Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dear E vs. I,

I've been fighting this for a long time. I've always thought of myself as an Extrovert (E). But I am not. I am an Introvert (I). This may come as a surprise to many who have known me pre-college, because I seem so unbelievably outspoken half the time, and decently outgoing whenever else I'm observed. And that was true for most of my life.

However, looking back, I've realized that I seemed to be this way because of my upbringing, particularly in my schooling. I started out in preschool with many of the kids in my neighborhood. I knew almost everyone there beforehand. Then, going into kindergarten, I still had that same base of familiar people; just adding a few more. Because my family has stayed in the same house for almost as long as I can remember, and I never transferred schools or anything like that, I was constantly in a familiar environment. From elementary school, to junior high, to high school, I was never the new kid.

There were times when I had to try to make friends, but it was never a long struggle. If I had shy moments or there were times I felt excluded, I could always go back to that base of people whom I had known for years and trusted. Or, I would be swooped upon by those who were older than me and saw my potential, and I was included. By my senior year, I was completely comfortable and in my element, never needing to stretch myself outside of familiarity more than to include those who came into my world.

Then I graduated, and went to college.

For the first time in my life, I was not the top dog. It was the classic scenario of turning from a big fish in a little pond to a small fish in a comparatively large pond. In the theatre world, I had serious competition. I was not the best at everything. I became extremely intimidated by pretty much anyone who grasped things faster than I did. I lost a lot of my drive and confidence. Suddenly I found myself in large groups of people with next to nothing to say. Making friends was difficult, but it happened. Instead of being a member and leader of an army of comrades, I chose to spend my time with a few close friends, slowly getting to know them on an individual level.

Because I had known myself to be an extrovert for most of my life, it was difficult to come to this conclusion. In the last year or so, I've had people (mostly those whom I have allowed myself to become close to since college) diagnose me as an introvert, and I was almost offended by it. How could such a person who had been known to be so confident, so well-known, so LOUD, be an introvert? According to one particular friend, the best way to tell whether someone is an E or an I (thank you, Myers-Briggs) is to put them in a large crowd of people they don't know. Does this person easily go out of their way to introduce themselves to anyone and everyone in the room, or do they choose to stay aloof, barely speaking unless spoken to, and possibly finding one or two people to get to know?

Considering my background of knowing most of my peers in my childhood, I was rarely surrounded by strangers. I thought, because I made myself the center of attention in many situations, of course I was an E. Even in classroom settings where I didn't know absolutely everyone, I was always one to speak up. However, once I was finally put into multiple scenarios of unfamiliarity, I either became or discovered my Introvert-ness, for lack of a better word.

I am shy. It is difficult for me to put myself out there among people I don't know. Unless I know and am comfortable with all or most members of a party, I have a tendency to keep my conversations between a few people, or, if there is an intimidating element pressing upon me in the situation, I shut down completely. Once you get to know me, then you will discover that I still am that loud and confident person... but just with you.

So there you go, E vs. I. I can now comfortably accept the fact that I'm an introvert. And that's okay.

Love, Tanika