When Carl Jung coined the terms introverts and extroverts in 1921, far less was known about psychology and the human brain than we know now – but even now we use the terms to describe ourselves, often in a very limiting way.
Viewed as polar opposites, extroverts are seen as the people who spend all day every day surrounded by friends, enjoy nothing more than a night out, and plan coffee dates like they’re going out of style. On the other end of the spectrum sit the introverts: quiet and reserved – think Mr. Darcy at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice.
I think a really important distinction to make here is the idea of the spectrum; so often we’re asked if we think we’re an introvert or an extrovert, but the very idea that someone is expected to be consistently one is so limiting and unforgiving. Although coining yourself one or the other isn’t necessarily a bad thing to do, the knowledge that each day is different, and that we aren’t defined by labels, is important to keep near the front of your mind.
The expectation that someone who appears to be extroverted will always be ready to welcome a massive social gathering leaves little room for that person to take any time for themselves, and almost places a responsibility on them to be the life of the party, regardless of anything else going on in their lives.
This same idea goes the other way; introverted people are portrayed so often in media as quiet and introspective and as being much more comfortable with an evening of Netflix than a night out. But this presentation isn’t always possible in a society that places so much importance on high-intensity social engagements, especially with the drinking culture around university life. With the move to university, a delicate balance has to be found between the social elements of uni life and the preservation of both mental health and academic workload which is not always an easy thing to do. I heard someone recently describe it as ‘an extrovert’s world’ when she was struggling to get motivated to attend a social, and it hit deep. There’s so much pressure to attend every night out and organised social event, especially after a year of closures, that it can be hard to say no, even if all you’re craving is a hot water bottle and a feel-good film.
The takeaway from this is that it’s alright – whether you feel most alive when dancing to ABBA in Flares, or when you’re curled up on the sofa, there shouldn’t be any pressure to feel like you have to conform entirely to the definition of extrovert or introvert – after all, each day is different and should be taken as it comes.