I interact with think I have many close friends; I just happen to not be as close with them in particular. I think I succeed fairly well at this. I am on good superficial terms with a lot of people, it gives the impression of greater friendships than I really have.

I do enjoy social interaction, it just wears me out a lot. I can’t keep it up for as long. I need to be by myself to recharge and organize thoughts. I love how college is broken up into pieces. I don’t usually have things planed straight through 9-5. Usually I am able to head home in between classes.  I believe this recharge time is one of many factors explaining my improved academic performance in college compared with high school.

Sitting in a room quietly with a person next to me consumes more energy than sitting in the same room alone. I don’t know if this is how everyone feels, but I know having a lower amount of social energy to use makes this type of energy expenditure more signifigant.

After a long chunk of social interaction I badly need to be by myself. Living with my parents, many fights between my Mom and I occurred from her inability to respect this need of mine. Usually this resulted in me screaming to be left alone, while she persisted with asking questions about how the day had been. She knows, I hope at least, that given an hour or so alone I’d be up for talking, I just needed my recovery time.

I don’t mean to give the impression I don’t get lonely. That’s not true. I do. Sometimes. Usually I’m not. Quitting therapy initially created loneliness. Losing 2 hours a week of talking was a very significant dent. I was able to make some adjustments in my schedule to fix the problem.

I also don’t mean to give the impression that social anxiety isn’t a factor at all for me. It plays a role, a more minor one, but a role nonetheless. I just believe that it is a separate trait from introversion. My problem is more anxiety in general and some happens to fall into the realm of social anxiety.

The most important thing for avoiding social anxiety for me is structure. I need a clearly defined role. In class I don’t feel anxious speaking. I’m expected to be there and to speak, my participation grade depends on it. In a job requiring interacting with people it’s the same way. I know what I should be doing and have no problem doing it.

On the other hand, If I spot an acquaintance in the cafeteria I’ll likely smile and say ‘hi’, but I won’t join him/her unless directly invited. I’d worry I was invading their space. The role is less clearly defined.

I like the internet, because it allows for controlled social interaction. If I need a break all I need is to go to a new webpage.

Being a secret introvert can be useful in comparison to being a non-secret introvert. I feel my mental health problems are less likely to be suspected. The loner image is generally not positively viewed and makes one open to suspicion.

I’ve always been introverted, but there are life events that have added to my isolation. Having friends over to my house was a stressful experience. It wasn’t so bad in elementary school, but in middle school problems began with the way my Mom would behave when I had visitors. The details are for another post, but long story short, in early high school I decided it wasn’t worth it to have friends over. I had a lot of people I socialized with I school, but the majority of the friendships (there were some exceptions) were superficial. I feel like this caused me to miss out on some of the typical experience of gaining closer friends.

My experience of getting kicked out of school for mental health reasons also contributed. In the over two years since that happened I’ve become significantly more withdrawn. I feel terrified of the situation repeating itself and hide much more than I hid prior to it. Directly following that situation I had my trust in a couple of friends shattered. My ability to trust has been badly damaged. I hate it. I want the limits I have with social interaction to be only from my introversion, not because of my paranoia.

I made a friend recentlly. It’s exciting. I like her a lot and we share many interests. But there’s a limit for how close I have ever let her get. We may get to the point where it seems to her like it is not a superficial friendship, but for me there will always be a limit of what I can share.

My outside doesn’t match my inside.

Whoops, I got a little off the introversion track at the end there and more into trust issues, oh well. I’m sure you can deal with that.

General life update stuff:
-I finally called my old therapist who is awesome and made an appointment. He was totally fine with me meeting with him, even for only the summer. It’s a relief.
– I got into an honors psychology society thingy. Yay.

34 thoughts on “Outgoing Introvert

  1. Oh my goodness! I’m so happy that it worked out for you! With the therapist that is.

    And – you got into the honours thingy? That’s so great! Good onya!

    The introvert thing? I don’t think i know (or understand enough stuff) to fully ‘get’ that; 1) being an introvert; and, 2) keeping people at arms length are interconnected or even the same outward appearence.

    I have known many introverts who definately don’t do the ‘keeping people away’ thing.

    Do those particular things share the same traits or are they different? OR… do they just look the same… ahh, i see what you mean now.

    I really am so excited stuff is working out for you. So nice!

