Are you an introvert stuck in an extrovert’s body?

I’ve always been a high-energy motormouth with lots of buddies and an insatiable desire to party. As a tween, I loved nothing more than being surrounded by friends, laughing, gossiping and dreaming up dance routines (my teachers hated me). Through my teens and young twenties, I was a company-loving girl about town, loved hosting parties and being surrounded by people.

I’m a natural-born leader — not just on my resume but IRL too. I’m bossy, confident, and good at speaking in front of groups. I lead workshops where I stand in front of groups of people, teaching, performing, cracking wise for hours at a time. This past weekend, I even did an impromptu tap dance for my filmmaking students (it wasn’t very good). In other words, I am not shy, not shy at all.

And yet… I’ve read all the articles, the listicles, the online quizzes about introverts and very often, they seemed to speak to me.

In the last few years, the plight of the introvert has been well-documented. Introverts hate meeting new people! They don’t like group settings! They hate small talk! Introverts find you exhausting!

I never classed myself as one of these reclusive, highly analytical shrinking violets, yet I found many extrovert traits didn’t apply to me either. It was only when I read that not all introverts are shy — that in fact shyness really has nothing to do with introversion — that something clicked.

Being an introvert or an extrovert boils down to one thing: whether you gain energy or are drained of energy when you’re around people. It’s really as simple as that. If you’re an introvert, you meet people and, like the battery on your phone, your energy depletes until you’re drained and need to go away and recharge. If you’re an extrovert, being around people charges you up.

I read this and a proverbial light bulb went off. I’m loud and bubbly and lots of fun at parties until, all of a sudden, my battery depletes and I need to Texas Shuffle out the door, run home and read a book in a dim and quiet room. After my teaching-slash-tap-dancing escapade this weekend, I came home and couldn’t talk for the rest of the evening, so depleted was I.

Enter the outgoing introvert, a paradoxical and misunderstood beast that lurks in our midst. Not sure if you’re one? Here are some sure-fire signs:

  • You have lots of friends with whom you keep in constant contact — but only by text or messenger. If you see your phone flashing with an incoming call, your heart quickens, your palms become clammy, you push your phone away until it stops flashing and then text the caller to say: “hey gurl whaas up?”
  • You love spending time with friends and family but sometimes you cry off to stay home and do nothing but k-hole on Google (you know, where it’s 3 a.m. and you’re googling “lesser known films of Matt Damon,” “haircuts for girls with big ears,” “how to get dust out of holes in iPhone.”) It’s not that dust or Matt Damon are more important than your loved ones, it’s just that you’ve used up all your energy stores already.
  • You love a good party — karate chopping with old friends, goofing off with new friends — but unless you’re very drunk or experiencing a legitimate k-hole, you usually need to leave early to go home and decompress.
  • Despite the social animal in you, you rarely celebrate your birthday with a big party because you hate to be the centre of attention. (I only invited three people to my wedding and one of them was the groom.)
  • You often get yourself into situations you don’t want to be in. Because you’re articulate and confident, people think you’re the best one to lead the group presentation, to give the class talk, to broach the awkward topic with a landlord or boss. But you’re an introvert at heart and these things can make your heart race and exhaust you.

Outgoing introverts are weird hybrid creatures, the Chimera of personality types. I have known actors, comedians, performers, teachers, public speakers and club promoters — people whose business it is to be outgoing and sociable — who are total introverts.

For the outgoing introvert, social settings can be weird. Being an outgoing introvert means you’re not shy but people sometimes make you feel weird. Being an outgoing introvert means you are great with people but people exhaust you.

If you think you might be a closeted outgoing introvert, I encourage you to nurture your introversion by building time and space into your daily routines to recharge. But as with all human dealings, it’s never okay to be an asshole.

Be strategic — if you have a day that you know is going to drain you, don’t schedule cocktails or stoop beers for that evening because you’ll inevitably end up texting “can we resched?” at the last minute, and nobody likes a flake.

Be upfront — if you need your lunch hour to recharge, don’t fib to the colleague who’s invited you out, just tell them you need some me time.

Be thoughtful — it’s your friend’s birthday and all you wanna do is hide at home in self-exile? Too bad. Pound a shot of espresso, put on your big girl pants and fake it ’til you make it. If you know how to spot ‘em, you can normally find a fellow outgoing introvert and mooch in a corner with them anyway.