    Reply
  2. Isn’t it about where you get your energy from? So being introverted means you get your energy from being alone (definitely you!) and an extrovert is someone who gets their energy from being with others?

    I totally agree that it is different to social interaction/skills etc.

    Awesome news about the therapist and the honours thing. :)

    Reply
      • hi. i’m currently a third year psychology student. i’m very introverted but i can be very outgoing sometimes and could even speak in a big crowd. but I’m feeling that i can not be someone who’d be a “sociable” kind of a psychologist even though it is expected from us because i can be very very afraid of opening up to people whom don’t know much. i really need some piece of advise on how could i deal with people better because i seem to be a loner sometimes.. ahhhh it really drives me nuts sometimes that we have to do some counseling someday!

        Reply
  3. I’m just like u minus the mental problems. This semester I have trouble to find my own alone time. Which makes ppl think abit standoffish. On my later classes. I also like to particpate and make the most surpising/funny/interesting ones in class

    Reply
  4. Wow! This was great reading … It was like I had written it. I am presently getting a 2nd degree at 50 and I thought I was the only one who felt like this. Recently in a class while goofing around, I took an online JUNG personality test. The results showed a 78% introvert personality & they were all shocked! I knew … I am a talker, but I don’t spend much time in school other than when I have to be there. I hate big social gatherings; loathed my public speaking class; have only a couple of friends I consider real friends & basically love the 4 walls of my home. In addition, the mornings are worst for me. Once 6:00 PM gets here, I relax more. Yes, I often feel lonely, but for me it seems the lesser of 2 evils. I have been this way most of my life …

    Reply
    • It’s interesting to see how many people out there seem to feel similarly. I see in my blog stats a lot of people who come here searching something about outgoing introverts. Doesn’t seem to be a ton in the psychological literature that I know of out there about this though. Harry Guntrip wrote a bit about the idea of a “secret schizoid”, but there’s not much.

      Reply
  5. I have not learnt so much about myself before reading about your tales, in my 44 years on planet earth… Now I actually feel quite normal, have a better understanding of myself, and I so wish my mom was still alive, I’m sure she would understand me better too… TY

    Reply
  6. Wow, I reasonated with this post 100% Not only do I display almost all of the social traits you mentioned I am also soon to be a full Psychology Major.

    I go to university and live with 5 guys in a big house, people are constantly walking in and out; and sometimes… I just get sick of talking and joking around and kind of just want to be left alone to “recharge” as you put it. Also, like you, I often come off as completely outgoing, confident and assertive, yet when I go home instead of getting all excited to go out clubbing, I’m just really looking forward to a relaxing night playing or watching sports.

    I always wonder if being an Introvert/Extravert has anything to do with your surroundings, as I kind of remember a time where I use to be more into partying, clubbing, and drinking which I now roll my eyes at the thought.

    The part of being an introvert I hate is how your energy is completely channeled internally, which means you tend to have an active mind and think 4x more than most people do. This can be a great thing if used properly, but if you let negative thoughts consume you…your life will be filled with anxiety, and irrational paranoid delusions. I’m really trying to work on the whole “(glass is full) and don’t care what people think” thing.

    Very insightful blog! Cheers :)

    Reply
  7. This post really, really resonated with me – it also gave me words to use to explain my situation!

    When I admitted (recently) to my class that I have social anxiety, many couldn’t even comprehend. I talk a lot in class, laugh, smile, and I’m generally bubbly. But it is straining. I still don’t think all of them get it.

    I’ve mentioned before that class is the highlight of my day. Classmates groan, “I really don’t want to be here right now,” and I think, ‘Are you kidding me? This is the best part of my day.’ Well, maybe not the best… but it’s a highlight.

    An outgoing introvert, eh? Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply
      • Haha, and people think I’m nuts. I used to label it ‘nerdiness,’ but now I can use your language to describe it as a highlight in my social-life for the day.

        And… the weekends suck! Fri-Sun, I rarely go outside. What do you do to cope w/ weekends?

        Reply
          • Nerdfighters unite!

            Sometimes I yearn for interaction on the weekend. But, generally, I’m busybusybusy with HW, too.

            Then again, I don’t have enough things to do with all the time I have. Reading the rest of your site will be great company, though :)

            Reply
            • I’m pretty satisfied with pretty low levels of social interaction. I like having a couple of days to myself. I can get a low level of superficial interaction through the Internet too, if needed.

  8. Haha… the box got too small for me to reply directly to you.

    Yeah, it’s like that some times… but I sometimes get in these moods! It’s nuts. I want interaction, but I don’t want interaction. I’m not sure how to explain it.

    I’m glad you’re still keeping up with this site. I’m reading posts back from 2009, and it’s good to see you are still around to talk to!

    Reply
    • Yea I get that. Like there’s a need, but also it takes so much energy out of me.

      Yep. Still posting. I don’t update as often as some bloggers do, but this blog has become very important to me. Since my therapy situation is so consistently unstable it’s nice having this as the one constant around to talk about these kinds of issues.

      Reply
  9. I’m trying to get in touch with a psychiatrist now. Well, she’s on vacation till the 8th, so I’m waiting. I’ve heard good things about her, and I’m already kinda attached.

    I feel better when I can write stuff down as well, but it’s more in my journal than my blog.

    Reply
    • Your tweet (ahh sorry I’m being a creeper and poking through your social media sites) says you’re waiting to interview a psychiatrist who’s getting back on the 8th. You want to both interview and see the person for therapy? or did I misunderstand?

      Reply
  10. wow!! what an interesting read!
    i’ve been a bit confused of myself, took so many online tests with the results that i’m an extrovert.. somehow, i don’t feel like i’m 100% extrovert, since i always love & crave some quality time alone.

    after reading this, i feel like this is where i belong,, i’m an outgoing introvert! :D
    thaank youuu!

    Reply
    • Also take into account that all personality traits exist on a spectrum. Most people do fall somewhere in the middle rather than being at either the extreme introvert or extrovert ends. Most people posses both some introverted and some extroverted traits.

      Reply
  11. Get out of my head. Seriously this post is me down to not having friends over because of problems with how my mother acted. This is EXACTLY how I feel and behave. D: Odd.

    Reply
  12. OMG, exactly like me as well. My mom would act crazy and embarrass the heck out of me, so I would generally have a lot of superficial friends, they never came over. I hardly went out with any of them, but in school we chatted a lot. I’m 30 now and I’m still the same way, I chit chat with strangers, co-workers, any body and everybody but I don’t get too close to hardly any one.

    Reply
  13. I feel you! But in school I’m quiet. lol. but deep inside I really have a lot to say. I guess being too quiet is because of my traumatic experiences, low selfesteem etc.My sis on the other hand is a shy extrovert. but her ‘shyness’ is caused by low self esteem too….sigh…we introverts tend to look to deeply into things sometimes & make it all more complicated…we think too much…lol

    Reply
  14. I completely understand how you feel!! In school I can be very outgoing and I hang out with friends often(to stay out of the house) but it is mentally/physically EXHAUSTING.

    Reply
  15. I just read this and thought it explained my coworker to a tee. We had been forming a friendship over the 15 months I have known her & then I felt like I hit a brick wall. The thing that makes this worse is I’m an ENFP that struggles with a mild version of PTSD due to some extreme work experiences with a past client & a pastbackstabbing coworker. Sometimes my introverted friend’s lack of communication & turtling make it difficult for me to not be triggered. My PTSD & her introverted behaviors with trust issues seems to have put us at an impasse with our friendship. I actually had to take a step back to alleviate some of my PTSD symptoms and tried to explain to her that it was me and not her, but it has made things very awkward between us. I’m kinda sad and hurt, because this is not what I wanted between us. We have both taken steps backward. The sad part is she is now talking more with me now that the pressure to be friends is off of her & it makes me question if she even wanted the friendship to begin with. It kinda sucks because I thought we had a deep connection. That is why I even bothered to pursue a friendship with her to begin with, but since it seems it wasn’t going anywhere, I feel like I wasted putting myself out there like that. I’m tired of superficial friendships. I get very frustrated because it often feels like her silence is a form of control & is a way to keep me at arms length. At times it feels quite manipulative. I honesty hate feeling this way. When I try to have a genuine conversation with her about feelings, she retreats into MFT mode & I feel like I will never get an honest response from her. I used to be able to read her pretty easily, but lately it is like she has an impenetrable wall & it is really hard to tell what she is feeling. Sometimes she comes off as a bit condescending, especially when she feels threatened by my intuition. Anyway, I’m just hurt, confused and frustrated.

    Reply

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